On the 6th night of Chanukah, my true love asked me if I was trying to kill him with all that butter and sugar I’d been force feeding him. What??? Pecan Toffee Squares, Oat Pistachio Cookies, Macadamia Coconut White Chocolate Shortbread, Perfect Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Chocolate Crunch too much? OK, point taken. Perhaps it’s time for some salad.I’ve been on a bit of a raw Brussels sprouts bender lately. But really, can you blame me? Would you be able to resist buying these Brussels sprouts? Who knew Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk? So cool. I think I actually squealed when I saw them. These giant bright green olives are Castelvetrano olives. I was introduced to them this summer, and was astounded at how different they are from the typical salty heavily brined green olives we normally buy. They have a crunchy bite and a mild buttery flavour. They somehow manage to be sweet and salty at the same time. Mild and not at all overpowering, they are the perfect olive for this salad. I found them at Whole Foods. I discovered this recipe in the November 2015 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. A food processor makes quick work of shredding the Brussels sprouts. As we crunched through this salad, my true love said he could feel his arteries unclogging. A fresh lemon vinaigrette dressing gets additional punch from a bit of anchovy paste. Rather than make the dressing taste fishy, it just adds a rich, savory background flavour. A generous shaving of Parmesan cheese, fresh corn and some chopped toasted almonds round out this addictive slaw.
I realize that Chanukah ended last week and I’m a little late to the party, but you may forgive me when you find out that I am sharing the ultimate latke recipe with you. So, if you only make latkes once a year, do yourself a favour and bookmark these for next December. You will thank me!
The first time I posted about potato latkes on this blog Taylor Swift was dating Jake Gyllenhaal. The second time, a month later, Taylor and Jake were still being spotted canoodling in public. The third time I posted about latkes, Taylor was keeping company with Harry Styles. My final latke posting was last November and Taylor was trying to make Harry Styles jealous by stepping out with Douglas Booth.
From the above paragraph you might conclude that: a) For a woman over the age of 50, I have an inappropriate fascination with Taylor Swift. (Sadly true!), and, b) I also have an unhealthy love of potato latkes (also, sadly true).
I used to believe that I had the very best latke recipe. And then I tried the Cook’s Illustrated version and discovered that I was wrong! These latkes were light, not at all heavy or greasy. The outer crust was crunchy to the point of almost shatteringly crisp and insides were creamy, tender and pillowy soft. These are everything that all self respecting latkes aspire to be.
Leave it to Cook’s Illustrated to crack the code and perfect the latke. A typical tuber contains 80% water by weight! The secret, it seems, is to rid the potato of as much of it’s water content as possible. This means a little extra work to squeeze out all the moisture that potatoes exude, but trust me, the effort is worth it.
Russet potatoes are the best variety to use. Grating them by hand on a box grater will give you the best texture. Just scrub the potatoes. No need to even peel the potatoes, just scrub well.The grated potatoes are mixed with a small grated onion and some salt. The mixture is transferred to a tea towel and all the moisture is wrung out. Let the drained liquid sit for 5 minutes and all the potato starch will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Drain off the liquid and save the starch. This starch is what will hold your latkes together. No need to add any additional flour or matzoh meal.The potato mixture gets heated in the microwave for 2 minutes. This allows the potatoes to release even more moisture and assists in making the latkes crispier and prevents them from becoming greasy by absorbing too much oil.
Click here to print recipe for Ultimate Potato Latkes.
I recently discovered that the “Miracle of Chanukah” story, is just a legend. You know the one I’m taking about, where Judah and his merry band of Maccabees go into the destroyed temple and discover just enough oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day. But somehow, miracle of miracles, the oil lasted for eight days and the flames of the menorah burned for eight nights. When I discovered that the long lasting oil is not really at the root of the Chanukah commemoration, I felt gutted. Kind of reminiscent of coming home for winter break in first year university to discover that I was the last one in the family to find out that our dog, Heidi, had died!
“Truth” is a word to be avoided when discussing history and religion. Since the victors of a battle often write the history, the facts of what happened in the past depend very much on whom you ask and when it comes to religion, everyone has a different truth.
Chanukah is the only major Jewish holiday not explicitly mentioned in the Torah (Judaism’s written law), since the events that inspired the holiday occurred after it was written. The Rabbis wrote about Chanukah in the Talmud (Jewish oral law and tradition), but that was written over 600 years after the Maccabees revolt. Their version of Chanukah differs markedly from The Books of Maccabees written in the 2nd century B.C.E.
