Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 16, is a time for family gatherings, and special foods are an important part of the celebration. Candles are burned for eight days to commemorate the rededication of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem, when a tiny vial of oil miraculously burned for eight days.
Naturally, foods fried in oil are part of the tradition, and the hands-down favorite are potato latkes--crisp brown pancakes, usually served with applesauce, fruit preserves or sour cream. I have included a recipe for Classic Potato Latkes in my menu, and it's easy to prepare; it follows the foolproof formula of one-egg-for-one-potato, resulting in a thinner batter and a super-thin, crisper latke.
Almost everybody is familiar with cold beet borscht, another classic dish, but how about trying a tangy, hot and hearty Red Onion Borscht? Its sparkling ruby color is derived from both red onions and beets, and it's based on a hearty beef stock. With the borscht we'll enjoy some Filo Sesame Sticks.
Another Hanukkah favorite is brisket of beef. My updated recipe adds a medley of savory winter vegetables. This is accompanied by the sweet-and-sour flavors of Caraway Cabbage With Apples. Caraway is an ancient spice, known in Biblical days, and the cabbage mixture is a perfect complement to the brisket.
The dinner ends with a surprise dessert--Kosher Mincemeat Tartlets. The mincemeat contains no meat, but is blended from apples, dried fruits, almonds, spices and wine. The tiny tarts are topped with fluffy toasted meringue. Doubling the mincemeat recipe will provide the filling for a pie for the final days of the holiday, or a spicy sauce to serve with ice cream or desert latkes.
Children will receive a gift-wrapped box of Hanukkah cut-out cookies in the shapes of stars and dreydls (tops). Look for gift wrapping, as well as streamers, paper plates and cups, all in blue and white, in specialty shops.
A robust red wine is good with this cool weather menu, and so is the traditional hot tea served with honey and lemon.
Hanukkah Menu Red Onion - Beet Borscht Filo Sesame Sticks Brisket of Beef With Winter Vegetable Medley Caraway Cabbage With Apples Classic Potato Latkes Hanukkah Cut-Out Cookies Kosher Mincemeat Meringue Tartlets Hot tea with honey and lemon Robust red wine RED ONION-BEET BORSCHT
2 tablespoons oil
4 large red onions, thinly sliced
4 large beets, peeled and cut julienne
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
6 cups beef or chicken stock
6 small red potatoes, diced
1/3 cup Port wine
8 thin slices cooked potatoes
8 small sprigs of dill
Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onions, beets and vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and beets are tender, about 20 minutes.
Add stock and diced potatoes. Bring to boil, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add Port. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
Ladle into heated soup bowls and garnish with sliced potatoes and sprigs of dill. Makes about 2 quarts or 8 servings.
FILO SESAME STICKS
4 sheets filo pastry dough
1/2 cup Garlic Margarine
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup sesame seeds
Work with 1 sheet filo at time. Spread each on large sheet wax paper over top of damp kitchen towel. With scissors, cut filo into strips 2- to 3-inches wide. Brush each strip with melted Garlic Margarine. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.
Fold nearest long edge over to 1 inch from opposite edge. Starting from folded end, tightly roll up filo into bread-stick shape. Seal and brush entire surface with Garlic Margarine. Roll filo sticks in sesame seeds to coat.
Line baking sheet with foil and brush foil with Garlic Margarine. Place filo sticks on prepared baking sheet. (Can hold at this point in refrigerator or freezer.) Bake at 350 degrees 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to racks. Serve hot or cold. Makes about 2 dozen.
1/2 cup unsalted margarine
2 cloves garlic, minced
Melt margarine in small saucepan. Add garlic and season to taste with salt. Let mixture stand 30 minutes to blend flavors. Remelt mixture before using for Filo Sesame Sticks.
BRISKET OF BEEF WITH WINTER VEGETABLE MEDLEY
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 (16-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 (6- to 8-pound) lean brisket of beef
2 tablespoons canned tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried
4 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced
2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
12 medium mushrooms, halved
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and leek. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.