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There are two stories associated with Hanukkah: One tells how the vial of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted for eight, and the other is the story of Judith and how she saved her town from annihilation at the hands of General Holefernes by getting him drunk on salty cheese and wine until he passed out and was killed. The latter story is not often told in Hebrew school (for good reason!), but the holiday’s culinary tradition of eating foods prepared with cheese is widespread throughout Mediterranean Jewish communities.
Doughnuts, or sufganiot as they are called in Israel, are a Sephardi treat. Ponchiki, however, are traditionally made in Poland and Eastern Europe, the area where Ashkenazi Jews came from. So this recipe not only combines two culinary traditions and two cultural areas of Judaism, it also fulfills the holiday traditions of consuming fried foods and cheese.
1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a one-quart bowl. Set aside.
2. Whisk the egg in a two-quart bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla, continuing to whisk until foamy and well combined.
4. Add the flour mixture and stir with the whisk or a spatula until no particles of flour are visible.
5. Heat the oil in a small, deep fryer or in a two-quart saucepan to a temperature of 375ºF. If necessary, add enough oil to come to a depth of about two inches. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, you’ll know the oil is ready when a little bit of dough rolls in the oil and begins to brown.
6. Using a small spring ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon and rubber spatula, scoop up some dough and drop it into the hot oil. Don’t fry more than six balls at a time so the oil temperature remains constant. Turn doughnut holes over, if necessary, to brown on all sides. Doughnuts will be done after about three minutes. If holes are browning too fast, lower the heat slightly.
7. Crumple paper towels on a plate to drain the holes of excess oil. While still warm, toss them in confectioner’s sugar or in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
They are best eaten warm but will stay crisp for a few hours.
Homemade Farmer’s Cheese
Makes about two to three cups.
1. Bring milk and buttermilk to a simmer. Add the salt and continue to cook until the ingredients separate into curds and whey.
2. Scoop up the cheese with a skimmer or small strainer and place in a large double-mesh strainer or colander lined with three layers of cheesecloth. Let the cheese sit so any excess moisture can drip out, then bring the edges of the cloth together and twist them to force out any leftover moisture.
3. Refrigerate the cheese until ready to use in a recipe, or eat with jam on toast.
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As Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year, it’s a fine time to share my beloved recipe for rugelach. Before I became Jewish, I had always loved the Christmas cookie baking traditions—from the aromas that filled the house to all the flavors and textures of the different cookies. And all the sampling, of course. Celebrating my first Hanukkah made me yearn for a sweet little bite to bake for the holiday. Hanukkah-themed sugar cookies fell way short, as did a few other strategies. Then I came upon rugelach (the name for which likely comes from the Yiddish word for “royal”). These American-Jewish delicacies that are part cookie and part pastry captured my baking heart, and I’ve made this recipe every year since. It beautifully combines a delicate texture with the comforting flavors of cinnamon, pecans and a kiss of apricot. Rugelach would go well on any cookie tray and a tin full of these makes a wonderful gift.
Cream Cheese Rugelach with Cinnamon and Brown Sugar
Reprinted with permission from “Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life” by Marcia Friedman
1. Cream the cheese and butter in a large bowl until smooth and light. Add ¼ cup granulated sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir in the flour until just combined. The dough will be very sticky. Add a little additional flour if needed to make it cohesive.
2. Divide it into four equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place one ball on a large piece of plastic wrap, gently press into a disk shape, and then enclose in the plastic. Repeat with the other three balls. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 20 minutes.
3. Make the filling by combining 6 Tbsp. of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, ¾ tsp. cinnamon and the pecans. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
4. Remove one disk from the refrigerator; unwrap and place dough on a floured surface. Gently roll into an approximate 9-inch circle. Spread a generous ½ Tbsp. of the apricot preserves over the dough to about ¼ inch from the edge. Sprinkle evenly with a scant ½ cup of brown-sugar filling and gently press. Cut the circle into 12 wedges. Starting at the wide edge, roll up each triangle. Place the formed pastries seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes or freeze for about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Make the topping by combining the 1½ Tbsp. granulated sugar and the ½ tsp. cinnamon.
7. Brush each pastry with the egg and milk mixture, and sprinkle lightly with sugar-cinnamon topping. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until well browned. Remove from oven, and let rest on the cookie sheet for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring rugelach to a wire rack. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Yield: 48 rugelach
Note: Assembled pastries can be frozen and baked at a later time. Defrost partially before placing in oven, and allow extra time for baking.