So we have here two versions of the Chanukah story: one from the Book of Maccabees and the other from the Talmud. Both versions agree on the first part of the story. Around 200 B.C.E., Judea (Israel) came under control of the Syrian King, Antiochus III. He was a benevolent fellow and allowed the Jews to continue practicing their religion. Things changed drastically when his son, Antiochus IV, took over.
This evil king outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C.E., his soldiers marched into Jerusalem, exterminated thousands of people and desecrated the holy Second Temple by constructing an altar to Zeus and commanded the Jews to sacrifice a pig upon this alter.
The Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons led a large-scale rebellion against Antiochus and his army. When Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E., his son Judah Maccabee took over. Within two years, the Jews, relying on Guerrilla warfare tactics, defeated the Syrian Greek army and drove them out of Jerusalem.
The Maccabees cleansed the Second Temple, rebuilt the altar, lit its menorah and celebrated the rededication (the word Chanukah means dedication). And thus the eight-day festival of Chanukah was born. Why eight days? Well, here’s where the story begins to diverge. According to The Book of Maccabee II, while the Maccabees were fighting, they had missed the eight-day holiday of Sukkot, (celebrated in early fall) and so to celebrate the Second Temple rededication, they declared a “better-late-than-never” celebration of Sukkot.
Version 2, as written in the Talmud gives us this spin on the eight-day festival. Judah Maccabee and his team, who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple, witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames burned for eight nights. This wondrous event inspired the Rabbis to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival.
The Rabbis barely mentioned the battle between the Maccabees and the Greeks in the Talmud. The reason for this is unclear. Perhaps they did not want to encourage the celebration of a military battle, or perhaps, as pacifists, they did not want to encourage the Jewish people, who at that time, were living under Roman rule, to be inspired by revolt.
Rabbi Andrew Jacobs, on “Blog Shalom” explains the miracle of Chanukah this way,
“…even without the oil, .Chanukah is still a miraculous story. The Maccabees were a tiny group of Jews who should not have been able to defeat the powerful Greeks. But they did! And because of this miracle, Judaism survived and did not become consumed by Greek culture. This story of miraculous survival repeats itself many times throughout Jewish history. Despite tremendous powers that have raged against us, nothing has stopped the Jewish people. This is a miracle.”
Although the miraculous oil story may be just a legend, I refuse to give up food fried in oil on Chanukah! To celebrate my newfound knowledge, I am going to go all out this year and celebrate Chanukah with these decadent Pomegranate Sugar-Dusted White Chocolate Doughnuts.The idea behind these doughnuts comes from the genius mind of Chef Lynn Crawford. However, after discovering that her recipe called for a pound of butter in the doughnut dough, I decided to use her white chocolate filling and pomegranate sugar coating, but looked elsewhere for the actual doughnuts. Anna Olsen‘s recipe used only a 1/4 pound of butter. So while these doughnuts are not exactly light fare, they are lighter than originally intended by Chef Lynn!
These are yeast raised, not cake doughnuts. The dough comes together in about 5 minutes if you have a stand mixer. Thanks to a quarter pound of butter this brioche-like dough has an amazing silky texture.
My deep fryer, which normally only gets pulled out once a year to make french fries takes all the guess work out of deep frying. You can of course use a deep pot with a candy/oil thermometer to regulate the temperature.These babies puff up like little pillows. I can not accurately express the joy I experienced watching my own little miracle here in the deep fryer!Filling the doughnuts with the white chocolate ganache whipped cream is quite simple. A plain piping tip, inserted into the side of the doughnut makes easy work of the job. These doughnuts are really best eaten the same day they are made. I sent 16 of these beauties off with my husband to share with his hockey team after I made them one Sunday afternoon. He said that they were inhaled very quickly and that they actually brought a few of these strong burly hockey players to their knees as they gushed at how good they were.
Click here to print recipe for Pomegranate Sugar Dusted White Chocolate Doughnuts.
I seem to be a bit out of synch with my Chanukah posts this year. I posted about latkes (with fried eggs and roasted tomatoes) on November 23, almost a full month before the first night of Chanukah. And now, here I am, bringing you latkes with roasted applesauce, on the last night of Chanukah! I meant to bring you this fantastic applesauce recipe a week ago but, I’ve been a bit distracted with this view. so forgive my tardiness!
