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Food & Drink

Chanukah celebration recalls the miracle of the temple oil

| Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Baked Latkes
Baked Latkes
Syrian Pumpkin Patties
Syrian Pumpkin Patties
Four Cheese Lasagna
Four Cheese Lasagna
Carrot-Ginger Latkes
Carrot-Ginger Latkes
Lemon MIni Cupcakes
Lemon MIni Cupcakes

Beginning at sundown on Dec. 12, Jews around the world will celebrate Chanukah, one of the more festive holidays on the Jewish calendar.

Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt (167 to 160 BC), and is observed for eight days with special songs, games and foods and the lighting of a nine-branched candelabrum called a menorah.

The menorah symbolizes a miracle that is said to have occurred when a meager supply of oil expected to keep temple candles lit for just one day kept them burning for eight days. Jews came to honor this momentous event by eating fried potato pancakes (latkes) and deep-fried jelly-filled doughnuts (sufganiyot) throughout the holiday.

“The whole point is to remind us of the miracle of the temple oil,” says Rabbi Seth Adelson of Congregation Beth Shalom in Squirrel Hill. “As with many things in Jewish life, practices like eating latkes at Chanukah have evolved over the centuries and millennia.”

Potato pancakes were a European staple that Jews are believed to have embraced when they emigrated to Poland during the 14th century, Adelson says. “Wherever Jews have lived all over the world, they have adopted local customs. My assumption is you ate what was available in your area.

“At some point it was decided, at least by Eastern European Jews, that latkes would be a great food to eat on Chanukah because they were a reminder of the oil in the temple,” he says. “For other Jews, it might not be. Jews from Tehran probably wouldn't eat latkes.”

Jelly doughnuts are no doubt a more recent addition to the Chanukah table, but they have taken off in a big way, especially in Israel, says Adelson, who will spend this Chanukah in the Holy Land. “You see gorgeous doughnuts with beautiful toppings everywhere you go during the holiday. There are pop-up stalls in every street selling every kind of doughnut you can imagine. It's huge.”

Dairy also is a key food with its own rich symbolism at Chanukah, according to Rabbi Stacy Petersohn of Congregation Emanu-el Israel in Greensburg. “It comes with a story — a bit of a racy story — about a woman named Judith, a Maccabee, who took it upon herself to help out with the revolt.”

Judith is said to have seduced the military general Holophrenes by serving him salty cheese and then wine to quench his thirst, and when he fell into a drunken sleep, she cut off his head, Petersohn says. “Eating dairy is done in remembrance of her story. For some, it could be sour cream served with the latkes; for others, it could be ice cream or cheesecake.”

Even chocolate has a place at Chanukah parties, with foil-wrapped chocolate coins (gelt) often used as prizes in games played with a dreidel, a four-sided spinning top with eastern European roots. The sides of the dreidel bear Jewish symbols that together spell A Great Miracle Happened Here.

Although Chanukah — which also is known as the Festival of Lights — gets a lot of attention because of its proximity to Christmas, it actually is a minor holiday but a joyous one and it carries an important meaning, Adelson says. “The over-arching message of Chanukah is that we have a duty to spread light in the world.”

Folks who want to experience Chanukah are invited to the eighth annual Latkepalooza! from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m Dec. 17 at Beth Shalom. Sponsored jointly with Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland, the event is open to the entire community, with $5 admission, and will feature crafts, games, prizes, and Chanukah foods. Details: 412-621-6566, ext.116 or

The Emanu-el Israel sisterhood will celebrate Chanukah on Dec. 7 at Chef Dato's Table in Derry Township, when the restaurant offers the foods of Israel as part of its International Thursdays series. The menu, which also is available to other diners, will include latkes with sour cream and applesauce, brisket and matzo ball soup.

For those wanting to try their hand at preparing their own Chanukah dinner ... a multitude of recipes from Kayco , a kosher food distributor, and follow.

Syrian Pumpkin Patties

Syrians tend to prefer their pumpkin pancakes spicy, while Sephardim from Turkey and Greece generally favor them slightly sweet. In either case, these colorful pancakes are both traditional for Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and Chanukah and makes a tasty side dish for any meal, the many seeds a symbol of fruitfulness and abundance.


1 cup fine bulgur

Warm water for soaking


2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin (about 2 and 1⁄2 pounds raw), or 16 ounces pure-pack canned pumpkin

1 cup all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup water

1 medium onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander

1⁄2 teaspoon grated black pepper

1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin

pinch of cayenne

oil for frying

Prepare the bulgur: Soak the bulgur in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain.

