Festival of Lights (and Family and Food and Presents!)

This weekend, Ben and I hosted our family for Hanukkah. It was truly a delight to have both sides of our family (about 20 people total) in our home for food and fun. My mom came over early in the day to help me cook – I decided I could use an extra hand more than an extra dish, and we had a fun time together. Ben and I have been itching to get out of our little house lately, after seeing so many great properties we could readily afford, but worry about being able to sell ours in this market. However, after our party, Ben told me how happy he was in our current place – even though it’s small, everyone managed to fit comfortably, and we got lots of compliments on how we’ve decorated. It truly felt like home having so much family around and being stress-free. I guess if we are around for a while longer, it’s not the end of the world!

To start, a few house pictures. Mostly for my Grandma and Papa down in DelRay – we missed you!

Here is the new buffet and hutch we just got – we love it!

“Bar” setup in the entryway, along with some desserts doubling as decorations. (And, that green thing is called a “goose neck gourd” – isn’t it cool?!)

The table set with our new china. A second table was set up in the basement for the kids (and big kids). The food was set up buffet-style in the kitchen.

One of our favorite appetizers – eggplant caponata. The sweet and spicy combination make it a winner, and the leftovers are great either tossed with pasta or mixed with ground turkey and stuffed into zucchini or peppers. This recipe has become one of my standby’s for parties.

This Hanukkah, I took my first try at sufganiyot, or donuts. I chose a recipe a little different from the norm, Honey-Glazed Donuts with Raisins and Pine Nuts. They were very easy to make and I got lots of compliments on them. They are not overly sweet, so I served them as an appetizer as well. I dusted them with some cinnamon-sugar too.

My Spiced Brisket with Leeks and Apricots was definitely the hit of the night – it was all gone, and I only got one little sliver! This will definitely be my go-to recipe for holiday brisket. We started marinating it about a day and a half before cooking, and the sweet and spicy flavors came together really well.

Roasted green beans with shallots and hazelnuts were a nice, fresh addition to the meal. I used a combination of lemon and orange zest.
Sweet apple-raisin kugel is a staple on my family’s holiday table. It’s especially enjoyed by the kids, but you never stop liking it as you grow up :) And the best part is, leftovers can be eaten for breakfast, a side dish, snack, or dessert – it’s that good :) Here is our recipe:

*1 lb egg noodles
*1/2 cup butter or margarine
*6 eggs, separated
*1 cup brown sugar
*1/2 cup white sugar
*1 tbsp cinnamon
*5-6 apples, peeled and diced
*1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325. Cook noodles and drain. Place in a large bowl and add butter or margarine to hot noodles, stir till it is melted and noodles are coated. Add sugar, cinnamon, apples, raisins and egg yolks. Beat egg whites until stiff and gently fold in. Pour into a greased 9×13″ deep baking dish and bake 325 for 40-45 minutes.
For my latkes, I don’t really go by a recipe. I guess you could say I am like a Jewish grandma in training. So, here’s my best stab at describing how I go about it:
1) peel potatoes
2) grate in food processor (ok, maybe an old jewish grandma didn’t use a food processor – but I bet she didn’t also work 40 hours a week and go the gym, etc). I don’t know how much, but for a good sized batch I try to grate enough to fill the workbowl on the processor. Remove and place in a dishtowel-lined colander.
3) grate a small or medium onion in the processor, add to potatoes.
4) Let ‘em sit. Seriously, go do something else for a little while.
5) Come back and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze to get all the liquid out of the potatoes that you can.
6) Place potatoes and onions in a bowl. Add a few eggs and some flour until it’s a nice consistency – not too runny, but enough to hold together. Season with salt and pepper.
7) Heat a couple inches of oil in a deep skillet or dutch oven.
8) Drop portions of batter – however small or large you desire – into the oil and flatten a bit if needed. Fry until crispy and lightly browned on both sides, turning as necessary. Drain on paper towels.
9) You might notice that there’s a bunch of liquid gathering in your bowl, especially if you’re making a few batches and it’s sitting there for a while. Dump it all into a colander (preferably one with small enough holes so the potatoes don’t fall through), give it a few good shakes, then return to bowl and continue with your latke frying. If you leave the liquid in there, they will probably not come out with a nice texture.
I also made some sweet potato and butternut squash latkes, pictures towards the back of the platter. For these, I followed the same method as the regular ones, omitting the onions, and seasoning with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cayenne pepper. I found an interesting new cooking method described in a Boston Globe article, and decided to give it a try. It was nice to have one less thing to fry while standing over the stove, and while they tasted pretty good, it just wasn’t quite the same. But, it’s a neat alternative if you are looking for something. Here’s a link to that article: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/articles/2007/11/28/roasted_potato_latke/

A simple and delicious winter salad: field greens with cranberries, walnuts, apples, with goat and gorgonzola cheese served on the side.

A super-duper veggie medley with couscous and parmesan contributed by my mother-in-law.
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8 Responses to “Festival of Lights (and Family and Food and Presents!)”

  1. 1

    VeggieGirl — December 12, 2007 @ 12:11 am Reply

    looks like there was a lot of delicious fare at the family-gathering you hosted for Hanukkah!!

  2. 2

    Elly — December 12, 2007 @ 1:04 am Reply

    everything looks so delicious! i really love your new hutch.

  3. 3

    Bellini Valli — December 12, 2007 @ 4:10 pm Reply

    Looks liek a fantastic spread!!! So glad you had such a wonderful time with your family !!!

  4. 4

    Emiline — December 14, 2007 @ 9:45 am Reply

    Oh wow! I can’t believe how much food you made! Everything looks so good. It sounds like the brisket was killer. You should be really proud of yourself.

  5. 5

    Elly — April 5, 2011 @ 1:22 am Reply

    everything looks so delicious! i really love your new hutch.

  6. 6

    Bellini Valli — April 5, 2011 @ 1:22 am Reply

    Looks liek a fantastic spread!!! So glad you had such a wonderful time with your family !!!

  7. 7

    VeggieGirl — April 5, 2011 @ 1:22 am Reply

    looks like there was a lot of delicious fare at the family-gathering you hosted for Hanukkah!!

  8. 8

    Emiline — April 5, 2011 @ 1:22 am Reply

    Oh wow! I can't believe how much food you made! Everything looks so good. It sounds like the brisket was killer. You should be really proud of yourself.

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