Celebrating Chanukah and Thanksgiving Together

This year, for the first and probably the last time I will celebrate them on the same day, Chanukah begins on Thanksgiving. I usually make some Chanukah recipes with oil, or fried, as is traditional, but I also like to include a cheese recipe. Most people celebrate with potato pancakes, but if you think about it, potatoes came from the New World and probably did not get to the Middle East until the 1800s; so originally, a cheese pancake was most likely used.

I like to include cheese in remembrance  of the beautiful widow, Judith. She learned that the Assyrian General Holofernes and his army were coming to annihilate the Jews of her community. She invited him to dinner, plied him with salty cheese and lots of wine (to combat the salt), and he fell into a drunken stupor.  While he was asleep, she took his sword and cut off his head. She carried his head out of the tent and when the general’s army saw it, his  men fled.  Judith saved the Jews from destruction, and cheese dishes remind us of her courage and triumph.

Here are some delights that can be used for your Chanukah, Thanksgiving or both.

Falafel Cigars

The new cookbook Starters & Sides Made Easy by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek (Artscroll/Shaar Press, 2013) has arrived just in time for the holidays.  Yields 20 cigars.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

1/2 lb ground meat

2 tablespoons  falafel mix

1 teaspoon salt

5 (10-inch) whole wheat wraps

6 tablespoons hummus or tahini

2 cups prepared coleslaw

1 large egg, beaten

Oil, for browning

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add meat and brown, pressing with a fork to break up the clumps. Stir in falafel mix and salt.

Cut wraps into four segments, like pizza wedges. Place the rounded edge of a wedge facing you, with the pointy tip facing away. Spread a layer of hummus along the bottom-center, about 1-inch from the bottom and sides. Top with layer of meat. Top meat with coleslaw. Keep the filling in a long, thin strip for nicely shaped cigars.  Fold in the two sides over the filling. Fold the bottom up over the filling, and holding the filling in place with your fingers, roll up tightly, jelly roll-style. Brush tip of wrap with beaten egg to seal. Heat a thin layer of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add cigars, seam side down, and cook until golden brown, turning once, about 1 minute per side.

Apple Latkes

I usually serve a big breakfast on Thanksgiving, and then we just snack until early dinner. This recipe is ideal for a special breakfast or a nice side dish.  From a Polish Country House Kitchen: 90 Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food by Anne Applebaum and Danielle Crittenden (Chronicle Books)  presents 90 recipes for simplified Polish classics. Serves 4 to 6.

2 apples, peeled and coarsely grated

1 cup flour

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup water

pinch of salt

1 to 2 tablespoons grape seed or vegetable oil, plus more if needed

Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Place the apples, flour and yogurt in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Add eggs and stir, then water and salt and mix again.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and spread just enough of the oil on the bottom to cover it thinly (too much and pancakes become greasy).  Drop a heaping 1 tablespoon of batter onto the pan for each pancake; do not let them touch one another.  They should be thick and chunky.  Cook on one side until the bottom is golden (3 to 5 minutes depending on how hot your pan is), then flip.

As they cook, place them on a plate covered with paper towel, and if layers are needed, place the paper towel in between the layers.  Before serving, sprinkle with sugar.

Editor’s Note: For more recipes, go to www.cookingwithsheilah.com.