Latkepalooza

This unparalleled celebration of the latke features gourmet versions of the Hanukkah delicacy by renowned chefs from some of Philadelphia’s top restaurants. Take a gastronomical journey and experience the culinary creativity of Circles Thai, Estia, Frankford Hall, Jones, Kanella, Mission Taqueria, Sabrina’s CafeŽ and Tria Taproom. Savor sufganiyot (Hanukkah donuts) by Federal Donuts, and enjoy beverages by Canada Dry Delaware Valley Bottling Company.

While you tantalize your taste buds, groove to live music by the acclaimed Philadelphia kids band The Plants. For the younger set, there are also children’s Hanukkah crafts and balloon artistry.

Cost
General Admission: $20
Ages 2-12: $15
Under 2: free

Register here or call 215-545-4400.

Latkepalooza always sells out!

Hanukkah Rosettes

639px-rosettecookieWould you like to serve a fried treat that is delicious and beautiful this Hanukkah? Surprise your family and friends with a delicate rose, created from batter, shaped by a metal cookie cutter, and cooked in olive oil. This ethereal treat harks back to ancient Persia, medieval German woodcutters, and the Ottoman Empire.

The technique of deep-frying foods originated in the Mediterranean in the 5th Century BCE. The most commonly used oil was olive oil. As traders took this art to Persia, cooks poured batter into the hot oil, and then immersed the fritter in a syrup of rosewater and sugar. In the 15th Century CE elaborate wooden molds were carved in Europe for shaping gingerbread cookies. Both the mold carving and gingerbread baking were controlled by guilds. In the 18th Century CE the wood was replaced by tin, and shaped cookies were democratized. Everyone could bake their own fancy cookies! The cooks of the Ottoman Empire brought all these traditions together to create a beautiful fritter called demir tatlisi. They dipped iron molds in the shape of flowers in batter and deep-fried them. A warm syrup of sugar, water, and lemon was allowed to simmer on the side. After all the cookies were fried, they were dipped in the syrup and served. Visiting European diplomats brought these recipes to Europe, where they were adopted. Scandinavia fell in love with the flower cookies, calling them Struva. The syrup was replaced with powdered sugar. When the British discovered them, they named them rosettes. You may surprise your Hanukkah guests with beautiful flower shaped fritters.

Hanukkah Rosettes
Adapted from Kari Diehl

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Powdered sugar
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Special equipment: you will need a rosette mold https://www.amazon.com/Norpro-Swedish-Rosette-Timbale-3286/dp/B0000VLYB8

    1. Mix the flour, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt.
    2. Refrigerate the batter for 2 hours.
    3. Heat the oil in a heavy pot to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
    4. Pour the batter into a shallow casserole dish.
    5. Heat the rosette mold in the oil.
    6. Dip the hot mold in the batter so that the bottom and sides are coated, but not the top.
    7. Submerge the mold and batter in the hot oil.
    8. Fry until golden brown.
    9. Place the rosettes on a paper towel to blot the excess oil.
    10. Arrange the rosettes on a plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

    Being Jewish During Christmas: 10 Easy Steps

    Photo by Joe Goldberg https://www.flickr.com/photos/goldberg/

    Photo by Joe Goldberg

    Being Jewish in the diaspora is especially difficult during Christmas. Christmas is such a shiny and beautiful celebration, that it is hard for Hanukkah not to be eclipsed by it. I decided to rise to the challenge. Here is how I did it.

    1) Acknowledge the beauty of Christmas

    Honesty is key. The Christmas decorations and lights are lovely. There is no harm in saying so. My family enjoyed admiring them all around us. At no time were christmas decorations allowed in our home, and my kids were never permitted to help their friends decorate a Christmas tree.

    2) Control the radio and television

    As soon as Thanksgiving is over, the broadcast media inundates everyone with Christmas music and movies. We made a point of listening to Hanukkah and Israeli music, and to watch movies about Hanukkah. We created our own Hanukkah bubble, which was surrounded by Christmas.

    3) Instill pride with the retelling of the story of the Maccabees

    Tell your kids the story of the bravery of the Maccabees. Use whatever resources you have at your disposal to bring it to life. Most kids are fascinated to discover that the weapon of mass destruction during their time was the war elephant.

    4) Make Hanukkah crafts

    We made our own beeswax candles and hanukiot. It was so much more meaningful for the children to light a menorah they had made themselves.

    5) Participate in community celebrations

    Your family may join an ice menorah sculpting and lighting happening, or go to the Latkepalooza to taste non-traditional latkes. Communal menorah lightings and celebrations are a wonderful way to feel part of your People during Hanukkah.

    Photo by MathKnight https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MathKnight

    Photo by MathKnight https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MathKnight

    6) Create your own Hanukkah fun

    We celebrated Hanukkah by making our own gelt, preparing latkes and sufganiot, and hosting at least one Hanukkah party. It is fun to serve Israeli foods during a Hanukkah party, as well as Sephardic treats and specialties from other Jewish communities. Of course, no Hanukkah party is complete without the dreidel game.

    7) Light an olive oil menorah

    Lighting an olive oil menorah transports you back in time to the Temple in Jerusalem. Your family can relive the rededication of the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees, and the lighting of the pure oil.

