While most Jews agrees that latkes and sufganiyot are the most popular Hanukkah foods a less well known, yet no less popular Hanukkah tradition is to serve cheeses and other dairy dishes. The serving of these foods is in honor of Judith whose story is found in the Apocrypha. Judith invited an enemy general (one who was planning on destroying her town) to dinner. She fed him huge amounts of cheese and wine and after he fell over in a drunken stupor she beheaded him. His soldiers fled in terror and the town was saved.
It’s said that it was Judith’s bravery that inspired the Maccabees. So, whether you prefer latkes smothered with sour cream, jelly filled sufganiyot or a blintz that’s loaded with cheese know that these holiday specialties are, as all good holiday foods are, loaded with calories and taste best, according to the experts who live in my house, right out of the pan. A modern day miracle would be if we could make all the calories disappear and keep all the taste (stop wishing, it ‘ain’t going to happen). So forget the guilt that the extra calories bring and just enjoy them.
As with all holidays, the family customs and variations of foods served at Hanukkah are as many and varied, as there are countries in the world. These unique recipes are a cross section from friends and family favorites whose origins, while far flung, are inexorably intertwined as we share the age-old ritual of kindling the Hanukkah lights.
- 4 cups peeled, grated potatoes (See directions)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped, about cup (See directions)
- 4 finely chopped cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
- 1 cup ricotta cheese (nonfat or low-fat is fine)
- ½ cup grated carrot
- 1 teaspoon cumin or more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 lightly beaten eggs
- ½ cup matzah meal or breadcrumbs
- 8 to 10 Tablespoons oil
- In a food processor or by hand grate the potatoes along with the onions.
- Place the grated vegetables in a colander set over a bowl. Let the vegetables drain until they no longer squish when you press down. Pour the liquid out of the bowl, taking care not to pour out the potato starch which has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl.
- Scoop out the starch and add back to the grated vegetable shreds.
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
- Heat a large skillet and place 2 to 3 Tablespoons of oil in it.
- Use about 1/2 cup of batter for each pancake and use a spatula to flatten the batter to about 1/2 inch thick.
- Fry until well browned, then flip pancake and brown other side. Add additional oil for additional pancakes.
The cooked ones can be kept warm on a baking sheet in a 300-degree oven until all pancakes are ready.