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Hanukkah memories made from scratch

Published December 13, 2006 12:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"Nana? Can I taste the blue sugar?"

That sweet voice was my granddaughter, Persimmon. The blue sugar came with blue frosting and unadorned homemade cookies made by Percy's Aunt Stephanie so that Percy and Nana could decorate Hanukkah cookies shaped like dreidels and six-pointed stars of David.

Naturally, I shook a little sugar in Percy's hand so she could taste it. That's what grandmothers get to do. It brought back sweet memories.

My New York City grandma helped me bake my own blueberry pie in a milk bottle cap when I was almost 4. All these years later, I remember how proud I was; so was my grandmother.

In fact, that was my first thought when I considered cooking for Hanukkah with Percy, who is a couple of months shy of 3 years old.

My second thought was, "What am I thinking?"

You see, Percy and her daddy cook. As she informed me the last time we made cookies together at my house, "We [daddy and Percy] make cookies and cake and Jell-O."

She did not add, "We make cookies from scratch," or "Daddy doesn't use an electric mixer." But when she said, "What's that?" pointing to the package of cookie mix and then to my trusty old Kitchen Aid mixer, she didn't need to say anything else.

She did ask, "What I do, Nana?"

A fair question. She put softened butter into the mixing bowl, then added an egg. She poured the mix as the paddle spun around.

Alas. Hanukkah food does not come in packages. It is made from scratch. And then it is fried in hot oil.

Called the "Festival of the Lights," the holiday really is about lamp oil. The story goes that about 2,200 years ago, when the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was recovered after three years of fighting, only one small jar of purified oil was left to light the temple lamp. It was enough for one day. But the little jar miraculously burned for eight nights until new oil could be brought to the temple.

Ever after, foods cooked in oil have been a Hanukkah tradition as is cooking with grandmas. Holiday cooking with my mother, Aunt Marjorie and my Salt Lake grandmother, was, well, a ritual. My mother and aunt whipped egg whites for sponge cakes by hand. But it is the laughter I remember.

Hanukkah foods include fried potato pancakes (latkes), fried cheese filled crepes (blintzes) and jelly doughnuts. Personally, you couldn't pay me to deep fry anything.

But fried potato latkes are the essence of Hanukkah. I make great latkes - and blintzes - from scratch.

When I thought of making latkes with Percy, I fretted for several days. Grating potatoes, hot oil, Percy wanting to be helpful. Then I had a 3 a.m. inspiration: I would make latkes and blintzes the night before Percy came to cook. We would reheat them in the morning.

Percy could frost the Hanukkah cookies all by herself.

It was a big success. We talked - "Nana, the frosting is sticky!" "Percy, your tongue is blue!" - and we laughed. I hope she will remember.


* JUDY MAGID can be contacted at magid@sltrib.com or 801-257-8608. Send comments to livingeditor@sltrib.com.

My mother's potato latkes

4 large potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled

1 medium onion (about 1/2 pound)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1 large egg

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

About 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

Applesauce, sour cream or favorite accompaniment, for garnish

Grate potatoes and onion, using food processor with a grating disc or large holes of a hand grater. Let drain in colander, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. In a large bowl, mix potato-onion mixture, parsley, egg, salt, pepper, flour and baking powder.

Heat oil in a deep, heavy, 10- to 12-inch skillet. For each latke, drop about 2 tablespoons of mixture into the pan. Flatten so each cake is about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Fry over medium heat about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Stir potato mixture before frying each new batch. Serve with applesauce, sour cream or other accompa- niment.

Makes about 15 latkes.

Note: Latkes can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen on a baking sheet. When frozen, transfer to a sealable freezer bag. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 450-degree oven for 4 or 5 minutes.

Source: Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook (Warner Books, $14.99)

Sweet potato pancakes

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled

3 green onions, finely chopped

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup vegetable oil for frying

Sour cream for garnish

Coarsely grate sweet potatoes on the large holes of a box grater or a food processor with a shredder blade. Transfer to a large bowl; stir in green onions, eggs, flour, 1 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Using a packed 1/4 -cup measure of potato mix per pancake, shape into 12 mounds. With hands, form each into a firm ball and transfer to a baking sheet. Flatten balls into 3/4 -inch-thick cakes.

Heat oil in a deep large skillet over medium heat. Using a metal spatula with a thick blade, transfer 6 cakes to the skillet. Flatten to about 1/2 inch thick. Cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer pancakes to a paper-towel-lined plate. If desired, sprinkle with a little coarse salt. Serve with sour cream.