    8) Give great presents!

    If you examine the reasons young children are envious of Christmas, one of the main ones is that gifts are involved. This one is easy to solve. I told my kids that while children who celebrate Christmas get gifts during only one day, kids who celebrate Hanukkah get gifts during eight nights. Then, I went out and bought eight great gifts for each of them. They had something to look forward to every day. When Christmas and Hanukkah were over, all the kids at school compared what they had received. My children were satisfied with their gifts.

    9) Bond with other Jews

    There is a special bond that forms in December between Jews. There are enough of us in the Philadelphia area that together we share a special Christmas tradition. Have dinner at a restaurant in Chinatown, and then go to a movie. Check the Jewish community listings for special activities and events scheduled on December 24 and 25. Single people in our community should go to the matzah ball where they can mingle with other eligible single Jews. Even when Christmas and Hanukkah don’t overlap, non-Christmas feels like our own special holiday.

    10) Be genuinely happy for your Christian friends.

    I always wish my Christian friends a happy Christmas, and I mean it. I love hearing about their different traditions and recipes. I have modeled this behavior for my family.

    My kids are now young adults. I asked them what they thought of their Hanukkah experience growing up in the United States. They told me that Christmas is a beautiful holiday, and that they feel so lucky to be Jews celebrating Hanukkah.

    Hanukkah Chili

    As winter descends over Philadelphia, we get to drive away the darkness with our Hanukkah lights. One way to make our Hanukkah parties more festive is to cook a large pot of chili. Served with corn chips or some fresh crusty bread and assorted garnishes, it is the perfect main course to enjoy before the latkes, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and chocolate gelt make their appearance. [Read more…]

    The Maccabees’ Victory Feast

    Photo by Triggerhippie4

    Judah Maccabee coin.

    Two thousand years ago, a group of Judean rebels called the Maccabees waged a guerrilla war against the Seleucid Empire. This war was sparked by a decree issued by King Antiochus that forbade Jewish religious practice. Hanukkah is the celebration of the Maccabees’ military victory. “Hanukkah” means “dedication,” in honor of the purification and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabees celebrated the rededication with a victory feast.

    The Maccabean Revolt lasted seven years. During that time, the men neglected their crops and herds. In Ancient Israel, meat was only served on special occasions. The rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem was the type of ceremony that merited a savory meat stew. Since their flocks were lean, the Maccabees probably caught wild deer for this gathering.

    Photo by Fae https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:F%C3%A6

    Cuneiform tablet with oldest recorded recipe for venison stew

    Here is the oldest recorded recipe for venison stew, imprinted on a clay tablet from the time of King Hammurabi (1700 BCE). It is a recipe from Babylonia, written in Akkadian. This recipe predates the Maccabees by 1,500 years, yet meat was still prepared in this manner during their time. The stew was served with flat-bread, wine, and pressed, dried fig cake for dessert.

    Babylonian Venison Stew

    Adapted from The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia by Jean Bottero

    For the marinade:

    • 3 1/2 lbs. venison stew meat
    • 3 cups red wine
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 2 bay leaves

    For the stew:
    Photo by Diego y tal https://www.flickr.com/people/68902784@N00

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 3 leeks, chopped
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • 1/2 cup marinade (recipe above)
    • Sea salt
    1. Place the venison and all the ingredients for the marinade in a large glass bowl.
    2. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
    3. Preheat the oven to 265°F.
    4. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven.
    5. Mix in the cumin, coriander, onions, garlic, and leeks.
    6. Remove the venison from the marinade and add it to the pot.
    7. Once the meat is browned, add the stock and marinating liquid.
    8. Bring to a boil.
    9. Cover the pot and place in the oven.
    10. Bake the stew for 90 minutes.

    The Feminine Side of the Hanukkah Story

    Judith with the Head of Holophernes, by Cristofano Allori, 1613 (Royal Collection, London)

    Judith with the Head of Holophernes, by Cristofano Allori, 1613 (Royal Collection, London).

    — by Barbara Goldberg Goldman

    Throughout history, the victor, the statesman and the warrior all are glorified and magnified in literature, art, theater, film, dialogue, debate and a host of other forums and disciplines.

    Yet, one cannot ignore the fact that most are men, including the members of the Maccabean forces. However, we do know that multitude of women have contributed equally or even more than their male counterparts to many historic events. This is the case with the Hanukkah story.

    Perhaps a lesser known version of the Hanukkah miracle centers on Yehudis, or Judith, during the time of the Maccabean revolt against Syrian oppression.

    Judith was just as significant as Judah. With the help of her maid, she conceived and executed a plan that convinced the people of Bethulia in the land of Judea to have faith and trust in God, and not surrender to Holofernes, the Syrian-Greek General who took siege of her town.

    To a great extent, it was because of Judith’s heroic deed that the faith and courage of the Jewish people throughout the ages are inspired. Her plan led to her beheading Holofernes and the surprise attack on his army, thereby saving all of the people of Bethulia.

    [Read more…]

    Gingerbread for Hanukkah: DeLight or Diminish?

