Monday, December 10, 2012


Lesser known traditions for Hanukkah

The tradition of eating cheese on Hanukah pre-dates latkes, sufganiyot and other more modern traditions.
The story is the stuff of a Hollywood drama. Judith, a beautiful Jewish woman fed salty cheese to the Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians general Holofernes. The cheese made him thirsty and he drank too much wine which caused him to fall into a drunken sleep. Judith cut off his head and the Israelis rallied and attacked the Assyrian armies who then fled.

One version of the story specifies that the cheese was cooked into a pancake. By the 14th century, there's quite a strong tradition that people eat cheese on Hanukkah and it’s associated with Judith giving cheese to the enemy to make him drunk.

A commentary from that time, by Rabbi Moses Isserles, on the Shulchran Arach, the Jewish Code of Law, even recommends eating cheese on the holiday in honor of Judith.

The latke that we know today is actually a modern recipe. The potato, after all, didn't come to Europe until well after Columbus came to America. Potato latkes were a 19th-century invention. The tradition of eating cakes made from cheese on Hanukkah died out when European Jews cooked in schmaltz.
Eating cheese during Hanukkah is a very old tradition that still continues today. Many people have forgotten why we eat dairy products. Here is a delicious recipe that honors Judith and her bravery.

Chag Hanukkah Sameach!   

Feta Cheese and Potato Fritters

1 large russet potato, shredded (squeeze the potato in a towel to get all the moisture out of it)
2 medium zucchini, shredded and dried (squeeze the shredded zucchini in a towel to get all the water out of it)
1 whole egg plus 1 yolk
1 small onion, diced
¼ cup fresh mint, cut into chiffonade (thin ribbons)
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled and put into the freezer for 30 minutes
½ cup panko style breadcrumbs
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Olive oil for frying

1.       Mix together the shredded potato, zucchini, egg, onion, mint leaves, feta cheese, and bread crumbs to make a mixture that holds together when pressed lightly.
2.       Form the zucchini mixture into small patties.
3.       Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pan-fry the patties until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Drain the patties on paper towels; serve hot with smoked paprika aioli.

Smoked Paprika Aioli

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (Pimenton)
2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 cup aioli, purchased or homemade
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. whisk the paprika and hot water together. this helps 'bloom" the paprika and make it easier to mix in the oily aioli.
2. Whisk the ingredients together and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012



This year to commemorate Hanukkah, I am breaking out of my usual latke habit and shaking things up a bit with savory and sweet fritters. Fritters are defined as a wide variety of fried foods, usually consisting of a portion of batter or breading which has been filled with bits of meat, seafood, fruit, or other ingredients. Sounds good right?

I am so excited I cannot wait for Hanukkah. I love my theme this year. Don’t get me wrong, I am wild about latkes, all crackling hot and sizzling right out of the pan with just a little bit of salty greasiness. YUM! I will definitely be making and eating those too, but the fritter has unbounded possibilities. I can use anything, bind it up with a little batter and fry away. I also make sufganiyot every year. And I am sure my favorite jelly doughnuts will be on the menu at least once. I am craving something different this year, and the fritter has unlimited potential and variations.

I am like a kid in a candy store. The infinite amount of ingredients that can be bound up in a little dough or batter and then fried up to crispy golden goodness is staggering. I am going to follow some traditional fritter recipes and riff off them a bit.  I like to find delicious fried tidbits from other cultures or lesser known traditions.  One of my favorite alternatives is to celebrate the festival of lights with a Sephardic style dairy meal. So, I am frying up some Bimuelos De Queso which are crispy and creamy. They are traditionally drizzled with honey.

I am also making root vegetable fritters that can be served as a hors d’oeuvres or as a side dish for fish, chicken or beef. Finally, I am serving Apple Fritters. Delicate, crispy and light, the apple fritters will have you jumping off the couch to fry up a batch.
Chag Chanukah Sameach

Bimuelos de Queso

Makes about 24 Bimuelos

     2 cups drained farmer's cheese, quark, or ricotta cheese
    ½ cup cornstarch or flour
     1 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar
     1/2 teaspoon salt
     1 egg
     olive oil for frying
     Honey for drizzling

   1. Drain the excess liquid from the cheese in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and allow it to drain in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Discard liquid.

   2. Mix the cheese, corn starch, sugar, salt, and egg in a large bowl until well blended.

   3. Shape the dough into 1 inch diameter balls.  If the dough is too loose, add more cornstarch or flour until workable.

   4. Heat several inches of oil in a heavy pot to 350 degrees.

   5. Add the fritters, a few at a time, and cook. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they are golden brown on all sides.

   6. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. 

   7.   Arrange on a serving plate and drizzle with honey. Serve warm.


Yields 2 dozen fritters

2 medium parsnips, peeled and grated
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium celery root bulb, peeled and grated
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
1 egg
Extra virgin olive oil, for frying

1.      Mix all of the vegetables together in a medium bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

2.      Heat 2 inches of oil in a pan over medium high heat. When the oil reaches 360, use either an ice cream scoop or teaspoon to portion the batter. Place the fritter batter, gently, in the oil and fry, turning occasionally until brown on all sides.

3.      Transfer the browned fritters to a paper towel lined sheet. Garnish with sea salt

For the dipping sauce
½ cup aioli, store bought or homemade
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
 1 tablespoon warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1.      Mix the paprika and warm water (this helps the paprika “bloom” a bit).
2.      Add the paste to the aioli and the lemon juice.
3.      Serve the dipping sauce with the fritters.


Yields 16 fritters
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup rice flour
1 egg
1 cup ice-cold water
1 pound apples (about 3), any variety, unpeeled but cored and cut in to batons about 2 inches long and ¼ inch thick
1 1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1.      Put the flour, rice flour, egg and a third of the water into a bowl, and mix vigorously with a whisk. The mixture will be fairly thick. When smooth, add the remaining water, and mix again until the water is incorporated. Stir the apple sticks into the batter.

2.      Stir the sugar and cinnamon together and place on a plate.

3. In a large, heavy skillet heat the oil to 365 degrees. When hot, pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan for each fritter, making four or five at a time.  Spread the batter so that it is not more than 1/2 inch thick. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until brown and crisp.

4. Drain the fritters on paper towels, and transfer them to a rack. Dredge the fritters in the sugar-cinnamon mix and serve immediately.


I recommend keeping your projects to a manageable size