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A Seasonal Sensational Thanksgivukkah in Five Recipes

Hanukkah begins four days after Thanksgiving? Not quite the same mash-up as Thanksgivukkah 2013, when Thanksgiving fell on the second night of Hanukkah—but close enough to include the wonderful flavors of the late fall holiday in some of the foods we enjoy along with lighting menorahs and spinning dreidels.

Thanksgiving makes eating seasonally easy. This is the time for the sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins and cranberries of some of our favorite holiday dishes. Two more of my favorites, pomegranates and persimmons, are also in their prime time right now. Taking advantage of timing, we can do our own mash-up of holiday eating during the eight days and nights of Hanukkah with the recipes I created (below).

While we’re talking about gratitude and eating seasonally, we have to talk about local farmers and farmers markets. Among the many benefits, you get the freshest seasonal produce all year ‘round—or at least 3 seasons, depending on where you live—which means that what you buy lasts longer when you take it home. Often the food is grown in healthier conditions without pesticides and using sustainable, organic and/or naturally grown techniques. There’s usually no excess packaging like all that plastic wrapped around your food. And with your purchases, you’re supporting independent farmers and sellers as they strive to maintain viable enterprises in a world of corporate agribusiness. 

So, this year let’s carry the best of Thanksgiving into our Hanukkah celebrations, grateful for every bit of light and deliciousness we bring into the world.


CURRIED SWEET POTATO AND APPLE LATKES

The warm spices along with how the sweet potatoes caramelize in the oil make this latke stand out. The lemon juice helps keep the apples and sweet potatoes from darkening once grated and adds a subtle brightness. You can mix in a bit of coconut oil when frying for some extra flavor.

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 24-28 3-inch latkes

  • About 2 pounds sweet potatoes 
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or 1:1 gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice (such as cow, oat, rice, soy, coconut)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Good vegetable oil such as avocado, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed or peanut

Prepare one or two large baking sheets for the fried latkes by covering with brown paper (cut up from a shopping bag) or paper towel. Place cooling racks over the paper-covered pans and set aside. If you want to drain latkes directly on paper towels, use several layers to absorb the oil away from the surface of the latkes.

Wash the potatoes and apple well. Peel or not, as desired. Shred the potatoes and apple on large holes of a hand grater or use the shredding blade of a food processor. Mix together in a large bowl with lemon juice to reduce discoloration.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, curry powder, cumin, ginger, salt and pepper. In a smaller bowl, mix the milk into the beaten eggs. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients, blending well. Add the batter mixture to the grated yams and apple. Mix very well to blend all the ingredients, making sure there are no clumps of ingredients. Using your hands (clean, of course) is the best way to blend the mixture and the most fun, too.

Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat until very hot. Scoop the potato mixture by very full tablespoons into the hot oil, not crowding the pan. Quickly and lightly press down each with the back of the spoon to gently compress the mixture to about 3 inches in diameter, keeping each latke evenly thick and pushing in the edges to keep stray pieces from falling off. Fry 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on size of latkes and temperature of the oil, until browned and cooked through. Drain well, hottest side down, on several layers of paper towel or a cut-up brown paper bag. Serve with applesauce, cranberry sauce, sour cream, yogurt or option of your choice.   

If you’re making latkes ahead to freeze for re-heating, don’t drain on paper towel, but on cooling racks over a large baking sheet lined with paper towel or brown paper. The oil left on the latkes from cooking will help them crisp up to taste more like just-made than made-ahead.  Freeze individually on the racks or baking sheets covered in parchment until solid, then store in a freezer-safe plastic bag or container, using the parchment to separate layers. When ready to reheat, put frozen latkes in a single layer on a cookie sheet, defrosting only enough to separate the latkes. Reheat in 425-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until hot throughout. 


SPICED CRANBERRY-PEAR SAUCE

A good cranberry sauce takes advantage of the tartness of the fruit tempered by just enough sweetness and spices to create a lovely compliment for many fall vegetables and roasted meats and fowl. This recipe uses less sweetener than often added, and uses honey instead of processed sugar. The natural pectin in the cranberries helps the sauce thicken as it cools.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened pomegranate, cranberry or orange juice   
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, unpeeled and cut into 3 or 4 slices (use more ginger to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (couple pinches)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries (1 12-ounce bag)
  • 1 large or 2 small pears 
  • 1/4 cup fresh pomegranate arils (optional)

Stir together honey, juice, ginger and cloves in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce to medium low so the mixture simmers, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes until the juice has reduced slightly. 