    Last week, five different people wrote me asking if making a gingerbread Hanukkah house might be a welcoming compromise for intermarried families and for those experiencing “Christmas envy.”

    Some people even sent me links to articles about the Manischewitz Do-It-Yourself Chanukah House Vanilla Cookie Decorating Kit, whose comment section in Amazon is rife with complaints about the cookies crumbling in transit; an orthodox website with parve gingerbread dreydels; and my personal favorite, Dawn Ogden’s YouTube video on how to make a gingerbread menorah. [Read more…]

    Obama: ‘The Light of Hope Must Outlast the Fire of Hate’

    — by Bill Leopold

    President Obama spoke about the messages of the story of the Maccabees in front of more than 500 people at a Hanukkah party, in a White House full of elaborate, tasteful holiday decorations and exquisitely prepared glatt kosher food:

    photo 1

    President Obama at the Hanukkah party at the White House. Photo: Jeanne Goldberg-Leopold.

    In the face of overwhelming odds, they reclaimed their city and the right to worship as they chose. And in their victory, they found there wasn’t enough oil to keep the flame in their temple alive. But they lit the oil they had and, miraculously, the flame that was supposed to burn for just one night burned for eight. The Hanukkah story teaches us that our light can shine brighter than we could ever imagine with faith, and it’s up to us to provide that first spark.

    Among the guests at the party were the chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, Josh Shapiro, and his wife Lori. Mr. Shapiro said that it was a wonderful symbol of the U.S. democracy that the President presided over the Hanukkah party and spoke about our core values of freedom, peace, and equality.

    The crowd cheered Obama’s news about Alan Gross, who had just been freed from Cuban prison as part of the country’s renewal of diplomatic relations with the U.S., and loved the President’s solid attempt to speak a few words in Hebrew. The U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra provided the crowd with a tribute to Jewish-American Composers.

    photo 2

    The menorah built by the students of the Max Rayne Hand-in-Hand Arab-Jewish Bilingual School in Jerusalem. The text in Hebrew and Arabic enumerates the founding values of the school: community, dignity, equality, peace, education, friendship, solidarity and freedom. (Photo: Bill Leopold)

    Obama introduced the makers of the menorah that was lit during the party, by relating the story of the decade-old Max Rayne Hand-in-Hand Arab-Jewish Bilingual School in Jerusalem, in which arsonists set fire to a classroom two weeks ago:

    In the weeks that followed, they and their classmates could have succumbed to anger or cynicism, but instead they built this menorah… Each of its branches are dedicated to one of the values their school is founded on—values like community and dignity and equality and peace.

    Two students from that school, Inbar Vardi and Mouran Ibrahim, and a parent, lit the candles. The president said that the students are teaching us that, “The light of hope must outlast the fire of hate.”

    Alexander the Great’s Hanukkah Treats

    photo (10)Who is responsible for the foods we serve for Hanukkah today? The answer might surprise you.

    Sephardic Hanukkah specialties, many of which consist of deep fried dough flavored with honey and sesame seeds, all originate from a special honey cake introduced to the Levant by Alexander the Great.

    Judea was conquered from the Persians by Alexander in 332 BCE. It was under Greek rule for 191 years, until the Maccabees created the Hasmonean state in Israel in 141 BCE.

    The Jews of the upper classes of Judea became Hellenized under Alexander. Josephus explains in his book, The Jewish War, that one of the reasons for the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in 167 BCE was a civil war between the wealthy, Hellenized Jews of Jerusalem, and the traditionalist Jews of the countryside.

    The Hellenized Jews wanted to discard all Jewish traditions, including circumcision, while the traditionalists ferociously guarded their rituals, which ended up sparking a civil war between them. King Antiochus IV Epiphanes sided with the Hellenized Jews, and decided to try to crush the traditionalists.

    Antiochus’ prohibitions against practicing Judaism and desecration of the Temple led to the Jewish Revolt, which lasted two years. In 165 BCE the Maccabees were victorious. They cleaned, purified, and rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem, and then celebrated the Festival of Lights for eight days. This celebration included feasting, and one of Alexander’s signature treats was on the menu.

    What foods did Alexander introduce to Judea?

    One ancient Greek recipe that goes back to those days is for honey-sesame fritters. These treats were served at the Greek symposia, “drinking parties.”

    Tiganites me meli, “honey cakes,” were believed to absorb alcohol. They remained in the Jewish cuisine in the form of loukoumades, “honey doughnuts,” flavored with sesame seeds, which are served by Sephardic Jews in honor of Hanukkah. Here is the recipe introduced by Alexander.

    Honey-Sesame Fritters: Arxaies Tiganites Me Meli K

    Adapted from The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby and Sally Grainger.

    • 1 cup unbleached flour
    • 1/2 cup cold water
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
    • olive oil
    1.  Mix the flour, water, and 1 tablespoon of honey in a bowl.
    2. Heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a heavy frying pan.
    3. Drop a tablespoon of batter into the hot oil.
    4. Flip the pancake over when it is golden-brown.
    5. When both sides have cooked, place the fritters on a serving platter.
    6. Drizzle a tablespoon of honey over them.
    7. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.