A Family Favorite For Hanukkah

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - December 13, 2006
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Everyone knows Billy Joel’s music. The Piano Man has been a mainstay on favorite play lists for decades. And now Joel is bringing his musical magic to Hawaii for the first time in two decades.

One of the few pop artists ever to land in the “Top Ten” in the 1970s to 1990s, he’s got six Grammy Awards to his credit and more than 100 million record sales around the globe. He’s an icon in the world of music and has been inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

We wish him, as well as his local presenters Marek Lieberberg and Jacky Jedlicki, a great show, and add in good wishes for a Happy Hanukkah (the first candle will be lit this Friday night, Dec. 15), and a wonderful new year.

Patti Milburn of KSSK radio, which has helped spread the word about Joel’s concert, shares her family recipe for potato latkes (pancakes), the Hanukkah tradition, with us.

Hanukkah originated when Judah the Maccabee

and his followers reclaimed the temple from Syrian King Antiochus IV. The temple was then cleansed and prepared for rededication, and the sacred temple Menorah (candelabra) was relit. There was only enough sacred oil, however, to burn for one day. Miraculously the oil lasted eight days, and in remembrance, a candle is lit each of the eight days of Hanukkah. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “dedication.“You will also see this holiday spelled Chanukkah and perhaps even Hannukah because of different translations and customs.

During the Hanukkah holiday the traditional foods consumed are mostly fried in oil, which is symbolic of the oil that lasted eight days. Pancakes are one of these dishes served as a reminder of the food hurriedly prepared for the Maccabees as they went into battle, along with the oil they are fried in as a reminder of the miraculous oil.

Happy Hanukkah!


* 3 large potatoes
* 1 large onion
* 2 eggs (may use egg substitute)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (may use less for low-sodium restrictions)
* 1/2 cup matzo meal

Grate potatoes and onion on fine grater or use food processor. Add eggs, salt and matzo meal; stir well. Add more matzo meal if needed to form a thick batter. Taste for salt and add if needed.

Drop spoonfuls into hot oil in frying pan and slightly flatten with spatula. Cook until crisp and golden. Drain on brown paper bag or paper towels.

Serve with sour cream and applesauce.

Makes six servings. For hors d’oeuvres, make pancakes small and add caviar to sour cream.

(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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