December 21, 2011

A Family Hanukah Meal, and a Potato Latkes Recipe

Sambousak, a cheese filled pastry

My family got together a few days before Hanukah to celebrate. Aside from the pleasure of seeing my family – brothers and sisters and parents, nephews and niece, and the growing number of little ones – is the delicious food spread out on the table by my sister-in-law. My mother taught us well and I can say we are all good cooks, but the great treat for me is the Syrian Jewish food that I grew up with and rarely prepare for myself. The beautiful sesame-dotted pastries filled with a cheese and egg mixture are one of my favorites. I have yet to attempt these in my own kitchen, although I've made a variation using filo dough, which is quite simple to prepare.

Ka'ak, savory biscuits

I think of these crisp, flavorful rings as a signature food of my family and culture; they are eaten with afternoon coffee, at a maza, as part of a laden table. It's not easy to get the correct balance of dry crispness that is also light; I know because I've tried. They are flavored with anise seed, coriander, and nigella, a unique and enticing flavor.

Syrian string cheese, with nigella seeds

This cheese, which comes in a tightly braided package, was a staple of my childhood. It is mild, and delicious when melted in a pita bread sandwich. It is generally served with the strands of cheese pulled apart into thinner threads. Recipes for the three foods above can be found in my cousin Poopa Dweck's cookbook Aromas of Aleppo.

Potato latkes, or pancakes

The most traditional of Jewish dishes for Hanukah, in both Ashkenaz and Sephardic homes are potato latkes. The fact that they are fried in oil commemorates the miracle in the Temple. I treat myself to these several times during winter, topping them with my homemade applesauce. I use the recipe from The Art of Jewish Cooking, by Jennie Grossinger. These are a lovely meal to celebrate Hanukah or the Winter Solstice. Happy Holidays to you all!!

2 eggs
3 cups grated, drained potatoes (I like the crisper quality that comes from grating in a food processor rather than by hand)
4 Tbs grated onion
1 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper
2 Tbs flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

  1. Beat eggs and add potatoes, onions, salt, pepper, and flour.
  2. Heat oil on a medium flame and drop the potato mixture by spoonsful (whatever size you prefer) into the oil. Fry until brown and then turn and brown the other side. Add more oil if needed.
  3. Let drain on paper towels.
  4. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.


  1. All this food sounds delicious, which I could have tried some of it. We usually make Latkes using a food processor but maybe next year hand grating. Happy Chanukah.

  2. You have made me positively hungry. Happy Hanukkah.

  3. It all looks wonderful Altoon. Happy Hanukkah!

  4. Thanks Susan, Lisa, and Mona; wishing you all a wonderful holiday season.

  5. Did you see the recipe in the NYT where they added apple to the latkes? I thought that might be good, though I would still want applesauce on the side.

  6. I didn't see that recipe, Ms. Wis, but it sounds good. I'll probably stick to my old tried and true recipe though.