Jewish Journal


December 6, 2001

Olive Oil Treats


Table decorations for Chanukah might include a menorah, dreidels, chocolate gelt and even elephants, which the Greeks used in their forces. Photo by Vano Photography from "Entertaining on the Jewish Holidays" by Israela Banin

Table decorations for Chanukah might include a menorah, dreidels, chocolate gelt and even elephants, which the Greeks used in their forces. Photo by Vano Photography from "Entertaining on the Jewish Holidays" by Israela Banin

Chanukah is a time to recall the miracle that occurred more than 2,000 years ago when the flame in the Holy Temple was relit with a one-day supply of oil that lasted for eight days. This was the amount of time needed to prepare pure oil from the local olive trees to rekindle the flame.

The importance of the oil is the focus of our family Chanukah celebration, which begins at sundown on Sunday, Dec. 9.

In Israel, as well as in most Middle Eastern countries, olives and olive oil have many uses.

They have been used for cooking and baking since ancient times and served as a medicine, lamp fuel and as part of many religious festivals.

Traditionally during Chanukah, families serve foods fried in oil as a reminder of the miracle. Take it one step further this year and prepare dishes using both olives and olive oil to symbolize the holiday.

It is hard to imagine Chanukah without golden brown, crispy potato latkes. This year, these latkes have a new look. They are spooned into a 6-inch skillet, fried in oil, then spread with a chopped olive mixture and cut into wedges.

The Italians use olive oil almost exclusively in their cooking, and one of my favorite recipes for Chanukah is a specialty from Sicily. Sicilian Crochettes are made from a risotto that takes about 20 minutes to make from start to finish. When ready, cool, shape into crochettes, and fill with a mixture of two cheeses, tomato paste and chopped parsley. This dish is hearty and can be served as a main course for a dairy meal.

This is a two-in-one recipe, because you can also serve the trendy risotto, so popular in most Italian restaurants, as an alternative to a pasta course.

Desserts can also be made with olive oil. Many years ago, an Israeli friend shared her Chanukah cookie recipe. They are made with olive oil, instead of butter, and coated with honey and almonds. As a special treat for family and friends, make extra cookies to be given away as Chanukah gifts.

Potato Latkes with Chopped Olives

  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped Olive Spread (recipe follows)

Place shredded potatoes in a large bowl and add lemon juice, egg, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Drain liquid that accumulates at the bottom of the bowl.

In a 6-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Spoon half of the potato mixture into the hot oil and gently flatten with a fork, spreading evenly. Cook on medium heat until brown on one side, for about 10 minutes. Then turn carefully and brown on the other side. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining olive oil and remaining potato mixture.

Spread a generous amount of chopped olives on top, sprinkle with additional olive oil and cut into wedges. Makes 8 servings.

Chopped Olive Spread

  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1 cup green olives, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Chop olives coarsely, transfer to a bowl and toss with olive oil and parsley. Makes about 2 cups.

Sicilian Crochettes (Risotto Latkes)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
  • 3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Crochette Filling

  • 1/2 cup chopped or grated mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup oil

In a large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until soft. Add rice and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Cover with 1 or 2 ladles of hot broth, or enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, as the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, a little at a time, until the rice is tender; about 15 minutes.

Add butter, cream, Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes longer. Cool.

Filling for Crochettes: In a small bowl, combine mozzarella, Parmesan, parsley and tomato sauce.

To Prepare Crochettes: Moisten hands with water. Scoop up 2 tablespoons of risotto in your hands and shape into a flat oval; make an indentation in the center of each with your thumb. Place 1 teaspoon of mozzarella mixture in the center and cover the oval with another tablespoon of the risotto. Mold into 2-to-3 inch ovals, enclosing Mozzarella mixture completely.

In a non-stick skillet, heat oil and fry crochettes, a few at a time, until crisp and golden brown on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Makes about 12.

Israeli Honey-Almond Cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Grated peel of 2 oranges
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups coarsely ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup water

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add olive oil and sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg, cinnamon, orange peel and juice and blend well. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt; then add to butter mixture a little at a time. Add 1/2 cup of the almonds and mix well. Turn dough out onto a floured board and shape into 2 (12-inch) long rolls. Refrigerate until firm.

Cut into 1/4-inch slices and arrange cookies on lightly oiled foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown, about 15 minutes. In a small saucepan, heat honey and water. Using a metal spatula, quickly dip cookies in warm honey, roll in remaining almonds and cool on racks. Makes about 5 dozen.

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