When the Jewish New Year arrives, people often wish their family and friends a “sweet and fruitful New Year.” Because the holiday occurs right at the beginning of apple season, apples are the fruit of choice. People with ancestry from Eastern Europe and Russia ceremoniously dip apple wedges in honey to symbolize this good wish. Sephardic Jews, or Jews who can trace their ancestry back to Spain (“Sepharad” means “Spain” in Hebrew), and especially Turkish Jews, have another custom: dulce de manzana.
Dulce de manzana means “sweet of the apple,” and this delicious rose-scented apple preserve is spread on pieces of challah at the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah meal. It is so delicious that any leftovers stored in the refrigerator can be used for weeks as a spread on toast and sandwiches, or even as a base for small custard tarts. If you have an apple peeler (as shown in the photo) your children can help peel the apples while developing their gross motor skills. I also like to use the coarse blade on my food processor. The grating is fast and the apples don’t have time to discolor (although the little bit of lemon juice will rectify that). My last suggestion is to use firm apples as suggested in the recipe. That way the apple strands keep their shape and you won’t end up with applesauce!
DULCE de MANZANA
1. Place the sugar and water in a 3 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
2. While the mixture is heating, peel the apples and grate them by hand with a coarse grater or use a coarse grating disc on your processor. Immediately add the apples to the hot sugar syrup.
3. Reduce the temperature to medium and allow to cook for 30 -45 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is quite thick. (Note: the amount of time depends on the variety of apple and its juice content.) Stir the mixture occasionally to prevent sticking.
4. While mixture is cooking, toast the almonds in a 350F oven for 4 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside.
5. When mixture is thickened (it will get thicker when it cools) add the rosewater or the vanilla and place in an open container until cool. The toasted almonds may be added to the mixture or sprinkled on top as a garnish. Refrigerate until serving.
I absolutely love Rosh Hashanah and all things High Holiday season. I love fall weather, and I love the changing leaves and a bit of crisp in the air (though having lived in Miami and then Los Angeles for the last five years, I do miss the actual crisp in the air). Rosh Hashanah has been my favorite holiday ever since I was a little kid growing up in Atlanta. But it wasn’t until I learned how to really cook that Rosh Hashanah cemented itself in my heart as a culinary holiday. As I learn more and more about the holidays, I gain a better understanding of just how connected Jewish holidays are to the earth, the season and the harvest for that season. The recipe in this post is a testament to my commitment to honor the fruits and vegetables of the season. Roasted cauliflower and sweet potato is one of my go-to recipes for a quick, healthy and flavorful side dish on any Shabbat dinner table. But I wanted to jazz things up a bit, so I added some roasted garlic and perfectly ripe figs to balance the saltiness of the tahini. Whether you’re hosting a bunch of family this holiday season or feasting alone, do yourself a favor and try this dish. It’s great as a hot side or as a topping on a salad the next day. Enjoy!
Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potato with Figs and Tahini
2. Spread the cauliflower florets and sweet potato in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric. Using a spatula, mix the cauliflower and sweet potato to spread the oil and spices around.
3. Place garlic cloves and remaining olive oil on a small piece of aluminum foil. Wrap garlic and oil in the foil so no oil can escape. Place foil in the corner of the baking sheet holding the veggies.
4. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake roughly 40 minutes, or until cauliflower and sweet potato are crispy on the edges.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the tahini by adding the tahini paste, lemon, kosher salt and garlic
6. Once vegetables are done, let cool for 5 minutes (make sure to open the foil of garlic and let it cool as well). Place all veggies and sliced figs on a serving dish and drizzle with tahini. Serve with an additional topping of cilantro or parsley, if desired.
Challah for the Jewish New Year is special—round to celebrate the circle of life and sweet (typically with raisins) in the hope of a sweet year. For the occasion, I make what I call my cinnamon roll challah, with rum-soaked raisins (an homage to Italian desserts featuring rum) and a pretty swirl of brown sugar and cinnamon inside.
Rosh Hashanah Cinnamon Roll Challah with an Italian Twist
Recipe reprinted with permission from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life
Yield: Two large loaves. (Dairy with butter or Pareve with margarine or oil.)
1. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray or olive oil and set aside.
2. Heat rum in the microwave or on stovetop until hot. Pour over raisins to submerge them completely. Let stand about 10 minutes. Drain and discard the rum and pat the raisins dry. Set aside.
3. Dissolve the yeast and the warm water in a large bowl, about five minutes. Mix in the sugar, three whole eggs and the one egg white, butter and vanilla. Stir in 2½ cups of the flour and the salt, and combine well. Then add 2½ more cups of flour and mix well. Add additional flour as needed to form a cohesive dough.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Press the dough into a large thick disk, and insert a handful of the raisins, spaced apart. Fold the dough over the raisins and flatten again; continue inserting raisins this way until all are incorporated and well distributed.
5. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, then lift out, turn over, and place it (oiled side up) back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1½ to 2 hours.
6. Uncover the dough and press down on the middle to deflate. Cover and let rest for a few minutes.
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare the filling by stirring together the brown sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla extract and the melted butter or margarine.
8. Divide the dough in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover. Place the other half on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a large rectangle, about 20 inches long by 9 to 10 inches wide. Brush a thin layer of the butter over the dough. Then sprinkle with half the brown sugar mixture.
9. Starting at one long edge of the dough, roll it (jelly-roll style) gently but firmly to the other edge. Press the seam and ends to seal. Gently pull and roll this log until it is about 24 inches long, keeping the original thickness on one end and gradually narrowing the other end. Twine the narrow end around the larger end to make a large pinwheel. Press the loose end to seal. Gently press down on the top of the entire loaf to level it.
10. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Prepare the egg wash by lightly beating the reserved egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon cold water to combine. Brush on shaped loaves. Gently cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap and let rise about 45 minutes, until nearly doubled. Halfway through the rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
11. Bake for 20 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake another 15 to 18 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped (the interior should be between 185 and 190 degrees). Some of the sugar mixture might seep out and create a sweet undercrust, which I consider ideal. Serve the same day or freeze.
Marcia Friedman is the author of Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life. She continues to write about her journey and the intersection of Jewish and Italian food at meatballsandmatzahballs.com.
Apples, the symbolic fruit for the Jewish New Year, can find their way onto your holiday menu in many ways. This recipe may not have its origins in Europe or the Middle East, but it plays on the tradition of elevating even the simplest of ingredients into a festive dish.
I serve this as a side for brisket or chicken, but you can also combine it with quinoa or barley as a more substantial side dish or vegetarian main course. Although you can buy a whole butternut squash and peel and cube it yourself, I find it’s worth the time and money to buy the squash already peeled and cubed. You might have to cut some of the chunks into smaller pieces if they’re too large, but otherwise this is a fast and easy dish to make. You don’t even have to peel the apples!
Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut onion in half and slice each piece crosswise into ½-inch strips. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
3. Using an apple slicer, cut apple into eighths and then cut each wedge into three or four chunks. Add to the onions, along with the squash cubes.
4. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes. If onions are not yet golden and squash is still firm, gently turn the mixture and return to the oven for another 6 minutes, or until done.
5. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and serve.
Some people have strong feelings about the kind of recipe that aims to create a Passover-friendly version of a dish that is typically leavened. Detractors think creating Passover bagels, muffins, and rolls miss the point of the holiday’s specific diet. Those in favor see the practice as helping to make a difficult holiday more bearable. Some will even point to foods like Passover Popovers as an example of Jewish ingenuity.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t see the point suffering through a week of “I can’t believe you want to call this a bagel.” (But hey, if you can convince yourself that whatever you’ve come up with tastes like a bagel, more power to you. I’ll have eggs for breakfast this week.) On the other hand, when the introduction of matzah into a dish creates a delightful new twist on an old favorite, I’m all for it.
This brings us to Matzah Kugel, a sweet, dairy-filled confection of matzah layered with sweetened cheese. Sure, you could make a kugel with Passover noodles and come up with an almost-but-not-quite-satisfying proxy for the regular version, but you will never forget that it’s not the “real” thing. Matzah kugel, on the other hand, takes the idea of a noodle kugel as a jumping off point and transforms it into something different but equally delicious.
This dish can function as a side dish or a main course. (It pairs well with a side salad and a piece of gefilte fish.) You can freeze leftover portions: they reheat well in the microwave and even make a delicious and quick breakfast when you just can’t take one more piece of matzah with cream cheese.