In the meantime, put the cranberries in a strainer, pick out any bruised or squishy ones, then wash the berries under cold water. Peel the pears, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces, coring as you go.

When the liquid is ready, mix the cranberries and pears into the saucepan and continue simmering about 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until the cranberries soften and begin to pop and the sauce starts to thicken.  

Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon and pieces of ginger. If using the pomegranate arils, mix into the cranberries, reserving a few to sprinkle on top before serving. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve at room temperature or chilled. The sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 2 weeks in advance.


ROASTED KABOCHA WITH GREENS AND POMEGRANATE VINAIGRETTE 

Kabocha is an increasingly popular Asian squash with sweet, meaty flesh and edible skin when roasted. A delicious side dish, this salad is hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main dish. It can also be made with acorn or butternut squash wedges. 

ROASTED KABOCHA INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium kabocha squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), washed well
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 cup whole pecans or walnuts
  • 6-7 cups baby arugula or spinach or a mixture
  • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled or cut into small cubes (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)

SWEET AND TANGY POMEGRANATE VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup white or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a large sharp knife, cut a thin piece of skin off the bottom of the squash to create a flat surface, then cut the squash in half from top to bottom. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and threads inside and set them in a strainer to roast later. Lay each squash half on the flat surface, cut-side down and cut in half again. Turn to skin-side down and, using the knife at an angle, follow the contours of the squash to cut through the flesh creating 3-4 equal wedges from each quarter.

Put the wedges in a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss to mix, coating every piece. Lay wedges one flat side down in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast about 25-30 minutes, flipping partway through, until squash is tender with some browning.

While the squash is roasting, halve and peel the onion, then cut into long, thin, half-moon strips. Put the strips in a strainer and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Using your hands, toss and mix the onion strips to coat with salt. Set the strainer over a bowl and let drain for 20-30 minutes while preparing the rest of the salad. When ready, rinse the onion strips under cold water to wash off the salt and drain well.

Put nuts in a single layer in a dry sauté pan over medium heat and roast until fragrant, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Shake the pan often as the nuts roast. When ready, put the nuts in a small bowl and set aside to cool. 

Spread the greens on a rimmed platter. Place the squash over the greens, then scatter the onions, feta if using and pomegranate arils over the greens. Just before serving, scatter the nuts, breaking them up roughly with your hands, and drizzle the vinaigrette.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          To make the vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously until the dressing emulsifies. Dressing will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks


RAW BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD

I had never thought of eating squash raw until I first tasted it on salads in Jerusalem in 2009 along with raw grated sweet potato. What an eye-opener! Both are delicious raw with lots of crunch and mild, sweet flavor. An added benefit to this salad is that it’s best made ahead, benefiting from sitting in the refrigerator for a couple hours or up to a day before serving. Stir it a couple times to make sure flavors are blending. If persimmons are in season, add them to the salad for a special taste!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small-medium shallot, minced (about 2 full tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped very fine, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, crushed
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1-2 carrots  
  • 7-8 soft dates, pitted and chopped, and/or 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 medium persimmon, cut into thin wedges (optional)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro or a mix
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup good neutral vegetable oil (avocado, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled or cut into small cubes (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon shelled, roasted pumpkin seeds or roasted seeds from the squash

Mix the shallots and thyme in a small bowl with the vinegar and set aside. 

Cut the squash in half around the circumference where the thinner neck meets the large round part. Cut the round part in half and clean out the seeds, saving them to roast*, then halve the 2 pieces. Cut the neck into about 3-inch rounds. Lay each squash piece flat and use a sharp knife to slice off the rind, working your way around each piece. 

Shred the squash and carrots in the fine shredding disk of a food processor or on the large holes of a box grater. Put into a large mixing bowl.

Add all the ingredients except the feta and seeds to the shredded vegetable mixture. Toss to blend completely. At this point, the salad can be covered and refrigerated for up a day. When ready to serve, place the salad in a serving bowl or on a rimmed platter. You can add some lettuce or arugula to the platter first, and then the salad on top. Sprinkle the crumbled feta and pumpkin or squash seeds over the top and serve immediately.

*To roast the squash seeds, rinse the seeds under cool water. You can clean off all of the bits of squash or leave it to be roasted along with the seeds. Spread the seeds on a baking pan; lightly oil and salt. Roast at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden.


Susan Barocas is a writer, chef and cooking instructor with a passion for healthy, no-waste cooking and Jewish food, especially Sephardic history, cultures and cuisines.

Photographs by Susan Barocas.