Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and lasts eight days, this year from December 22 to 30. One candle a night, on a nine-branch menorah, is lit at sunset each of the evenings. The ninth candle, called a shamash meaning helper or attendant, is used to light the other eight. It’s a very touching ceremony. But it didn’t stop me from being a little “grinchy” as I think I’ve mentioned before when I was growing up and Hanukkah rolled around.
Instead of just appreciating my holiday and my best friend Lizzy Cohen’s holiday, I would complain to my mother when I returned home after watching Mr. Cohen light the candle and say the blessing, “Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah” in his deep baritone, that Lizzie got eight presents—one for each night. My mother pointed out that though I got all my presents on one day, if I added them up the total was probably larger than eight. But I chose not to listen to reason. She had other bad news for me as well, telling me we couldn’t convert our faith to Judaism just so I could get more gifts.
I’m kind of over the Lizzie Cohen thing now—we’re still friends on Facebook and I never mention that I know she’s getting a lot more presents that me.
Now, when I think of Hanukkah, I remember sharing a meal with the Cohens and lighting the candles and appreciate them taking me into their family and sharing their holiday with me.
Knowing Hanukkah was coming up, I asked my good friend Carrie Bachman if she had any recipes she could share, and she sent me the following which are from the just released Joy of Cooking 2019 . I’ve copied the recipes just like they are in the cookbook with the unique formatting that is so particular to this great book.
About eight 6-ounce servings
This eggnog is quite boozy, which is how we like it, but feel free to scale back on the rum, if desired.
Soak overnight in water to cover:
1 cup raw cashews
Drain and transfer to a blender along with:
One 13 ½-ounce can coconut milk
1 cup water
½ cup sugar or maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
Blend until completely smooth and creamy. Strain into a punch bowl or pitcher and stir in:
1 cup light rum
½ cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau
Serve garnished with:
Freshly grated nutmeg
If making ahead of time, the eggnog may separate when refrigerated. Simply let it sit for 20 minutes at room temperature, then whisk well or reblend before serving.
LATKES (POTATO PANCAKES)
About fourteen 3-inch cakes
The high starch content of russet potatoes helps hold the cakes together. Shredded celery root, parsnip, sweet potato, or carrot may be substituted for up to half the potatoes.
Wrap in a clean kitchen towel and wring to squeeze out as much moisture as possible:
1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)
1 medium onion, grated
Combine in a bowl with:
2 large eggs, well beaten
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or matzo meal
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Heat in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot:
¼ inch or more vegetable oil or butter
Place spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the skillet, in batches, and form them into 3-inch patties about ¼ inch thick. Brown on the bottom for about 4 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if necessary, to prevent scorching. Turn and brown the second side until crisp, about 4 minutes more. Transfer to a plate or rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels and keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining latkes. Serve at once with:
Sour cream or Greek yogurt