Cheese Matzah Kugel for Passover
2. Add cottage cheese, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter and mix to combine thoroughly.
3. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish with butter.
4. Arrange half of the matzah so that it covers the bottom of the dish.
5. Pour half of the cheese mixture over it. Repeat with balance of the matzah and cheese mixture. If you wish, sprinkle additional cinnamon and sugar over the top of the kugel.
6. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until set.
Thanksgiving is a North American tradition that falls just at the end of the great harvest before the soil freezes and goes dormant for the winter. It is a meal that tells tales of the Native Americans who owned the soil and the Puritan immigrants who were looking for new soil from which to harvest meals and on which to live more freely. While each family has their own must haves on the table and Thanksgiving traditions (Football or Charlie Brown on TV), one thing that holds true for just about every family is that there will be leftovers.
If you look for some history on the knish, most routes point to Brooklyn, NY, but their heritage goes all the back to “the old country” in Poland. Traditionally a knish is filled with potatoes mashed with onions and schmaltz (rendered chicken fat). There are also kasha knishes (buckwheat), and the sweet cheese knish. My knish takes your Thanksgiving leftovers and puts them in a wonderful little package that can be enjoyed right away or frozen to nosh (snack) on later when you’re craving a little taste of Thanksgiving.
Note: This recipe uses a dairy free stuffing in order to keep the recipe Kosher. The gravy is also dairy free and is thickened with the schmaltz from the turkey gravy: When you separate the fat from the gravy, chill it and use it to make your flour slurry to thicken the gravy.
Sage Warm Water Knish Dough Ingredients
1. Begin by making the fried sage leaves. You will need to make sure your leaves are completely dry before starting. Have a plate with a paper towel on it nearby and a slotted spoon. Heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil and the 1/4 cup of canola oil over medium heat in a small pan with a tight fitting lid. Once the oil is hot (if you splash a drop of water on it, it dances about and sizzles), with the lid in one hand, carefully toss in 1/4 of your sage leaves and immediately place the lid on top of the pot. The leaves will sizzle furiously. Once the sizzling stops, gently give the leaves one last stir and then carefully remove them and place them on the paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the leaves in 3 more batches.
2. Set the prettiest leaves aside as a garnish. The rest you will break into your dough.
3. Set the sage oil aside and let it cool.
4. In a food processor, with the steel knife, process the eggs, the 1/2 cup of cooled sage oil, and warm water for 5 seconds or until mixed.
5. Add to the egg mixture: salt, baking powder and flour. Process with 2-3 on/off pulses. Then crumble in the sage leaves. Process everything until just blended through.
6. Add a small handful of flour to a bowl just to coat. Put the sticky knish dough into the bowl and let it rest for 10 minutes while you prep your fillings.
7. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a baking sheet with canola oil or some sort of oil spray.
8. Add 1/2 cup of stock and 2 tsp of pepper to your stuffing and mash it all together with a fork so you have a very soft mashed stuffing. If your stuffing is very dry you can add a little more. If you have a very soft stuffing you may need a little less.
9. Cube your turkey. You can do a mix of dark and light meat.
10. Add the zest of one lemon to your cranberry sauce.
1. Now it is time to assemble. Divide your dough into four sections. Each section will be divided into six balls of dough for a total of 24. Working with one section at a time, make six balls of dough. On a floured counter or cutting board, roll out one dough ball at a time as thinly as possible. The dough will almost be see-through. Make sure you have no holes. If you have a hole, ball it up and start again.
2. Take your rectangle of dough and add in a tablespoon or so each of turkey and stuffing. Add in a few slices of vegetables and a 1 tablespoon of cranberry sauce. Adjust amount of filling to fit inside the dough. After the first one, you will have a good sense of how much is too much.
3. Carefully stretch the dough over the top of the stuffing pulling one side at a time over and layering them on top of one another. Then, flip the knish over so the seam is on the bottom and place it on the greased baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough. I like to bake 6 at a time, but you can do more if you like.
4. Blend your egg with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush the knishes with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little salt. Bake the knishes for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.
To serve, garnish with a fried sage leaf, warm up some gravy and serve with a side of cranberry sauce. Enjoy your gourmet leftovers!
