This week we’ve been celebrating Hanukkah, the holiday of light. Each night we light candles or small cruzes of olive oil to celebrate the success of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd C. BCE. Antiochus IV was in control of the region, forbidding the observance of Judaism and ultimately desecrating the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
Hannukahh is a visually beautiful observance. We light candles in our doorways, windows, and even outside, sharing the holiday with every person who knowingly or unknowingly walks by a hanukiah . It’s somehow compelling to realize that the Festival of Lights occurs during the coldest, darkest time of the year. The days are shorter, the winter is coming or has already arrived – whether it’s rainy and cold in Israel or snowy and cold in the northern hemisphere. So in this cold dark part of the year we have the glow of light around us.
It’s a wonderful time to get together with friends and family to share a cup of tea and watch the candles burn low.
It’s an even better time to get together with someone you know who might be alone without friends or family to celebrate with. If you know someone who is alone for the evening give them a call. Share a candle, tea, and cookies. And if you know someone who is isolated, depressed, not well- give them a call to share the warmth and joy. And if you feel really energetic you can make yummy potato latkes and share them!
Here is the latke recipe I like to use.
8 medium potatoes. ( if you scrub them well you don’t have to peel them)
1 largish onion
1/2 cup flour or matzah meal (you can even leave this out if there is a gluten allergy or sensitivity in your circle)
1 – 2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
oil for frying.
Grate the potatoes.
Cut the onion in half then slice it nice and thin.
Mix all the ingredients together- EXCEPT FOR THE OIL.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. When it’s nice and hot put in a 1/4 cup of potato mixture for each latke.
Let them cook for about 6-8 minutes, until golden on the bottom. Then flip gently and let it cook another 5 – 7 minutes- until golden on the other side. I like to make the latkes on the thin side so they cook all the way through. Add a small amount of oil as necessary, gently and carefully tipping the frying pan so the oil finds its way throughout those sizzling critters.
Place the fried latkes on an opened (clean) paper bag or on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.
If you want to “change them up” you can add grated zucchini, sweet potato, parsnip, beets or carrots- you get the idea.
Warning- it doesn’t matter how many you make- there will rarely be enough.
It’s popular to eat latkes with sour cream and apple sauce, but I grew up eating them with chrein (horseradish).
Yehudit Permut of Israel told me, “A family tradition started in my maternal grandmother’s family in Russia was latkes from a different vegetable each candle – using the root vegetables that were stored in the root cellar and had been grown in their garden in the summer. We continued this and I have already passed it on to my children. It can be potato mixed with other veg or things like beets and parsnip, parsnip and carrot, potato and either veg, even potato mixed with some shredded cabbage and onions… anything goes. They used what they had.”
Enjoy the latkes and enjoy the last of Hanukkah.
Chag Sameach, Laya