Israeli meal illuminates the meaning of Hanukkah

November 16, 1994|By Leslye Michlin Borden | Leslye Michlin Borden,Special to The Sun

In yesterday's A La Carte section, an incorrect date was given for Hanukkah. It begins at sunset Sunday, Nov. 27.

The Sun regrets the error.

Long translated as the Holiday of Lights, Hanukkah really should be called the holiday of oil, since it commemorates the miracle of oil that occurred in the Temple in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago. Oil enough to keep the temple candelabrum lighted for only one day lasted eight days. As a result, Jewish people throughout the world remember this miracle by serving foods made with oil at Hanukkah celebrations. East European Jews make potato latkes, pancakes fried in oil. Sephardic Jews, especially those from North Africa, offer a variety of fried doughnut-like cakes. These cakes are called sufganiyot in Israel. There, people serve them throughout the eight-day holiday, which begins this year on Sunday evening.

For something a little different this year, why not organize one evening's festivities around a meal with an Israeli theme? Start with a platter of fresh vegetables and pita bread triangles for dipping into a bowl of hummus, seasoned with garlic, lemon and cumin. For the entree, have your guests fill pita bread halves with spicy Middle Eastern meatballs. Top the meatballs with baba ghannouj, a mixture of cooked eggplant and hummus. Include an assortment of Israeli salads such as tabbouleh or wilted cucumbers.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

For dessert, prepare the jelly doughnuts. Have each person shape and fill his or her own doughnut from an assortment of jams and jellies for an authentic Israeli touch. Let the doughnuts rise while everyone eats dinner. Then fry and serve them hot.

Don't let the list of unusual ingredients throw you. You'll find most of them in your local supermarket. Be sure to check the gourmet aisle for items such as the tahini paste. If you can't find one of the ingredients, make an excursion to any Middle Eastern grocery store or deli.

Hummus Makes about 1 quart

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained

1/3 cup tahini paste

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup water

a few --es of hot pepper sauce

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

Place garlic, salt and garbanzos in food processor. Process until mixture is almost pureed. Add tahini paste and process again. With the machine running, add the olive oil, lemon juice and water in a thin stream. Scrape the sides of the container. Add the remaining ingredients and process again. Adjust the seasonings. Serve as a dip with cut vegetables and pita bread triangles.

Spicy meatballs Makes 16 meatballs

1 pound extra lean ground beef or 1 pound turkey breast

1 cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried dill

Place all ingredients in food processor. Process until well combined. Divide the meat mixture into 16 pieces. Wet your hands with cold water and shape each piece into a ball.

Spray a fry pan with vegetable oil

spray. Place meatballs in the pan. Cook over medium high heat to brown the meat, turning frequently so meatballs keep their shape. If you used turkey, add some water to the pan. Cook about 15 minutes, or until all the pink is gone and all the water has evaporated. If you like the onions more well done, continue cooking another 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

To serve, cut pita bread in half. Open the pocket and place 2 meatballs inside. Add baba ghannouj. Serve immediately.

Baba ghannouj Makes 3 cups

2 large eggplants, cooked (grilled, broiled or baked)

1 cup hummus

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Peel the blackened skin from the eggplants. Place in a colander and drain.

In a medium mixing bowl, mash the eggplant with a fork. Slowly beat in the hummus until the mixture reaches the consistency of a smooth cream. Use to fill pita sandwiches, along with spicy meatballs.

Tabbouleh

Makes 8 servings

1/2 cup bulgur wheat

boiling water

6 green onions

1 large bunch parsley

several sprigs of fresh mint, if available (or 1 teaspoon dried)

3 large ripe tomatoes

DRESSING:

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 tablespoons water

salt and pepper to taste

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Place bulgur wheat in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

In the meantime, chop all the vegetables or process them in a food processor. Don't let them get mushy or too finely chopped. Place in a large bowl. Add the drained bulgur and the dressing. Let the salad stand for several hours before serving.

Israeli-style Wilted Cucumbers Makes 8 servings

2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 teaspoons chopped dill

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 teaspoons sugar or to taste (or sugar substitute)

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