We are here on a little island, off the coast of Antigua, in the Caribbean. We have rented a house on the ocean for 9 days for a little family holiday. It is so wonderful to have all my children together under the same roof for an extended period of time. It makes me feel contented and complete. My husband’s sister and her family have also come and rented the house 2 doors down from us so all the cousins are together for a mini-family reunion. I say mini, because in addition to a sister, my husband also has 4 brothers. Sadly, they were unable to come down with their families.
There are no cars allowed on the island. The major methods of transportation include bicycles, golf carts and walking. The older kids are loving the golf carts, but my 16-year-old niece is annoyed that she is not allowed to drive the golf carts, as you require a valid driver’s licence and she only has her learner’s permit. She was slightly appeased when she discovered that the legal drinking age on Antigua is 16.
We had a family Chanukah celebration over lunch a few days ago at my sister-in-law’s house. Her kitchen is way better equipped than mine. They had a Cuisinart to grate the potatoes and onions. We just had a box grater! The latke recipe can be found in my Nov 23 post.
The roasted applesauce recipe comes from Food 52. They featured it in their Genius recipes feature. It is the creation of Zuni Cafe owner, Judy Rodgers. I have always made applesauce by just steaming the apples in a pot with a little bit of water and then putting them through a food mill. This takes applesauce to a whole other dimension, by roasting them with a pinch of salt, sugar and butter. Then they are mashed up and finished with a splash of cider vinegar. Genius indeed!
With 17 of us for lunch, there were lots of potatoes to peel and grate. We had 3 frying pans going and within about an hour we had transformed 10 pounds of potatoes into a huge mound of crispy lacy latkes. My sister-in-law has an unusual, and dangerous, method for forming the latkes. She scoops up a small handful of the mixture with her hands, squeezes it to compact the mass and then gently places it in the hot oil! I prefer to use a large spoon, but I have to admit, hers stayed together a bit better than mine. She also had the patience to let them get really brown and crispy.
We had to send my brother-in-law out to forage for sour cream (apparently the way Torontonian’s favour their latkes) and ketchup (an Ottawa thing!). The roasted applesauce was a great unifier, loved by all.
Click here for recipe Roasted Applesauce.
Click here for recipe for Latkes.
I know it’s a little too early to start thinking about potato latkes, since the first night of Chanukah is not until December 20 this year. But I have a good reason for posting about them now. You see, ever since I saw Chuck Hughes make these on his show, “Chuck’s Day Off”, it’s all I could think about.
Now, before you continue reading any further, I must warn you that I am about to gush big time. So, if public displays of affection make you at all uncomfortable, perhaps you should stop reading this post right now. To be perfectly honest, Chuck’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. You may recall that I posted about Chuck in April, and then again at the beginning of this month. I guess you could say that I’m a bit smitten with him. For the record, I am happily married (not to Chuck!), but celebrity crushes are permitted. I think it’s actually healthy for our marriage.
For those not familiar with Chuck, check out this short video of him on YouTube, and you’ll see what I mean.
Chuck cooks on his day off for friends, family and his suppliers as a way of saying thanks. In one episode he made adobo pork shanks, fried rice and pineapple coconut pie for Edgardo and Burt, the father and son team that cleans his restaurant. How could you not love this guy?
He made these latkes for his pots and pans suppliers. He topped them off with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a fried egg. And on the side, he served roasted grape tomatoes and sautéed zucchini. The first time I tried the recipe, I made it exactly as Chuck did, but to be honest, the ricotta and the sautéed zucchini really muddied the flavours of the potato and egg. The roasted tomatoes, however, really brightened up the whole dish. Their acidity balanced the richness of the fried potato and egg.
Chuck’s latke method is more like the Swiss dish “röesti potatoes”, than traditional potato latkes. He parboils the potatoes first, then shreds them and mixed them with onion, chives, eggs, cayenne, salt and pepper. I gave his method a whirl but must admit, I like using grated raw potatoes. I find you get a crispier latke that way.
Grape tomatoes get a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and some thyme.
After 45 minutes in the oven they come out all wrinkled and sweet. They can be made in advance and sit at room temperature while you make the latkes and fry the eggs.