Sukkot is synonymous with fall fruits and vegetables which are often used to decorate the sukkah. No specific foods are required but using the abundance of our local harvest replicates the Israelites bringing some of the bounty of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem. Making the long trek to the city, the travelers dwelled in temporary huts, or sukkahs, at the base of the Jerusalem hills.
It is customary to sleep and eat in the sukkah for eight days. In many climates this is not advisable, but eating in the temporary hut that has a lattice roof through which to view the stars was mandated in the Talmud on this holiday. Mandate aside, it is customary to invite friends and family to partake of a meal in your own sukkah (or to visit friends who have built one).
Dishes that are easily transported from your kitchen to the table outside are preferred and, of course, including nature’s fall produce is a must. Here is a side dish that can be made dairy with butter or parve (no milk or meat products) if anyone in your sukkah keeps kosher. It is Caribbean in origin, an area of the world where many Jews settled 400 years ago. You can, of course, bake your own sweet potatoes and small pie pumpkin to mash for this sweet potato pumpkin cazuela, but to save time and even allow your young children to help you make this recipe I call for canned pumpkin and sweet potatoes in light or no syrup.
One word of warning: This dish is so very delicious that I would double or triple the ingredients if you are making it for more than four people. And don’t forget Thanksgiving. But, please, hold the marshmallows—this is not a dessert, but could be served with any number of other dishes.
Sweet Potato Pumpkin Cazuela
1. Place the butter or coconut oil in a 2-quart Pyrex bowl and microwave for 45 seconds.
2. Whisk the sugars, flour and salt into the butter to combine.
3. Whisk the coconut milk into the mixture until thoroughly blended. Add the eggs and combine.
4. Add the pumpkin puree and the mashed yams and whisk until a smooth batter is formed.
5. Combine the water with the spices in a small glass cup and microwave for 3 ½ minutes. Let the spices steep for 5 minutes. Strain the spiced water through a fine mesh strainer into the pumpkin-potato mixture and stir to incorporate.
7. Butter a 2-quart casserole and pour the mixture into the prepared dish.
8. Bake covered in a pre-heated 350°F oven for 1 hour. Serve hot out of the oven or reheated warm or hot.
Sugar pie pumpkins are about 1 ½ pounds and very rounded. Always use them when a recipe calls for cooked pumpkin. Larger pumpkins are more watery.
Coconut milk is not milk or dairy. It is the liquid formed from ground, fresh, hydrated coconut.
Teiglach is an eastern European confection most closely associated with Rosh Hashanah. It was often served for festive occasions such as a wedding, bar mitzvah or bris and in some communities during Shavuot or Simchat Torah because Torah is often equated with honey.
Teig in Yiddish means dough and Lach at the end of a word signifies small. Therefore Teiglach are little balls of baked dough submerged in honey syrup and then mixed with dried or candied cherries or raisins and some nuts (usually almond or hazelnut).
Once readily available in bakeries in large Jewish communities throughout North America, this confection is rapidly disappearing, so whether you were raised Jewish or not, this treat may be new to you. Not to worry if your own family doesn’t have the recipe; Teiglach is easy to make!
Even small children can help make the dough because no electric equipment is required and children enjoy rolling the dough into “snakes” while you can rapidly complete the task. However, children MUST NOT be involved with making the honey syrup, as the high temperature will certainly burn them if they accidentally touch the syrup before it cools. They can watch from afar and measure the awaiting dried fruit and nuts, but an adult must work alone while making the syrup and mixing all of the ingredients together.
The Teiglach may be served in a large pyramid or a few coated balls spooned into little paper cups. It is meant to be eaten with the fingers, pulling the balls off one by one and definitely licking one’s fingers afterwards!
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, oil, water and vanilla and beat with a fork or whisk until light and combined. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, ginger and baking powder.
3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until well combined.
4. Knead with your hands for a few minutes until dough is smooth and shiny. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
5. Roll out small balls of dough into long 1/2-inch wide snakes and cut into 1/3 inch pieces. Roll dough pieces briefly in your hands to make balls and place them on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely or freeze until later use.
6. When you are ready to complete recipe, combine the honey, sugar, orange zest and ginger in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the teiglach balls, nuts and cherries or raisins to the honey mixture and stir to coat well. Place in a pie plate or individual tart tins mounded to form a pyramid.