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Some years Hanukkah and Christmas overlap—not only do they overlap this year, but the first night of Hanukkah falls on Christmas Eve! To have a little fun with this intersection of holidays, I made two non-traditional versions of a classic Hanukkah mainstay: latkes. Red and green latkes, to be precise. The red latkes are made from beets and the green latkes are made from broccoli. Italian cooks like to add a little Parmesan to their frittelle di broccoli (broccoli fritters). I left mine plain with just a little ricotta, but feel free to add some Parmesan for an Italian flair.
The beet latkes are like the “rich man’s latkes” from my mother’s cookbook since they don’t have anything added like flour to make them heartier. They’re more delicate than the broccoli latkes and are almost lacy when cooked. The broccoli has more moisture, so I added extra flour and some ricotta to make them a bit fluffier.
Latkes Two Ways
1. Fill a medium-sized pot with water and salt to blanch the broccoli. Trim the stalk of the broccoli by cutting off the rough end and peeling the rest. Then slice the broccoli into large “trees.” Add the broccoli to the boiling water for 2 minutes. While it blanches, prepare a bowl of ice and water to shock the broccoli after removing from pot. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Grate the onions and squeeze them in a kitchen towel to get as much of the onion juice out as possible. Discard juice.
3. Peel and grate the beets on the large-grate side of a box grater. Squeeze them in a paper towel (unless you don’t mind staining a cloth towel) and discard the juice.
5. Cut the broccoli stalks down all the way to the very top of the florets so you have tiny florets and stalks. Break the florets up into a bowl (like crumbling feta cheese with your fingers). Grate the stalks on the box grater and add them to the florets.
7. Mix in flour, ricotta, one egg, the rest of the grated onion and the remaining ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Set aside.
8. In a hot frying pan, add 2 Tbsp.vegetable or grapeseed oil and heat over medium-high heat. Take a spoonful of the beet mixture (it will be very delicate), squeeze it slightly and lay it into the pan to fry. Don’t move the beet latkes when placed in the pan until they begin to brown a little around the edges, about 3-5 minutes. Once they begin to darken (if you’re not sure, you can peek underneath after a few minutes), flip and cook on the other side 3-5 minutes.
9. While the beet latkes are frying, prepare a plate with paper towels to drain the latkes. Once you’ve fried all the beet latkes, use a paper towel to carefully wipe out the oil (turn off the heat). Then add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and fry the broccoli latkes, following the same method.
Serve with sour cream or apple sauce (or both!).
For more Hanukkah recipes, click here
Christmas and the first night of Hanukkah fall on the same day this year. Growing up the child of a divorced, interreligious family, this would have blown my mind even more than it does as an adult. While I was raised primarily in my Jewish mother’s home, my brother and I spent every Christmas with my dad, stepmother and half-sister, and we loved it. I mean, loved it. Sure, the extra presents were nice (very nice), but the experience of both holidays was nothing short of warmth.
Now, at 36, as I think back to having to shuffle between houses for holidays, I feel nothing but warmth. I loved lighting the menorah and the smell of the match as it lit a fresh batch of Hanukkah candles. I equally loved the smell of eggnog and the sound of Nat King Cole’s classic Christmas record as I helped my dad and family decorate the tree. I never once felt I was compromising my enriched and grounded Jewish identity as I played along with my dad and stepmom in pretending, for the sake of my beloved half-sister, that Santa and his reindeer were, in fact, on the roof trying to figure out how to get down the chimney.
Somehow, my family figured out how to give my brother and me a safe and inviting interreligious experience growing up and never asked us to choose. It was our normal, and it was perfect. I hope this recipe helps you bring some of that warmth into your home.
For the doughnuts:
For the filling:
1. Place all doughnut ingredients, except the butter, into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Work on a low speed for about 4 minutes, or until well-combined and elastic.
2. With the mixer still running, add the butter piece by piece, until it’s all worked in and incorporated. There should be no visible pieces. This will take about 5-8 minutes.
3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
4. While the dough is rising, make the filling. Place the cream, milk, vanilla and gingerbread-spice mixture into a small saucepan over medium heat.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. When the milk begins to bubble around the edges, remove it from the heat and slowly whisk it into the egg mixture.
6. Pour the mixture back into the pan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook until it boils and becomes very thick, about 1-2 minutes. Once the mixture is the consistency of soft butter, scrape it out into a bowl, cover and set aside to cool completely.
7. When the dough has risen, punch it down and scrape it out onto a well-floured surface. Make sure your hands are properly floured and pat the dough into a rectangle, about ½-inch thick, and cut out nine doughnuts using a well-floured 2.5-inch round biscuit cutter or large glass. Place the doughnuts on a lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 45 minutes, or until puffy.
8. When the doughnuts are finished their second rise, place about 2 inches of oil into a high-sided pan (or use a deep fryer) and heat over a low flame, until it reaches 350 degrees (or until a small piece of dough dropped in the oil bubbles and rises to the surface).
9. Fry the doughnuts a few at a time (don’t crowd the pan) for about 1 minute each side, or until golden brown and cooked through.
10. Drain on paper towels and toss in the ½ cup sugar.
11. To fill the doughnuts, I use a flavor injector, like you would use for a turkey. I find this the easiest way to get the cream in. Alternatively, you can place the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a ¼-inch nozzle. Press the piping bag into the side of each doughnut and squeeze until you can feel the weight of the doughnut increase slightly.