Prepare the patties: Transfer the bulgur to a food processor with the remaining ingredients except the oil and puree. If the mixture is too thin, add a little more flour.

Shape into patties about two inches long, one inch wide, and half an inch thick.

Heat an 1⁄8-inch oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the patties, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about two minutes per side. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip: To cook fresh pumpkin, cut it into eighths, place in a large pot of lightly salted water, cover and simmer over low heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cut off the peel and mash. Gently press in a strainer to remove the excess liquid.

Lemon Mini Cupcakes

Everyone loves mini things, especially cupcakes ... but how do you transform a usually kid-friendly sweet into something more elegant and Chanukah-relevant? Olive oil makes these super moist and pairs well with citrus. You can also prepare these cupcakes using Meyer lemon, orange, or grapefruit zest (just make sure to zest the full two tablespoons to get that flavor.)


1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine

1 and 1⁄2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

2 large eggs

1⁄4 cup Gefen Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

2⁄3 cup whole milk or non-dairy alternative

1 cup flour, plus more for dusting

1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Dipping Sauce/Glaze

1⁄2 cup confectioners' sugar

1-2 tablespoons milk or non-dairy alternative

1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest, plus more for garnish

mint leaves, for garnish

Prepare and bake the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a mini cupcake pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar. Add zest, eggs, olive oil, and milk and mix to combine. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Rather than topping the mini cupcakes with the glaze, serve the glaze on the side as a dipping sauce. If serving as a plated dessert, you'll only need one tasting spoon of glaze alongside a few mini cupcakes. The garnishing is easy with a simple sprinkling of citrus zest and a small mint leaf.

Prepare the glaze while the cupcakes bake. In a bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and milk, adding only a bit at a time. When glaze reaches desired consistency, add zest. Serve alongside cupcakes. To garnish, sprinkle cupcakes with additional zest and a mint leaf, letting some of the zest fall naturally onto the plate.

Zucchini Roses


1-2 small zucchini (about 2 inches diameter)

1-2 small yellow squash (about 2 inches diameter)

salt for sprinkling

black pepper for sprinkling

oil cooking spray

2 (10- x 15-inch) sheets puff pastry dough

Tomato Jam

2 large onions, diced; OR 8 cubes of Gefen Frozen Sauteed Onions

oil for sautéing

2 (14- and 1⁄2-ounce) cans diced tomatoes

6 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon oregano

Black pepper to taste

For the jam: In a medium saucepan, sauté onions in oil on a low flame, until soft and golden brown. Add the rest of the jam ingredients, raise the flame and bring to a boil.

Once the sauce is boiling, lower the flame to medium and simmer the tomato jam for about 20-25 minutes, stirring every so often to prevent burning. Keep the lid off of the pot so that the liquid will evaporate and the jam will reduce. When complete, place the jam in the refrigerator to cool. If there is still some liquid in the pot, strain so that the jam is somewhat thick and chunky, yet a nice spreadable consistency.

For the roses: Wash the zucchini and slice into thin round slices. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch for a couple of minutes in boiling water then stop the cooking by immersing them in cold water. Alternatively, place on a plate covered with saran wrap and microwave for about a minute, or until slightly bendable. Dry with paper towels. Defrost dough and roll out thinly on a sheet of parchment paper, so that it is about 14x18 inches. Slice dough evenly into seven 21⁄2-inch x 14-inch strips. Repeat with second sheet of dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread about two tablespoons of tomato jam onto each strip.

Place the zucchini slices on the top half of the strip, alternating colors and making sure that the top third of the zucchini is overlapping the dough.

Fold about 1 inch of dough over the bottoms of the zucchini.

Starting from one end, carefully roll the dough, keeping the zucchini slices in place, and gently roll tight. Place immediately in a greased muffin pan

Spray roses evenly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until fully cooked and golden brown. Using a spoon, remove each rose from muffin pan and cool on a wire rack.

Note: Make sure the pastry is fully cooked on the inside before removing the roses from the oven. If after the first 30 minutes the zucchini starts to burn on top, move the pan to a lower rack of the oven and finish baking. You can also cover loosely with aluminum foil for these last 10-15 minutes, to avoid burning the top.

Carrot-Ginger Latkes

This recipe comes from Masbia, a nonprofit soup kitchen network and food pantry in New York City.

