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Sweet and Light

A well-oiled selection of Hanukkah fare—from a new twist on latkes to salads and savory ‘gelt’

Melissa Petitto
December 01, 2010
Len Small/Tablet Magazine
Hanukkah apple donut frittersLen Small/Tablet Magazine
Len Small/Tablet Magazine
Hanukkah apple donut frittersLen Small/Tablet Magazine

There’s no escaping the oil. But if the celebration of Hanukkah conjures up memories of soggy foods drizzled, drenched, and fried (as Gil Marks points out, the word latke means “little oily”), keep the following in mind: the use of oil doesn’t automatically translate to greasy.

Chef Melissa Petitto, a private chef in New York City, has opened up the gustatory possibilities for Hanukkah with four recipes below. (In the above video, you’ll see her cooking two of them with Vox Tablet‘s host Sara Ivry.) You’ll find a colorful winter salad tossed with walnut oil; an inventive gelt coin made out of cheese instead of chocolate (a hat tip to the tradition of eating dairy on this holiday); apple fritters with two different toppings; and latkes made out of sweet potatoes and parsnips, all of which do well to remind us on Hanukkah that light, too, is being honored along with the miracle of oil.

Wild Arugula Salad With Asian Pears, Honey-Glazed Walnuts, Ricotta Salata, and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

4 cups wild arugula
1 Asian pear, julienned and kept until needed in a bowl of water along with the juice of half of a lemon
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup walnuts
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup ricotta salata, shaved
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup walnut oil
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1. In a medium sauté pan, combine walnuts, ¼ cup honey, fleur de sel, and cayenne over medium heat. Allow the walnuts to caramelize and become golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer them immediately to a piece of foil sprayed with cooking spray and allow to cool completely.

2. In a small bowl, combine Dijon, honey, and apple cider vinegar. Slowly whisk in the walnut oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3. To assemble the salad, arrange the arugula on a platter, top with the drained julienned asian pear, the cooled honey-glazed walnuts, the pomegranate seeds, and the shaved ricotta salata. Right before serving, drizzle with the walnut oil vinaigrette.

Yield: 6 Servings

Hanukkah Cheddar Gelt Coins

8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups packed)
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup all purpose unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup sesame seeds

1. Place cheddar cheese, butter, flour, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Blend until a dough forms.

2. Divide dough in half and shape each into a log about 1 inch in diameter and 12 inches long. Roll logs in sesame seeds to coat. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, nonstick foil, or Silpats.

4. Slice dough into ¼ inch-thick rounds and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until lightly browned and firm. Let rest for 5 minutes and move to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container to keep them fresh and crispy.

Yield: 7 dozen

Hanukkah Apple Donut Fritters

1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
zest of half of a lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, and diced
Canola oil for frying

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cinnamon Apple Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons apple juice

1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, egg, zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.

3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the mixed wet ingredients and stir together well. Add the diced apple and stir to combine.

4. In a deep fryer or large saucepan, pour the canola oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat over medium heat until a thermometer reads 360 degrees. Test a bit of dough to ensure it is the correct temperature. When the oil is the correct temperature the dough will bubble immediately and rise to the top. If the oil is too cold, the dough will sink to the bottom; if it’s too hot, the dough will immediately turn brown.

5. Using a 1-inch cookie scooper, drop about 4 to 5 scoops of the batter into the hot oil. Be sure not to overcrowd the oil. The fritters should float to the top and puff to about double their size. Deep-fry until dark golden brown on the first side, about 2 minutes, and then using a slotted spoon or tongs, flip over and cook for an additional minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towel to drain.

6. Repeat with the remaining dough.

7. Let cool if you are going to glaze and use a wire rack to let excess glaze drip. If you are going to make a cinnamon sugar mixture, then dip fairly soon after removing from the oil so the sugar mixture sticks.

8. For the cinnamon sugar, mix together and roll warm donuts in the sugar to ensure it sticks all over.

9. For cinnamon apple glaze, add sugar and cinnamon together and stir. Then add the apple juice and whisk together until smooth.

Yield: 24 fritters

Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes

2 pounds Garnet sweet potatoes, peeled
1 pound parsnips, peeled
1 large sweet onion, peeled
6 large eggs, beaten
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons matzoh meal
1 tablespoon coarse Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
olive oil for frying
sour cream

1. Using the coarse side of a box grater or a food processor fitted with a medium coarse grating disk, grate the potatoes, parsnips, and sweet onion. Toss together in a large bowl.

2. Add eggs, matzoh meal, salt, and pepper to potato mixture and toss to mix well.

3. Pour ¾ inch of oil into a 10 to 12 inch frying pan (with sides at least 2 inches high) over medium high heat. When oil reaches 350 degrees, scoop 1/3 cup of potato mixture from bowl and shape into a patty about 1/3 inch thick, then gently slide the pancake into hot oil. Cook 3 or 4 pancakes at a time (do not overcrowd pan) until edges are crispy and well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently turn and cook until other side is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes longer.

4. Transfer pancakes to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and drain briefly, then keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the remaining pancakes. Serve hot with sour cream and applesauce.

Yield: 18 Latkes

The Recipes

Wild Arugula Salad With Asian Pears, Honey-Glazed Walnuts, Ricotta Salata, and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

Wild Arugula Salad With Asian Pears, Honey-Glazed Walnuts, Ricotta Salata, and Walnut Oil Vinaigrette

Hanukkah Cheddar Gelt Coins

Hanukkah Cheddar Gelt Coins

Hanukkah Apple Donut Fritters

Hanukkah Apple Donut Fritters

Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes

Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes

Melissa Petitto is a personal chef and registered dietitian living in Manhattan.