Find more Hanukkah recipes here
Recipe courtesy of Marcia A. Friedman from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life. Win a copy of her cookbook here!
Photos copyright Marcia A. Friedman
One of my favorite foods from my “adopted” Jewish heritage has to be potato latkes, particularly my husband’s. It’s a family recipe lovingly passed down and painstakingly recreated (down to the fingers bloodied from hand-grating the potatoes) for generations. The recipe is special not only because it produces exquisite little crispy pancakes but also because it connects us to family history. Although I enjoy experimenting with recipes—especially those that unite Jewish culinary traditions with those of my Italian background—I haven’t been able to bring myself to experiment with the beloved potato latkes.
But when I discovered that the very first latkes were cheese pancakes, well, that provided motivation for some new recipes. Those early latkes came to be when Italy’s Jews adopted ricotta pancakes as a Hanukkah dish. Those creamy cakes, sitting squarely at an intersection of Jewish and Italian cuisine, could be something to experiment with and make my own.
Finding these connections enhances how I enjoy this simple winter holiday, which I first got to know after converting to Judaism. In contrast to Christmas, Hanukkah takes a quieter approach, an aspect I’ve come to greatly appreciate. Each night offers a little moment of peace as we light an additional candle to commemorate the historic rededication of the Jewish temple—when a small vial of precious olive oil provided light for eight nights.
Each night also offers an opportunity for fantastic food, given that the traditions evolved to incorporate foods fried in oil. But as if eight nights of fried foods wasn’t enough, there’s also a tradition of dairy dishes. This comes by way of an associated holiday story in which Judith infiltrated the enemy camp, used salty cheese to make the enemy leader so thirsty he got drunk on wine, and then killed him when he passed out. So some say the miracle was done (or greatly helped) through milk.
These food themes merge delightfully with Italian ricotta pancakes, fried ever so lightly on the griddle. And besides pulling from Italian and Jewish traditions, the recipe adopts the style of modern American pancakes or hotcakes. But it tastes so much better thanks to ricotta and lemon zest and the airiness of whipped egg whites.
My lemon-ricotta pancakes blend the frying and the dairy themes, but more important to me, they represent a marriage of evolving Italian, Jewish, and American food traditions that works in its own unique way to connect us to Hanukkahs past and present. By its nature, the dish welcomes all to the table, and, in so doing, I’d like to think makes all our holidays a little brighter. And it leaves plenty of room for those potato latkes.
These luscious pancakes made with ricotta, a cheese of Italian origin, should be made ahead—really. Reheating in the oven mellows the cheese and lemon flavor and perfects the texture so that a slightly crispy exterior gives way to a creamy interior. I love serving these as a “sandwich” with cream spiked with limoncello, a lemon-flavored liqueur originating from the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. The short stack makes a beautiful and appetizing presentation—especially for dairy-focused celebrations such as Hanukkah or Shavuot.
Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Limoncello Cream
The hot pancakes work beautifully as a short stack with a dollop of limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur) whipped cream in the middle. A few blueberries scattered about add flavor and that blue color so festive for the holiday. If you are cooking with children, omit the limoncello from the whipped cream, and let kids help make the pancake “sandwiches” and decorate with the berries. These beautiful stacks can be breakfast but I prefer them as dessert. No matter what, just be sure to serve them right away.
Makes 20 to 22 small pancakes, or 10 or 11 pancake sandwiches (1 to 2 sandwiches per serving)
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
3 large eggs, separated
1½ cups buttermilk
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cooking spray or extra-virgin olive oil for greasing the griddle or pan
2 cups heavy whipping cream
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. limoncello
1½ Tbsp. sugar
Fresh blueberries or other berries (optional)
This recipe, I discovered by happy accident, also improves when made in advance. Make the pancakes up to a couple of weeks ahead, freeze them, and then reheat them in the oven and make the whipped cream just before serving. The flavors meld and the exteriors become slightly crispy while their interiors stay creamy and rich. In the true spirit of the holiday, the cook can actually sit down and enjoy this recipe together with everyone.
1. Lightly whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl or on a sheet of wax paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks, buttermilk, ricotta cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until they hold stiff peaks, about 1 minute.
3. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the ricotta mixture and stir until just incorporated (will still be a bit lumpy). Fold in the egg whites until just a few stray streaks of white remain. The batter will be fluffy and lumpy.
4. Heat a griddle to medium-high and brush with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Drop ¼ cupfuls of batter onto griddle; spread gently with the back of a spoon to make an approximate 3½-inch circle. Cook until golden brown on both sides and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining batter.
5. Either serve immediately following the steps below, or when pancakes are completely cool, wrap and freeze.
6. To serve, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets, placing an ovenproof wire rack on each one. Place frozen pancakes in a single layer on the wire racks and bake until warmed and slightly crispy, rotating pans and turning pancakes halfway through, 16 to 22 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, combine the heavy cream, vanilla and limoncello. Beat on high speed. As the cream gains a little volume, sprinkle sugar over, and continue beating until the cream holds soft peaks.
8. When pancakes are done, place a generous dollop of whipped cream between two pancakes and top with another spoonful of cream. Scatter fresh berries over top and sides. The cream will start to melt, which is lovely. Serve right away.
Learn about Marcia’s other Italian-Jewish cooking ideas with her cookbook, Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Enter to win a free copy!