Back to the Kitchen: Recipes to Ignite Your Palate During the Festival of Lights

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Living in Los Angeles is nothing short of an awesome culinary adventure. We get to peek into the windows of so many cultures!  I grew up in a small town where there was only one Jewish family.   It was not until I moved here that I got to taste and treasure Jewish cooking! The rich symbolism and just delicious food makes me want to celebrate!  There’s still five more nights of Hannukah.  Even if you don’t partake in the festival of lights enjoy these recipes as a way to explore the beautiful Jewish culture.

Enjoy the foods of Hanukkah


2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

1-cup warm water

1/2-cup vegetable oil

1/3-cup sugar

1-tablespoon salt

4 eggs

6 to 6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 egg

1-teaspoon cold water

1-tablespoon sesame seeds

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the oil, sugar, salt, eggs and 4 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form firm dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Divide each portion into thirds. Shape each piece into a 15-in. rope. Place three ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Beat egg and cold water; brush over braids. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Matzo Ball Soup

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat or Crisco

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

14 tablespoons matzo meal

10 cups chicken stock

3 carrots, sliced

2 medium parsnips, sliced

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and chicken fat until combined. Whisk in 1/2-cup water and salt. Add matzo meal, and whisk until combined. Cover and refrigerate batter until firm, 2 to 4 hours. Line a baking pan with parchment. Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large wide saucepan, and reduce heat to a simmer. Slightly dampen your fingertips, and form 2 heaping tablespoons of batter into a 1 1/2-inch ball, being careful not to compress the mixture too much. Place balls on the prepared pan. Repeat process with remaining batter. Using a large spoon, slide the matzo balls into the simmering stock. Once all the balls have been added, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add carrots and parsnips, cover, and continue cooking for 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the matzo balls are cooked through. Garnish with fresh dill, and serve immediately.

Basic Chicken Stock

1 red onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cups white wine

1 Chicken carcass

10 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot combine all of the above ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and cover and simmer for one hour. Strain the stock and toss the solids. (You should get about 10 cups) You can freeze half or you can freeze in ice cube trays and pop out single servings as needed for sauces.

Beef Brisket

5 pound beef brisket

6 onions cut into 1/4-inch rings

5 cloves garlic, sliced

1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil

1-teaspoon thyme

1-teaspoon oregano

3 cups beef stock

Sprinkle brisket with salt, pepper, thyme and oregano. In a large heavy skillet heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Brown brisket about 5 minutes per side. Remove brisket and place in a heavy roasting pan. Add remaining oil to skillet and add onions, garlic  and crushed pepper. Sauté until golden over moderate heat stirring occasionally about 20 minutes. Stir in beef stock and bring to a boil. Preheat oven to 350. Pour onion mixture over brisket and cover with foil. Cook for 5 hours checking occasionally and adding more water or stock if necessary. Brisket should be very tender. Transfer brisket to a cutting board cover with foil and let rest. Discard fat from onion mixture and spoon into a saucepan. Add beef stock and bring to a boil. Using an emulsion blender, puree until smooth. Slice across the grain into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices.

Roast Chicken with Pears

1 roasting chicken

1 very ripe pear

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh thyme

3 cloves garlic

2 onions



Melted butter for basting

Peel the onions and slice them in thin circles. Separate them slightly and line them in a roasting pan. Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry removing all the neck and liver. Sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper. Place the whole pear the garlic, rosemary and thyme into the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken on top of the onions and baste with the melted butter. Roast at 425 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Curried Sweet Potato Latkes

2 lbs. sweet potatoes or yams (I like to mix both for color!)

1 apple

1/4 cup half and half

1/3-cup matzo meal

3 eggs

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. curry

1/4 tsp. cayenne

1/4 tsp. cumin

1/2-inch ginger

3 cloves garlic

Peanut or coconut oil

Grate sweet potatoes and apple. Remove any excess moisture. Separate the eggs. Whisk egg yellows and add one at a time, mixing well Add half and half. Add matzoth meal and baking powder. Add spices and mix well. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold into the mixture.

In a large skillet heat oil until hot and put a large spoonful for each pancake. Cook until golden brown on one side, flip and cook until golden brown.

Colorful Vegetable Latkes

6 large baking potatoes

3 large carrots

3 small zucchini

1 large red onion

1 egg

1/4-cup matzo meal

Peanut or canola oil for frying

Salt and pepper to taste

Grate the potatoes and onions using the grating disk of the food processor. Do not process with the standard blade or in a blender. Place a colander large enough to hold the grated potato-onion mixture over a pot or bowl. Remove the grated potato-onion mixture from the food processor bowl and put in the colander. Let stand for five minutes.

Press down on the mixture to quicken the draining process. Repeat this two or three more times at five-minute intervals. The ingredients will be ready when the mixture no longer squishes when pressed (approximately 15 minutes). Removing excess moisture is the absolute key to good latkes. Repeat the grating procedure with the zucchini. Place zucchini shreds in their own colander over a bowl to catch the liquid. Let stand five minutes. Sprinkle liberally with salt and toss well. After five minutes, press down on the mixture to hasten the draining process. Repeat this pressing step until the mixture no longer squishes. For added insurance, place the zucchini shreds on a stack of paper towels and blot up any residual moisture. Grate the carrots. Combine the shredded and drained potatoes, onion, and zucchini with the grated carrots. Add the egg and mix well. Add the matzo meal a little bit at a time until the mixture just starts to dry out. Carefully, pour the liquid out of the bowl/pot, which was placed under the colander for the potatoes and onions. At the bottom of the bowl, you will find a thick, starchy paste (potato starch). Scrape this paste out of the bowl and add to the potato-carrot-onion-egg mixture, blending well. Drop by the spoonful into hot oil and fry until golden and crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

12 oz. 60% chocolate

2 cups heavy or manufactures cream

1-cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Melt chocolate in microwave for 2 minutes on defrost. Beat cream and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in chocolate and vanilla. . Pour batter into 9″ spring form pan. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Remove from pan and smooth out the sides with a knife. Shave chocolate, sprinkle with berries and mint and serve.

Pear Tart with Maytag Bleu Crust


2 cups red wine

1-cup sugar

1-cup water

1 orange, halved

1 lemon, halved

1-inch ginger, peeled

3 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

4 pears, peeled and cored

In a large soup pot place all ingredients except pears and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add pears. Poach until tender about 20 minutes. Remove from stove and cool completely. Refrigerate over night.

Pastry Cream

1/3-cup sugar

1-cup cups milk

2 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup Butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium saucepan mix half the sugar to the milk and bring to a boil stirring constantly. In a medium bowl whisk together the rest of the sugar and cornstarch and yolks. Once the milk is boiling pour 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg mixture whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture into the rest of the milk mixture and return to the heat whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a complete boil. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla whisking until the butter completely melts. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic until it comes to room temperature.


3/4 cup all flour

1/4-teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup crumbled Maytag Bleu Cheese

Up to 4 tablespoons ice water

1/4 cup raspberry jelly, melted

Place butter cut into tiny pieces (I use a grater) and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender cut the butter into the flour until the pieces are the size of rice. Add cheese. Sprinkle 1-tablespoon water over part of the flour mixture and stir very gently with a fork, Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat using 1 tablespoons of water at a time until all the dough is moistened. Roll dough into a ball wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Roll out to be 10 inches round. Place in a 9-inch tart pan sprayed with bakers joy. Bake in a preheated 350 oven until golden about 15 minutes. When cool spread the vanilla cream over the crust. Slice the pears and place them decoratively over the cream. Brush with raspberry jelly and refrigerate for 3 hours before serving.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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