Makes 12 latkes.

Source: Everyday Food

Sephardic pumpkin latkes

1 3/4 to 2 pounds pumpkin or other winter squash

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Pepper to taste

About 5 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying

Cut pumpkin into 6 or 8 pieces. Add to a large saucepan with enough boiling, salted water to cover. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes until tender. Drain and cut off peel when cool enough to handle. Mash with a fork and press gently in a strainer to remove excess fluid.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, eggs, sugar, salt and pepper. It will be very thick. Add to mashed pumpkin and mix well.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a deep, heavy large skillet over medium heat. Fry mixture by tablespoonfuls, flattening after each addition. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.

Makes 22 small latkes.

Source: Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook (Warner Books, $14.99)

Basic blintzes

Cheese filling:

2 cups farmers cheese

3 tablespoons cream

cheese, softened

5 tablespoons pot cheese (rich cottage cheese) or cottage cheese

2 large egg yolks

Easy cheese filling:

3 cups cottage cheese


3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups milk or water

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons ( 1/4 -stick) butter

1 to 3 teaspoons vegetable oil

For the cheese filling: In a small bowl, combine cheeses and egg yolks. Set aside, keep chilled.

For the easy cheese filling: Drain cottage cheese in colander until liquid has seeped through, about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

For the blintzes: Combine eggs, milk, flour and salt in a blender. Mix on high speed about 1 minute or until smooth. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour. (Batter will keep for a day.)

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Gradually whisk melted butter into batter.

Heat a 6- to 6 1/2 -inch crepe pan or skillet for small blintzes or an 8- to 9-inch skillet for larger blintzes over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with drops of water. If it sizzles, pan is hot enough. Brush pan lightly with oil. No oil is needed for a nonstick pan. Working quickly, add 2 tablespoons batter to small skillet (3 tablespoons for large skillet), tilting and swiveling pan until bottom is covered with a layer of batter.

Return skillet to medium-high heat. Loosen edges thin spatula, discarding any pieces clinging to sides of pan. Cook until bottom is slightly brown. Slide onto plate with cooked side up. Top with a sheet of wax paper or aluminum foil. Repeat until all the batter is used.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of Cheese Filling or Easy Cheese Filling onto edge of brown side of each crepe. Fold over edges of blintz to the right and left of filling so that each covers about half the filling. Roll up blintz.

Fry in butter, seam sides down, in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Makes 12 to 15 blintzes.

Source: Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook (Warner Books, $14.99)

Sugar cookies

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened

3 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons vanilla

6 1/2 cups flour

Cover baking sheets with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator to chill.

In a mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter, eggs, baking soda, salt and vanilla until fluffy. Add flour, blending thoroughly. Divide dough into four pieces and wrap each separately in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take out one piece of dough, leaving the rest in the fridge until ready to use. Roll the dough between two pieces of waxed paper until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out as desired.

Place the cut cookies on prepared cold baking sheet. (Rinse the baking sheets with cold water between batches so they are cold when they go in the oven.)

Bake 9 minutes. Do not overbake. Let cool then decorate with Royal Icing as desired.

Source: Adapted from Three Decades of Cooking With Donna Lou Morgan

Royal icing

3 ounces pasteurized

egg whites (such as


1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners'


In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and vanilla and beat until frothy. Add the confectioners' sugar gradually and mix on low speed until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is shiny. Turn the speed to high and beat until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired.

Spread on cookies with a knife or transfer to a pastry bag or sealable plastic bag with a corner clipped, and pipe as desired. Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Source: Carlene Eggert

Zucchini latkes with garlic-yogurt-mint sauce

Garlic-yogurt-mint sauce:

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint

1/2 small garlic clove, minced

Salt and freshly ground pepper


3 cups (about 3 medium) coarsely grated zucchini

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying

Mint sprig for garnish

For the sauce: Mix together the yogurt, mint, garlic, salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature.

For the latkes: Combine zucchini, garlic, salt and pepper. Add beaten egg and flour, stirring just until incorporated.

Heat oil in a deep, heavy large skillet. For each latke, drop 1 heaping tablespoon of zucchini mixture into pan. Fry about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with Garlic-Yogurt-Mint Sauce.

Makes 12 small latkes.

Source: Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook (Warner Books, $14.99)




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