6 December, 2017
This week’s recipes in the holiday lineup are brought to you by Rebekah Carter, a guest poster whose name you might recognize from her last guest post, Juicing for Healthy Hair. This time around, Rebekah would like to share a handful of healthy and traditional Hanukkah recipes she’s gathered, so that everyone can learn a little bit about the delicious foods its celebrants enjoy. Before we get to the stories and foods, let me tell you a little about the history of the holiday.
Chanukah, Hanukah, Hanukkah, or חֲנֻכָּה, however you choose to spell it, is the Jewish Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication, commemorating the rededication of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights anytime from late November to late December. According to the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah starts on the 25th day of Kislev. The menorah, also called a Hanukiah or Chanukiah, holds nine candles — one for each day of Hanukkah and one central candle, a shamash or “attendant,” as it translates (שמש) with which all the other candles are lit.
For a little more background on the Maccabean Revolt that led to the eventual celebration of Hanukkah, I’ve pulled an excerpt from good ol’ Wikipedia. It also talks about the miracle of the jug of cruse oil that burned for eight days, even though the oil it held should only have been enough for one day of light:
“When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was looted and services stopped, Judaism was outlawed. In 167 BC, Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple. He banned brit milah (circumcision) and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple.
Antiochus’s actions provoked a large-scale revolt. Mattathias (Mattityahu), a Jewish priest, and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. It started with Mattathias killing first, a Jew who wanted to comply with Antiochus’s order to sacrifice to Zeus, and then a Greek official who was to enforce the government’s behest (1 Mac. 2, 24-25). Judah became known as Yehuda HaMakabi (“Judah the Hammer”). By 166 BC Mattathias had died, and Judah took his place as leader. By 165 BC the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event. Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the kohen gadol (high priest) was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. The story goes that one flask was found with only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah. An eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.
The version of the story in 1 Maccabees states that an eight-day celebration of songs and sacrifices was proclaimed upon re-dedication of the altar, and makes no specific mention of the miracle of the oil.”
Now that we have more information on the history behind Hanukkah, let’s talk about the rituals that go into the celebration of the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Hanukkah rituals vary from family prayers to communal ones. The regular daily prayers and mealtime blessings continue as usual, with some additions. During Hanukkah, Jewish people continue to attend work and school as they normally would and are not forbidden to conduct themselves as they would on the Sabbath or Shabbat. At night, gifts such as books and gelt (chocolate coins) are often exchanged and games such as dreidel are played. Fried foods are enjoyed by family, including latkes (potato pancakes), sufagniyot (jelly doughnuts), to commemorate the importance of the holy oil. Another custom incorporates cheese and wine, representative of the story of Judith and how she overcame Holofernes by feeding him cheese to make him thirsty and wine to make him hungry, indulging him until he was drunk, at which point, she cut off his head.
Not everyone’s celebrations are so orthodox, though. Zachary Yaro and his family are Reform Jews, whose celebrations are less traditional and more modernized.
Roasted Sweet Potato Soup
What better way to start off a classic Hanukkah celebration, than with a bowl of delightfully warming soup? All you need to make this simple meal is an immersion blender, and a handful of fresh ingredients. The soup is made with a splash of orange juice to compliment the smooth sweetness of the potatoes, making it perfect for a brightly-colored side dish or entrée. It’s also topped with a mouth-watering sauce, packed full of orange zest, mint, and pistachios.
4 lbs Sweet potato, diced
6 tbsp Vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1 medium Onion, chopped
4 medium Carrots, diced
5 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 quarts Chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup Pistachios
1 sprig Mint
1 tbsp Orange zest
Cook the vegetables and stock until soft before carefully blending everything together with an immersion blender. Ladle out portions of soup, and, in a separate bowl, mix together the oil, orange zest, crushed pistachios, and salt before sprinkling the garnish on top of the soup and serving.
It just wouldn’t be Hanukkah without plenty of crispy latkes on the table. Although you might need to practice if you’ve never made this side dish before, you’ll find that with a little bit of time and some careful planning, it’s not too difficult to create an incredible snack that the whole family loves. Made with matzo meal, eggs, and potatoes, make sure you have canola or peanut oil available for frying. For this recipe, you’ll need:
5 cups of diced onion
4 pounds of potatoes
1 and a quarter cups of Matzo meal
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
Peanut or Canola oil
You can find the instructions for making this recipe here.
Mustard-Braised Beef Brisket
Brisket is one of the most popular traditional meals for a Hanukkah celebration. Not only is it easy to make, but it’s also brimming with flavor, and perfect when you want to combine something warm and meaty with plenty of fresh vegetables and herbs. This particular mustard-braised brisket only takes about 15 minutes to prepare in total. However, you’ll need to let it marinate over night if you want to get the best results. You’ll need:
Ground mustard seeds, fresh thyme, kosher salt, and ground pepper for seasoning
2 and a half pounds of beef brisket
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 head of garlic
2 yellow onions
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and half a tablespoon of whole-grain mustard
1 and a half tablespoons of all-purpose flour
3 cups of beef broth
1 and a half cups of red wine
1 third of a cup of Cognac
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
You can find the instructions for this recipe here.
If you’d prefer to stay away from beef with your main meal, then you could always try chicken instead with this delightful Hanukkah favorite. A meal that’s loved by families around the world at all times of the year, chicken schnitzel is made up of fried, breaded pounded chicken breasts. Make sure you use canola or peanut oil for frying if possible, for the best flavor. You’ll need:
2 quarts of cold water
A third of a cup of kosher salt
4 boneless chicken breast halves
12 slices of white bread
1 cup of all-purpose flour
2 cups of peanut or canola oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon of parsley
For the rest of the guidelines on how to make this delightful recipe, click here.
Cinnamon-Sugared Doughnut Holes
Finally, Hanukkah wouldn’t be complete without a classic dessert. Since many Hanukkah foods employ the use of oil to celebrate the burning holy oil in Jewish history, doughnut holes are a natural choice. This incredible recipe is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth, combining fresh and tangy apple compote, with warming cinnamon. You’ll need:
1 stick of unsalted butter
Half a cup of cold water
1 cup of all-purpose flour
Pinch of kosher salt
A quarter cup of sugar
4 medium eggs
Peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
Golden delicious apples
You can find the rest of the recipe here.
If you’re looking for a slightly different take on latkes that offer a vegan-friendly substitute for the eggs featured in the recipe above, my friend, Skyler, has you covered. He writes: “This recipe makes enough for 2 people or one person with a big appetite. I usually make 3 times the recipe if I’m cooking for [my whole family].”
2 large Russet potatoes
1/2 cup Flour
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1-1/2 tsp Sea salt
Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Carrot, grated
1/2 cup Scallions, sliced
2 tbsp Unflavored soy milk
Peel the potatoes. Use a food processor or blender to finely chop half of them. Grate the other half (much easier if your food processor has a grater blade).
Put the potatoes in a colander or strainer over a large bowl and let them drain about 10 minutes. Squeeze any remaining liquid out of them. Let the liquid sit a few minutes for the starch to settle at the bottom of the bowl. Pour off the liquid, and combine the starch with the potatoes. Add the other ingredients (except the oil) and mix thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 275º. Heat inch of canola oil in a skillet until very hot. Take a spoonful of the mixture and roll it into a ball in your hands, flatten and drop into the oil. Add more until out of room, leaving room to flip them. Flip when edges turn golden.
When done, remove latkes from oil and place onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Put plate in oven to keep warm while making the rest of the latkes. Serve hot with applesauce and/or sour cream.