Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Miracle of the Oil

Tonight, Jews across the world will light their menorahs/hanukiot to celebrate the festival of lights - Chanukah/Hanukkah.  The holiday of Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after it was defiled by the Syrian-Greeks.   Besides lighting 9-branched menorahs, we partake in fried foods, specifically potato pancakes called latkes or levivot, and jelly donuts called sufganiot.  In this way our arteries and waist bands will remember that when the High Priest in the temple lit the 7-branched menorah with the only kosher oil that could be found - enough for only one night - a great miracle occurred and the oil lasted long enough for fresh olive oil to be processed... eight nights.  I've reviewed the laws of Chanukah, where it discusses when we light the menorah and what materials are appropriate of lighting (like olive oil and cotton wicks.)  However, I didn't see any mention of consuming enough fat during eight days to last us eight months.

Now, I like to think of myself as an optimist, but when it comes to the environment and junk food, I'm a real kill joy.  Thinking of having a balloon releasing event?  Don't forget about the sea turtles and other wildlife chocking on your balloons when they deflate and fall.  And a holiday is no excuse to bombard my kids with candy to rot their teeth.  So in the interest of our bodies, I'd like to share a few ways to showcase oil without the mess and detrimental health effects of deep fried food.  If you do want to enjoy the traditional Chanukah foods, I recommend getting frozen latkes that you put in the oven so the frying doesn't smell up your home for a week.  Enjoy them with natural (no sugar added) apple sauce by the glow of the candles.  For sufganiot, go to a bakery and buy no more than 1 donut per person for the week.  Enjoy!

Baked "Celery Root" (Celeric) Sweet Potato Pancakes
1. Peel and grate celery root(s) and sweet potatoes, then drain liquid.
2. Mix with egg(s), seasonings, and a little olive oil.  You could also add fresh parsley, green onions, etc.
3. Brush baking sheet or pan generously with oil.
4. Plop mounds of the mixture on the baking sheet. (If it is too loose add flour.)
5. Bake until they take on color.

Israeli Salad
No joke.  Why not let salad be the base for our oil?  Israeli salad is based on chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, generally lightly dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  You could also add chopped parsley, green or red onions, bell pepper, and other seasonings, like za'atar.

This is a dip I used to enjoy at Chabad House of Pittsburgh.  A good garlic press is very helpful.  Press or smash and finely chop raw garlic.  Add fresh or dried chopped parsley, good olive oil and salt.  This is better if you do it ahead of time and let it sit a bit.  Then enjoy with good bread.

Za'atar and Olive Oil 
In Israel different spice shops and companies have their own mixes for za'atar. If you live outside Israel, you may be able to find it from one of the three or so Israeli spice companies that export.  Look near kosher or Middle Eastern foods.  You can make it yourself, I think the following ingredient ratios are for a Lebanese style za'atar  I think the Israeli version has more marjoram, less sumac, some dill, and olive oil.
1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
You may roast or crush the sesame seeds.  I guess that's a personal preference.   Mix za'atar mix with good extra virgin olive oil and enjoy with bread.  I also like the make a valley in a mound of hummus to hold my olive oil and za'atar, which I then eat with fresh pita.

Pita Chips
I don't believe the previous paragraph was my first mention of "fresh pita" on this blog.  Since moving to Israel we've become pita snobs.  Once it's approaching 48 hours old, it's just not the same.  By day three, if it's still in our bread box I make pita chips.  Preferably whole wheat pita chips.

1. Cut each pita into 6 pieces like a pie and split the two layers of the "pocket" with a knife or your fingers.
2. Brush or spray both sides with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.
3. Leave plain or sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, or my favorite, za'atar!
4. Toast on high for about 5 minutes.  Don't walk away.  Pull them out when a couple start to brown.

Happy Chanukah!

This post is featured in Real Food Digest | Real Food Holidays – Hanukkah.

1 comment:

  1. Those are great ideas. Zaatar is an herb, by the way, translated hyssop. It's hard to find and is protected.
    Love the photo of the celery root.



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