12 medium carrots, peeled

1 clove garlic, peeled, or 1 cube Gefen frozen garlic

2 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled

1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

3 eggs, beaten

vegetable oil, for frying

Apple Salsa

3 large apples, peeled, halved, cored

1 fresh lemon

2 tablespoons Gefen honey

2 scallions, chopped

1 pickled jalapeño pepper, chopped

1⁄4 cup fresh cilantro, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the latke: In a food processor fitted with the shredding blade, place the carrots vertically in the feeder and shred. Remove blade and spread shredded carrots on a kitchen towel. Roll towel up jelly-roll style and twist to squeeze out excess moisture.

Switch food processor to chopping blade and place the garlic and ginger in work bowl. Chop until finely minced.

In a large bowl stir together one-third cup of the flour, the baking powder, salt and pepper. Add the carrots, ginger mixture and eggs. Add more flour as needed to make a loosely-held mixture.

Place a large frying pan over medium high heat. Pour in enough oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan by one-fourth inch. Test by dropping a small amount of the mixture into the oil. When it sizzles the oil is ready. Mound mixture in a heaping tablespoon and carefully place into the hot oil. Flatten gently with a spatula or back of a spoon. Cook two to four minutes until golden brown. Using a fork, turn latke over to brown the other side for another two to four minutes.

Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter, adding oil as needed to prevent latkes from sticking, and adjusting temperature to maintain an even heat.

Prepare the salsa: In food processor fitted with shredding blade, shred apples. Remove into a colander, press and squeeze apples to remove excess juice.

Using a rasp or paddle grater, zest the lemon into a medium bowl. Halve and juice the lemon into bowl, and remove the seeds. Stir in the honey, apples, green onions, jalapeño pepper, cilantro, salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

Prepare ahead: Keep Carrot Ginger latkes warm in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for a half an hour, or at room temperature for four hours. Reheat before serving. Apple-Salsa will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to one day.

Four Cheese Lasagna

Mushroom Filling

1⁄2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter

8 cups (1 pound) sliced mushrooms

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 and 1⁄2 cups shredded Emmentaler or Swiss cheese

3⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 and 3⁄4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1 egg

Bechamel sauce

1⁄4 cup butter

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme

1⁄3 cup all purpose flour

2 and 3⁄4 cups milk

1 cup vegetable broth, preferably low sodium

1⁄4 teaspoon salt


15 Haddar Oven-Ready Lasagna noodles, or regular lasagna noodles cooked until al dente

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Prepare the mushroom sauce: Place porcini mushrooms in small bowl; cover with half a cup of hot water. Set aside for 15 minutes.

In large skillet set over medium high heat, melt butter; add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until mushrooms are softened, have started to turn golden and any excess liquid has evaporated. Transfer mushrooms to bowl.

Drain porcini mushrooms. Chop coarsely; stir into sliced mushroom mixture along with parsley.

In separate bowl, combine Emmentaler and half a cup of the Parmesan. In third bowl, stir together ricotta and egg.

Prepare the Bechamel sauce: In a bowl, combine Emmentaler and half a cup of the Parmesan. In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta and egg.

In saucepan set over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion, garlic and thyme; cook, stirring, for three minutes. Stir in flour for one minute; mixture will be very thick. Stir in milk and stock, whisking to break up any clumps. Bring to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon.

Whisk a quarter cup of sauce into the ricotta mixture. Pour remaining sauce over Emmentaler/Parmesan mixture, whisking until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread half a cup of cheese sauce over bottom of a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Layer with three noodles, half a cup of ricotta mixture, half a cup of mozzarella and half a cup of cheese sauce. Repeat layering once.

Cover with all of mushroom mixture. Repeat layering two more times. Spread remaining sauce over the top of the last layer of noodles.

Sprinkle with remaining quarter cup of Parmesan cheese. Cover loosely with foil.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and broil for about three minutes or until top is just starting to turn golden brown. Let lasagna rest for 10 minutes before cutting into servings.

Chestnut Chicken

1-2 (5.2-ounce) bags Gefen Roasted and Peeled Chestnuts (or prepare them yourself)

2 large Spanish onions, sliced

6-8 chicken quarters, skin on

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon paprika

2 cloves garlic, minced

Prepare the chicken: Place an oven bag in a roasting pan. Place inside sliced onions, chicken and spices. Sprinkle in whole chestnuts and close the bag.

Cut three slits in the bag and place pan in oven. Bake on 400 degrees Fahrenheit till the thermometer reads 180, about an hour to an hour and a half.

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