A Chanukah Favorite

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - December 17, 2008
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Servco executive Craig Washofsky is president of the congregation Temple Emanu-El, but it’s his wife, Dana, who is expert in discussing Chanukah since, as is true with most Jewish holidays, the talk turns to food. In this case, it is how to make potato latkes (pancakes) for a home celebration.

Craig and Dana first talked with Rabbi Peter Schaktman about the meaning of Chanukah so they can celebrate the holiday in the right direction for Craig’s parents, who live in Kailua, as well as the next generation, their college- and post-college-age sons, Benjamin of San Francisco and Jacob of Washington, D.C.

According to Rabbi Schaktman of Temple Emanu-El, “Chanukah is a festival that recalls the Jewish people’s ancient struggle for independence in their land, and the reassertion of our religious and spiritual identity. For eight days we increase the light in our homes, our lives and our world by kindling the candles of the chanukiyah. We remember our people’s military victory over the Syrian Hellenists, but we celebrate their spiritual victory over the forces of religious persecution. During the Shabbat of Chanukah, the prescribed prophetic reading (from Zechariah) contains the powerful and somewhat surprising statement: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord of Hosts,’ suggesting the ultimate triumph of the Spirit over suffering.”

Dana’s family recipe for potato latkes is shared below - enjoy (but maybe not on all eight nights if you’re counting calories!).

These are delicious served with homemade applesauce, or try them with some sour cream. Some folks like them sprinkled with a bit of sugar, or you can eat them as a side dish served with chicken, fish or meat entrée.

For a super-quick applesauce, try this: Peel and core three or four apples (Gala, Golden Delicious or Cortland are good choices), cut into cubes and place in microwave bowl. Cover the bowl, and cook for about 3 minutes, depending on how many apples you use. Taste for tartness and mix in some sugar, if needed. You also can microwave apples with some dried cranberries, raisins or rhubarb, and sprinkle with some cinnamon. Experiment to find the applesauce you love best!

These latkes are delicious, and can be reheated nicely if they are layered on foil and placed in a very hot oven for a few minutes.

NOTE: Do not stack the foil layers or the pancakes will steam and lose their crispiness.


* 4 potatoes, preferably russet, peeled and cubed (3 cups of cubed raw potatoes)

* 1/2 small onion, cubed

* 2 tablespoons flour

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

* 2 eggs

Put half the ingredients in a blender and “grind.” Add the other half slowly while the blender is going until a smooth but gritty batter forms. Using a hot, greased griddle or frying pan, ladle the pancakes out to about 2-3 inches in diameter. Fry until crispy and lacy around the edges, and turn until golden.

Garnish with sour cream and applesauce, as desired.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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