Akara: Black-Eyed Pea Fritters

What should you serve when the last night of Hanukkah abuts the secular New Year’s Eve? The Yoruba tribe of West Africa offers the perfect recipe for a mash-up of traditions. It makes it possible for you to combine the American southern custom of serving black-eyed peas for good luck with the Hanukkah tradition of serving latkes. The result is akara, one of the most popular snacks in West Africa. [Read more…]

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 Bounty of the Sea

    Photo by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

    Photo by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris.

    It is common to visualize the Thanksgiving feast as a beautifully set table with a large, golden-brown roasted turkey at the center, surrounded by fall vegetables and cornbread. Perhaps it would be more accurate, though, to feature a platter of fish. The Wampanoag tribe, who celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1621, depended on the Atlantic Ocean for much of their sustenance. The Native Americans foraged for mushrooms, berries, wild herbs and nuts to supplement their diet, and they shared this bounty with the Pilgrims.

    One of the most plentiful species of fish found in the Atlantic Ocean was cod. The recipe below is inspired by ingredients that would have been easily available to the Native Americans and Pilgrims. [Read more…]

    The Savory Pumpkin Pie

    How can you make something for Thanksgiving dinner in a hurry? Many people dread having to cook all the traditional dishes. They lack the time and expertise to roast the perfect whole turkey. One dish that combines many of the traditional fall flavors associated with Thanksgiving is the savory chicken pumpkin pot pie.

    This delicious pie can be prepared using convenience and canned goods from the supermarket. It is a very versatile recipe, and you may use any fresh or frozen vegetables at hand to enhance it. If you prefer, you may use a store-bought roasted turkey in the recipe instead of the chicken.

    Photo by Alvin Smith https://www.flickr.com/photos/heather_joy/

    Photo: Alvin Smith.

    Chicken Pumpkin Pie

    • 1 roasted chicken, cut up
    • 1 can of plain pumpkin puree
    • 1 onion, cubed
    • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
    • 1/4 cup minced parsley
    • 1/2 cups fresh sage leaves, minced
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 tbsp. flour
    • 3 tbsp. chicken broth
    • 2 frozen pie crusts or individual tart shells
    • Salt and black pepper to taste
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Heat the oil in a heavy pot.
    3. Brown the onion over medium heat.
    4. Add the minced garlic.
    5. Mix in the flour, and then add the broth.
    6. Stir until you have a smooth sauce.
    7. Place the chicken, pumpkin, parsley, and sage in a large bowl.
    8. Season with salt and pepper.
    9. Stir the contents of the bowl into the sauce.
    10. Pour the pumpkin-chicken mixture into the pie crust or tart shells.
    11. Top the pie crust or tart with the second pie crust or flattened tart shell, pinching the edges shut.
    12. Cut a few slits in the top crust to allow the steam to escape.
    13. Bake for 45 minutes for a large pie, around 15 minutes for individual tarts.

    Ful Nabed: Sukkot Fava Bean Soup

    When the Ancient Israelites left Egypt, they carried the memories of the foods they enjoyed with them. Of all the vegetables, they missed fava beans the most. Fava beans, which have been in Egypt for over 8,000 years, have been found in the tombs of the pharaohs as part of the indispensable items that must be brought to the afterlife. Egyptian Jews have retained the tradition of eating fava beans when celebrating happy occasions. On the sixth night of Sukkot, a delicious soup made with fava beans, called Ful Nabed, is served. [Read more…]

    American Jewish Committee: The Dean of American Jewish Organizations

    The American Jewish Committee (AJC) The AJC was founded in 1906. The impetus for creating this organization was the news of the pogroms against Jews in the Russian Empire. The AJC’s mission was to “prevent infringement of the civil and religious rights of Jews and to alleviate the consequences of persecution,” no matter where they were occurring. The AJC is still going strong today, advocating for religious pluralism, Muslim-Jewish relations, and Jewish students on campus. One of the AJC’s most important areas of activism is in combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement. [Read more…]

    The Healthy Break-Fast

    Glass of water. Photo: Derek Jensen (Tysto) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    Photo: Derek Jensen (Tysto)

    At the conclusion of the 25-hour Yom Kippur fast, your body deserves some tender loving care. The foods that are traditionally served to break the fast do not necessarily provide this. Here are some tips on the scientifically healthiest ways to replenish your body with nutrients.

    Note: If you are reading this before the start of the fast, check out Strategic Feasting Before Fasting.

    Water

    The first thing to give your parched body is water. Indulge in one or two glasses of water before you approach the food.

    Display of carved fruit. Photo by Tracy Hunter https://www.flickr.com/photos/tracyhunter/

    Photo: Tracy Hunter

    Fresh Fruit

    While fresh fruit is usually served toward the end of the meal, following a fast it is good to begin with the fruit. Fruits are easy to digest, and give your body additional fluids and sugars. Apples, grapes, watermelon, pears, and melons are good choices. Avoid citrus fruits, as they may be too acidic at this point.

    Salad of dark green leafy vegetables. Photo by Connoisseur 4 The Cure https://www.flickr.com/photos/73887528@N08/

    Photo: Connoisseur 4 The Cure

    Fresh Vegetables

    A salad with a base of romaine lettuce, kale, or Swiss chard will provide vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to bring your body back into equilibrium. Add some chopped raw carrots, celery, and beets. Avoid commercial salad dressings, which contain too much salt. Make your own simple dressing with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a little lemon, or a yogurt (with live cultures) dressing.

    Egg. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

    Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen

    Eggs

    Eggs are the most complete sources of protein. They are easy to digest, and quick to prepare. Serve some boiled eggs with the salad to renew your energy.

    Vegetable Soup

    Whip up a quick water-based vegetable soup with whole grains such as unpearled barley or brown rice and legumes such as lentils or beans. Use fresh vegetables, and to save time, canned legumes and quick cooking brown rice or barley.

    Here is a recipe for a quick and easy vegetable soup that you can make from scratch:

    Photo by Katrin Morenz https://www.flickr.com/people/26242865@N04

    Photo: Katrin Morenz

    Vegetable Soup
    Adapted from About Food

    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2 carrots, chopped
    • 2 celery ribs, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 sweet potato, chopped
    • 1 zucchini, chopped
    • 2 tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 8 cups water
    • 1 tsp. dried thyme
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano
    • 1 dried bay leaf
    • Salt and black pepper to taste
    1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot.
    2. Add all the chopped vegetables.
    3. Sauté for 4 minutes.
    4. Stir in the dry spices.
    5. Pour in the 8 cups of water.
    6. Bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes.

    You may add cooked beans, lentils, or garbanzo beans.
    Serve with quick cooking brown rice or another whole grain.