Better check the cooking oil supply as it’s the must-have ingredient for traditional Hannukah dishes.
Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, begins at sundown Saturday. The eight-day celebration is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. It is an historical event that recalls the victory of Judah Maccabee and his band of brothers over the Syrians. As the story goes, there was just enough oil in the lamp over the ark, which holds the torah, for one day, but a miracle occurred and the oil lasted for eight days.
As with all Jewish holidays, family, friends, songs and good food form the basis for Hanukkah gatherings. I pull out my childhood menorah, buy extra candles just in case and look forward to the Novack family party. Foods fried in oil take center stage.
Potato Latkes are the most famous holiday dish. I make them during the week and serve them with sour cream, homemade Applesauce, a bit of caviar as a rare splurge and some Champagne.
My grandmother grated raw Idaho potatoes using a box grater. They were wrapped in a kitchen towel or large piece of cheese cloth and well-dried. She then squeezed out all the water from the potatoes.
A good rule of thumb is one egg for each potato. Salt, pepper and matzo meal are added to the potatoes. I use Canola oil for frying but peanut oil is another good choice.
Homemade Applesauce is easy to prepare. I like to dust it with a bit of cinnamon before serving.
The Novack family party always takes place on a Sunday afternoon. I peruse my cookbooks for a simple cake recipe. Carrot cake is a favorite, but I found a recipe for an olive oil cake, perfect for Hanukkah since it was the oil used during biblical times. The recipe is from “Dolci: Italy’s Sweets” by Francine Segan.
4 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 cup of matzo meal, or a bit more
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
Working in batches, grate the potatoes in the food processor fitted with the grating blade. Squeeze out as much of the water as you can and place the potatoes into a large bowl. Immediately pour the eggs over the potatoes to keep them from turning color.
Add the salt and matzo meal and blend well. A bit more matzo meal may need to be added to the mixture if it feels too wet.
Heat the oil over medium-high in a large skillet. Using a tablespoon, drop the potato mixture into the hot oil and press down. Fry the latkes for about three minutes on each side until golden brown.
You can keep prepared latkes warm in a 250-degree oven.
Note from Phyllis: This recipe can be easily doubled.
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