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Jewish Journal

Make a festive meal fit for your Maccabees

by Judy Zeidler

December 14, 2006 | 7:00 pm

Mmmmmm -- latkes!

Mmmmmm -- latkes!

Chanukah has always been a festive holiday -- a time when our family exchanges gifts, lights candles and enjoys traditional foods fried in oil. Since the holiday is mostly focused around children, this menu is designed with them in mind.

It's important during Chanukah to teach children and grandchildren about Jewish traditions and to recall the miracle of the oil, when a one-day supply lasted for eight days, enough time until fresh oil could be made from the olive trees to keep the flame lit in the Holy Temple.

To make everyone feel special during the festivities, we ask each child to bring his or her own chanukiah, or Chanukah menorah. We place them all on the dining room table, so later they can recite the blessing and light the candles together.

Usually everyone gathers in the kitchen to watch the ritual frying of the latkes. They offer their opinion on the size and technique, and they think if the latkes are watched closely, they'll be done faster. We normally use three large frying pans and triple the size of my award-winning latke recipe, but no matter how many we make there is never enough.

The latkes are served with several delicious toppings -- applesauce, chopped olive spread, sour cream and sugar. For a special adult treat, try topping the latkes with salmon caviar. We feast on the latkes while talking in the living room, surrounded by colorful piles of Chanukah gifts, as we wait for the latecomers to arrive.

Serve pasta for the main course, with a choice of two sauces. Be creative with pasta shapes since there are many to choose from. Our favorites are bowties, spaghetti and penne. Some prefer just butter and Parmesan cheese as a topping, while others like the traditional tomato sauce. Everyone will enjoy my recipe using cherry tomatoes that are roasted in the oven with the drained pasta tossed right in with the tomatoes. For the more adventurous, add chunks of sautéed seafood made with several types of fish, which you can add to the roasted tomatoes.

Let the children open presents before dessert -- it allows them to release some of that pent up energy. Then get them back to the table for a do-it-yourself ice cream sundaes, with chocolate or caramel sauce, and fruit preserves. Serve it with homemade brown sugar jelly cookies.

Happy Chanukah!

Judy's Award-Winning Potato Latkes

4 baking potatoes, peeled
1 large yellow onion, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch of baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil, for frying

Grate the potatoes, using a food processor or fine shredder. Immediately transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and add the onion, lemon juice, eggs, flour, baking soda, and salt and pepper. Mix well. Heat 1/8 inch of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour the batter into the hot oil with a large spoon and flatten with the back of the spoon to make 4-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, three to five minutes; then turn and cook on the other side, about two minutes. (Turn once only.) Drain well on paper towels and serve immediately, plain or with topping. Makes 12 latkes.

Applesauce

1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup raspberry jelly
1/3 cup sugar
6 large tart Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
Juice and zest of 2 lemons

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the cranberry juice, jelly and sugar. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until the jelly and sugar have dissolved. Bring the syrup to a boil and simmer for two to three minutes.

Put the apple slices in a large bowl and toss them with the lemon juice and zest. Add them to the jelly mixture and toss to coat evenly. Simmer until the apples are tender, stirring occasionally. Let them cool.

Transfer the glazed apples with their sauce to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about three cups.

Chopped Olive Spread

1 cup pitted black olives
1 cup pitted green olives
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Coarsely chop the olives and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil and parsley, and toss well. Makes about two cups.

Spaghetti With Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

1?4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 cups whole cherry tomatoes
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound spaghetti
Olive oil and Parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat the oven to 250 F.

In a large roasting pot, add olive oil, onions, garlic, tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 to 15 minutes, to avoid sticking. After 30 minutes, sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary and sugar to taste. After another 20 minutes, sprinkle with Parmesan and shake gently.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and boil until tender. Using tongs or a large fork, transfer the boiled pasta directly into the tomato mixture in the roasting pot, allowing some of the cooking liquid as well. Toss gently, but thoroughly. To serve, pour olive oil in a thin stream on top of the pasta and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes six to eight servings.

Brown Sugar Jelly Cookies

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
Assorted preserves: strawberry, red raspberry, apricotPreheat the oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, cream the shortening and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add the flour and salt and blend until smooth. (If preparing in advance, you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap or a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator or freezer.)

Pull off pieces of dough and knead into a 3/4-inch round and dip in egg whites and roll in nuts. Place on foil-lined greased baking pans and gently press a hole in the center of each cookie with your finger or a thimble. Bake for 10 minutes. Press down the indentation again and continue baking for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on racks. Fill the center of each cookie with a teaspoon of preserves.

Makes about 42 cookies.

Judy Zeidler is the author of "The Gourmet Jewish Cook" (Cookbooks, 1988) and "The 30-Minute Kosher Cook" (Morrow, 1999). Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen. Tracker Pixel for Entry

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