Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Chanukah comes earlier this year than last. It's not really "early" as it falls on the same Hebrew calendar dates every year. But in relation to the secular calendar and my work schedule it feels early as the holiday begins the day after my last day of teaching which is why I find myself uncharacteristically doing a bit of thinking ahead.

There are two really great things about Chanukah as far as I'm concerned. The imagery of lighting up dark, midwinter nights is lovely and also, we get to eat fried foods for a week to commemorate the miracle of a day's worth of holy oil lasting for eight days.

We used to go at this half heartedly: a few nights of latkes until we grew sick of them, one round of apple latkes for variety, and some sad attempts at making doughnuts in a frying pan. Then a few years back I went down to my local Kmart and bought me a deep fryer which was the best $25 I ever spent.

Now delicious homemade doughnuts are a regular part of the Chanukah repertoire. Usually I just make little 1-inch balls of dough, fry them up in high quality oil, and then roll them in cinnamon sugar. No one complains and there are never leftovers.

However, I'm thinking of trying something new this year. My friend Chris pointed out this recipe for pumpkin doughnuts and I can't stop thinking about them, especially in conjunction with hot spiced cider and roaring fire in the fireplace. Doesn't that sound like heaven?

We've also started exploring deep fried foods of the world during Chanukah. First there were loukamades, the lovely honey-drenched puffs of yumminess from Greece. These are fun to make. As they expand in the hot oil, they flip themselves which is amusing until the good part: eating them!

We've made pakoras along with an Indian meal but I am thinking about maybe making samosas....from scratch. Maybe. Manjula makes it look easy. Or maybe jalebi?

Last year, in the middle of the epic snowstorm that shut Portland down, we had a wonderful meal. I found a recipe for a Sonoran style enchilada which is basically a thick, deep fried masa patty topped with chile-tomato sauce, and whatever other toppings (cheese, scallions, shredded chicken, sour cream, etc) you can think of. My kids always like these kinds of assemble-it-yourself meals so this was a big hit, especially as we followed the enchiladas with churros and hot chocolate.

My goodness...I am getting hungry just thinking about all this good food. I've probably put on a few pounds just writing this, too.

Any Chanukah (or other holiday) food traditions and inspirations to share? I always love to hear from you!

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Rachel said...

Sounds delicious! I may have to spend the $ & get one myself!!

Clarissa said...

Funny, Melisa, I have not checked your blog(s) in a long while. Just clicked over this morning (instead of grading the papers I need to be grading...), and saw this post.

One of my fall traditions is making those very pumpkin doughnuts you mention there. We love love love them. (and, yes, we also love our $25 fryer.... we are actually on our second one. for that price, unfortunately, you can't expect them to last forever.)

Magpie Ima said...

Rachel--I'm telling you, it makes the holiday!

Clarissa--well, my hope is that if we only use it one week out of the year it might last for a while. Maybe? Good to "see" you here and I hope all is well.