A Traditional Hanukkah Treat

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - December 09, 2009
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For Honolulu’s Leah Bernstein, this is a truly special time of year. Bernstein is president of the record label Mountain Apple Company. At this time of year, she usually has two things on her mind: getting ready for Hanukkah and the releases of new holiday music CDs by Hawaiian artists.

As a staunch advocate of Hawaiian music and Island artists for more than two decades, Bernstein has grown Mountain Apple Company to be a true force in the industry.

People who have never visited these shores enjoy Hawaiian music with its unique rhythms, tonalities, style, language, history, multiculturalism and inspiration. By supporting and nurturing Hawaiian artists, Bernstein and the folks at Mountain Apple Company are helping Island culture to thrive.

This year, many Mountain Apple artists have released uplifting holiday CDs that share the gift of music, and the holidays offer people the chance to give the gift of music and share the special message of our Islands.

Hanukkah begins this Saturday, and families will prepare traditional Hanukkah recipes such as potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyots (jam-filled doughnuts).

Hanukkah dates back to 168 BC, when the Syrian-Greek King Antiochus captured Israel, plundering and defiling the holiest site of the Jewish people, the Temple in Jerusalem. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, guerrilla warriors led by the priest Mattathias and his five sons vowed never to submit, and liberated Jerusalem three years later.

Once the battle was over, the Maccabees rid the temple of idols and lighted the golden menorah with a little purified olive oil they found, which was supposed to be enough to burn for just one day. But then, according to tradition, a miracle happened: The oil lasted for eight days - exactly the time it took to press fresh oil. It is to commemorate the Miracle of the Oil that Jews all over the world eat foods fried in oil on Hanukkah.

The word “latke” derives from Yiddish, the Jewish language spoken by East European Jews. Bernstein has given me her special latke recipe to share with MidWeek readers.

Happy Hanukkah!


* 1 pound russet potatoes

* 1/2 cup chopped onion

* 1 egg, lightly beaten (may use 2 egg whites for no cholesterol)

* 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

* oil, for frying

Peel and grate potatoes by hand (do not use a blender or you won’t have the right consistency for these latkes).Transfer grated potato to a bowl of cold water; soak for 1 or 2 minutes after last batch of grated potatoes is put in. Wring out water from potatoes using paper towels. (Get as much water out as possible). Put potato, salt and egg in a bowl. Stir. Create meatball-size rounds and press down flat as you drop in pan. Get oil hot in pan (but not smoking); work in batches as your pan size will allow space around each latke. Turn heat to medium-high or medium until they start crisping. Flip over and crisp on other side. Drain on paper towels. You can transfer to hot oven on a wire rack to keep hot (if you intend to make a lot).

Serve with sour cream and applesauce. For gourmet versions, you can add some fresh rosemary or any fresh herb and serve with creme fraiche and baked apples.

Note: Recipe may be doubled.

(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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