(Annabel Cohen)

These recipes are perfect for any night during Chanukah.

Thursday night (Dec. 10) begins the more than 2,000-year-old celebration of Chanukah. There are many stories that help make up the explanations for the existence of Chanukah and its customs. Here are a couple that help explain two of the most popular observance and food customs of this festival of light.

We recall the miracle of the oil each Chanukah sunset when we light the Chanukiah with oil or candles and eat so many fried treats like sufganiyot (donuts) and latkes. We retell the stories of military miracles and the rededication of the first temple when we spin dreidels and sing traditional tunes. 

Annabel Cohen
Food Columnist

Another Chanukah story relates to the story of the heroine Judith. The heroine saved her people from Assyrian oppressors during the time of the Maccabees by deceiving a general bent on the Jew’s destruction. Supposedly, Judith was able to trick the general by feeding him salty cheese, which in turn made him thirsty. To alleviate the thirst, Judith served the general large amounts of wine. When the general passed out drunk, Judith killed him, thwarting destruction. This explains why we eat cheese dishes during Chanukah and the Sephardic tradition of a special women-only celebration on the seventh night of the holiday.

The following recipes are perfect for any night during Chanukah.

Baked Mashed Sweet Potato Latkes
  • 2-3 large sweet potatoes (2 pounds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup minced red or Bermuda onion
  • 2 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. zaatar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup (or more) flour, as needed
  • Olive or vegetable oil to brush on baking sheet (not extra-virgin
  • To serve: Plain yogurt and salsa (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and brush the oil on the paper lightly. Alternately spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Microwave whole potatoes (no need to “poke” with a fork or knife) until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Use your fingers to peel the potato and transfer to a large bowl. Use a fork or whisk to “mash” the potato. Mix or mash-in the eggs, onion, parsley and zaatar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Use a ¼-cup scoop or measuring cup to scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet (you should have about 12 portions). Use wet hands to flatten the mixture on the baking sheet to make 3-inch patties. Brush the patties with more oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. 

Bake the sweet potato cakes for 12 minutes. Turn and bake until golden and set, about 12-15 minutes more. Serve immediately, plain or with yogurt and salsa. Makes 6 servings.

Latkes
Annabel Cohen
Latkes! The Classic Version  
  • 2 pounds Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled or not
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. flour (more if needed)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Make latkes: Coarsely grate potatoes by hand (with a box grater) or in the food processor and let them sit until they turn reddish-brown, about half an hour. Drain the potatoes in a colander and rinse well with cold water until the potatoes are white again. If the strands of potato are too long (as sometimes happens with a food processor), chop them slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Mix and let stand for 10 minutes before frying.

In a large skillet, heat one-eighth inch of oil until very hot but not smoking. Make a test pancake by dropping a heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture into the skillet. Using a spoon or spatula, form the mixture into a circle shape. Don’t worry if your pancake is not a perfect circle. Cook 3 minutes or so on each side until the pancakes are golden and cooked through. NOTE: As latke batter sits, it becomes more “watery.” Stir each time before you use the batter.

Drain the latke well on paper towels or on flattened, paper grocery bags placed over baking sheets. Taste for seasoning, adjust salt and pepper and make the latkes until the potato mixture is gone. Serve with lots of applesauce or sour cream. Makes 4-8 servings.

NOTE: If you must add more oil, do it when the skillet is empty, never pour new oil onto cooking latkes, it makes them greasy. 

World’s Easiest Applesauce

Easy enough to make all the time and far superior to the commercial stuff. If I keep the skin on, the applesauce is pinkish. I double, triple or quadruple this recipe because I love it and it freezes beautifully.

Directions

  • 1½ pounds cooking apples, such as McIntosh (about 5 medium fruit) cored and quartered, peeled or unpeeled
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¼- ½ cup sugar to taste
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)

Place all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and cook on high for 10 minutes. Stir with a fork and mash slightly. Cover again and cook in 5-minute increments until the apples are quite soft. Allow to cool slightly before placing the mixture in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth, but still a bit lumpy if you like. Serve the applesauce warm or chilled. Makes about 2 cups of applesauce.

Chickpea, Cucumber Tomato and Feta Salad
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine) drained
  • 1 cup diced, seeded, unpeeled cucumber
  • 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red, green or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped purple or Bermuda onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp.  olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve, up to one day ahead. Makes 6 servings.

Tuna, Goat Cheese and Artichoke Crostini
  • 1 can (6 1/2-ounces each) white tuna in water, drained
  • 1 Tbsp. drained capers
  • 1/4 cup Chevre or other goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup drained marinated artichoke hearts, cut into small pieces
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh dill, garnish
  • 1 French baguette, cut into ½-inch slices

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil. Spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil

Combine the tuna, capers, Chevre, cream cheese and parsley flakes in a medium bowl and beat or mix until well combined. Spoon a tablespoonful of the mixture over the bread, spreading it slightly with the back of the spoon. (do not spread thin, the topping should be mounded, and have a little height). Press a couple of pieces of the cut artichokes into each mound of topping.

Arrange the topped breads in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese over the breads. Bake for 10-12 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Savory Roasted Root Vegetables

I always have powdered onion soup mix in my pantry. I’m not a snob and it’s great shortcut seasoning. It’s important that the vegetables be similar in size for cooking evenly.

  • ½ pound carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • ½ pound turnips, unpeeled, cut into 1 ½ chunks
  • ½ pound celery root, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 large golden beet or fennel bulb (about ½-pound) cut into 1-inch wedges or 1 ½-inch chunks
  • 1 large sweet onion, (about 12-ounces) peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 package onion soup mix (dry)
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

NOTE: be sure to trim the ends from the vegetables before cutting

Preheat the oven to 425℉. Spray a roasting pan, rimmed baking sheet or disposable aluminum pan with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl  and toss well with your hands to coat the vegetables. Arrange the vegetables in the roasting pan and toss well.  Cook, uncovered, for 30-minutes and begin to check for doneness (a sharp knife inserted into the parsnips take the longest to cook). When tender, keep warm until ready to serve.  Makes 4-6 servings.

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