Blending Faiths and Food During Hanukkah

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From New York Times , and

Hanukkah begins Friday. For this week's food segment, New York Times food writer Joan Nathan guides us on how to make Jewish food if you're new to the family and come from a different religious background.

Check out Nathan's recipes for Sweet Potato Latkes, Apple Cider Doughnuts and other Hanukkah dishes.

Curried Sweet Potato Latkes, adapted from Jewish Cooking in America by Joan Nathan

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk or water approximately
  • Peanut or vegetable oil for frying

1.  Grate the sweet potatoes coarsely.  in a separate bowl mix the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder,

cayenne pepper, curry powder, cumin, and salt and pepper.

2.  Add the eggs and just enough milk or water to the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter.  Add the potatoes and mix.  The batter should be moist but not runny;  if too stiff, add more milk.

3.  Heat 1/4 inch of peanut or vegetable oil in a frying pan until it is barely smoking.  Drop in the batter by tablespoons and flatten.  Fry over medium-high heat several minutes on each side until golden.  Drain on paper towels and serve.

Yield:  16 three-inch pancakes. 


Citrus-Cured Gravlax With Toasted Fennel Seeds 

Adapted from Todd Gray, Equinox Restaurant, Washington, D.C.

Time: 10 minutes plus overnight refrigeration

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur 
  • 11/4 pounds salmon fillet with skin
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 3/4 cup coarse salt 
  • 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 lemon zest, grated
  • 1 lime zest, grated 
  • 1 orange zest, grated
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves crushed 
  • 1 dried bay leaf, crumbled.

1.  Rub Cointreau over salmon, flesh side only. In a half-gallon zip-top plastic bag,  combine sugar, salt and fennel. Add grated fruit zests, thyme and bay leaf; mix well.

2.  Put salmon in bag, gently roll to coat fish, then press sugar-salt mixture into meat. Place plastic bag on a plate, put a weight on top (like a heavy skillet) and place in refrigerator overnight or for about 12 to 14 hours. 

3.  When ready to serve, remove bag from refrigerator and thoroughly scrape citrus-salt mixture off the fish, dabbing with a damp cloth if necessary. Before serving, slice gravlax paper thin on a diagonal and serve on crackers.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.


Red Flannel Potato Latkes

Adapted from Paul O’ Connell, Chez Henri Restaurant, Cambridge, Mass.

Time: 25 minutes

  • 1 pound (about 2 medium) Yukon Gold or other all-purpose potatoes
  • 1 medium beet (about 8 ounces), peeled
  • Half a celery root (about 8 ounces), peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Applesauce or sour cream, for serving.

1.  Using  shredding holes on a hand-held grater or  shredding disk on a food processor, shred  potatoes, beet, celery root and onion. Squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible, and place shreds in a large bowl. Add egg, and season with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

2.  Place a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add a generous film of vegetable oil. Take a handful of  potato mixture and press into a flat disk in  palm of one hand. Gently place in hot skillet. Repeat until skillet is filled. Fry, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 3 minutes a side. (Adjust heat as necessary so the latkes do not burn.) Transfer to paper towels to drain; keep warm. Repeat with remaining potato mixture. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

Yield: About 12 latkes (4 servings).


Apple Cider Doughnuts

Adapted from Todd Gray, Equinox Restaurant, Washington, D.C.

Time: 40 minutes plus 30 minutes’ chilling 

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 51/2  cups all-purpose flour, more for  rolling dough
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 11/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 11/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 medium honeycrisp apple or other tart cooking apple, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Blueberry ginger jam, for serving (see recipe).

 1.  Place  apple cider in a small saucepan over high heat, and reduce to 1/2 cup; remove from heat and reserve. In a large bowl, sift together theflour,  baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon  cinnamon.

2.  Using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix together the butter, 1 cup  granulated sugar and the brown sugar, until creamy. Mix in eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla, buttermilk and reserved cider.

3.  Scrape down bowl and add sifted flour mixture. Mix just until blended. Remove bowl from mixer, add apple, and mix well by hand. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out  dough to a rough disk about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Using a 21/2 inch doughnut-cutter, cut into doughnuts. Reserve ‘holes.’

5.  Fill a wok or deep fryer with oil and heat to 300 degrees. Putting three or four doughnuts in at a time, fry until deep golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes total. Drain on a platter lined with paper towels. Fry ‘holes’ separately. In a small bowl, mix together  remaining 1/2 cup sugar with remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust doughnuts with cinnamon sugar and serve warm. If desired, serve with blueberry-ginger jam for dipping or spreading.

Yield: About 2 dozen.

Blueberry Ginger Jam

Adapted from Todd Gray, Equinox Restaurant, Washington, D.C.

Time: 35 minutes

  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon port wine.

1.  In a medium saucepan, combine  blueberries, sugar, ginger, lemon zest, and wine.

2.  Place over high heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer until thick and shiny, about 30 minutes. May be served warm as a sauce, or allowed to cool completely (it will thicken more upon cooling) and served as a spreadable jam.

Yield: 2 cups.