Sufganiots at Lehem Toshia
Hanukah has got to be my favorite Jewish holiday. I don’t have to host extravagant four course dinners; neither do I have to go trudging to the stores to pick out gifts for friends and family. All I am obliged to do is light candles, sing Hanukah songs about dreidels and potato pancakes and eat foods fried in plenty of oil.
Hanukah commemorates the rededication of the Temple after its destruction by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks). The Maccabean warriors succeeded in pushing them back but found the Temple desecrated, with only enough holy oil to light the eternal flame for one day. Miraculously, this small pot of oil lasted for eight entire days, sufficient time to produce more consecrated oil to continue their religious obligations. It has become a tradition to celebrate Hanukah by eating lots of deep fried and oily foods such as donuts, known as sufganiot and potato pancakes (levivot in Hebrew and latkes in Yiddish). Although it is not specifically written in the book of Maccabees, it goes without saying that all diets are automatically wavered for the eight days of the holiday as what can be more important than tradition?
The sufganiot craze is in full swing in Israel, with bakeries competing with each other to make the tastiest and most unique filling, sometimes overtaking themselves as in the weird invention of vodka jam filling ( for adults only). Even now, before the actual holiday, which starts Friday night, bakeries are working around the clock to supply the huge influx of demand and are not always successful. Last Friday, Roladin Bakery in Rehovot, for example, ran out of sufganiots by the end of the day so it’s best to order them in advance. My favorite filling will always be dayglo strawberry jam, an Israeli classic which Lehem Toshia in Rishon Le Zion makes perfectly.
The only thing that I wouldn’t mind avoiding during this season is hosting the school’s annual hannukiah (candelabrum) construction activity from recycled materials. This year the children worked well together and managed to build an interesting model as opposed to the previous year when they all decided to have tricycle competitions. They were also well mannered except for the incident where a jar of gold glitter exploded all over the living room and again when they began using their dripping paint brushes as fencing foils, painting each other’s faces red and blue. I need to be a better supervisor but frankly the whole point of these projects is to let the children learn to work together, mess and all. There are some parents who think this is sort of a competition and take it much too seriously, moving their kids aside while they build the entire thing themselves.
Now for my contribution to the Hanukah menu.
This is a little different than potato pancakes but extremely tasty as my son, Uri, who likes neither cauliflower nor cheese, can testify. It is based on the recipe by Benny Saida (Cutlets, 2004 Modan Publishing House)
1 cauliflower, cut into large chunks
1 cup mixed herbs, chopped (I used a mixture of green onions and parsley)
250 gram kashkaval cheese or other goat cheese, grated (feta is also good)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Flour for dredging
In a large pot put the cauliflower, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the cauliflower is soft, about 30 minutes. Let the cauliflower drain completely in a colander, about 30 minutes.
In a bowl mash the cauliflower and add the rest of the ingredients. The batter should loosely keep its shape when held; add a bit more bread crumbs if the batter is too wet. Heat vegetable oil in a pan, preferably made from cast iron. Using wet hands form round patties, dredge them in flour and fry them until they are golden brown, flip and fry the other side.