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This Year: Some International Fare

December 6, 2007 By:
Ethel Hofman, JE Feature
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Latkes may be the most popular Chanukah dish in America, but that's not necessarily true in other countries. Throughout history, exiled Jews have wandered the globe. Wherever they landed or passed through, they learned the dishes and ingredients of the region, and their cuisine was inevitably influenced by the non-Jewish environment.

When they moved on, they took their favorite recipes with them, adapting, when necessary, for the kosher kitchen. Jewish cuisine was broadened as new recipes were added to the old.

Nevertheless, one element always remained: the presence of oil in Chanukah foods. Oil emphasized the miracle of the lone cruse found in the Holy Temple, which lasted for a miraculous eight days, instead of just one.

Unless you're on a carefully restricted diet for medical reasons or you have food allergies, forget about trying to alter tried-and-true family recipes. To do so takes away from the rich symbolism of the Festival of Lights. Instead, use moderation: Sample small portions, keep exercising and enjoy the celebration!

Egg Foo Yung
(Pareve)

It's alleged that Jews settled in China nearly 2,000 years ago. Here is the "Chinese latke."

6 eggs
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, whisk eggs.

Add the mushrooms, scallions and bean sprouts. Mix well.

Season with salt and pepper.

Heat about 1/2 -inch of oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Slide mixture in 1/4 cupfuls into the hot oil.

Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side to lightly brown. Serve hot.

Top with your favorite salsa or a hot mustard.

Serves 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 134; protein, 6 g; carbohydrates, 1 g; fat, 12 g; cholesterol, 213 mg; sodium, 63 mg.

Eggplant Fritters
(Pareve)

A little taste of Italy -- and fresh veggies -- at holiday time.

1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick
kosher salt to sprinkle
2 eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsps. matzah meal
1/2 tsp. white pepper
vegetable oil for frying
lemon wedges

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Press out moisture.

In a shallow dish, lightly beat the eggs.

In a separate shallow dish, combine the flour, matzah meal and pepper.

Dip the eggplant slices first in beaten egg, then in the flour mixture, turning to coat slices completely.

Heat about 1/2-inch oil in a deep, heavy skillet to 375° on a deep frying thermometer, or until a cube of soft white bread turns golden, about 60 seconds.

Add the eggplant slices.

Fry over medium-high heat until browned on both sides.

Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

Serves 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 406; protein, 4 g; carbohydrates, 13 g; fat, 38 g; cholesterol, 71 mg; sodium, 337 mg.

Chocolate-Mint Coins
(Dairy)

A variation on the English recipe for cheese straws or coins.

1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 chocolate peppermint patties (1.4 oz.), each cut in 9 or 10 pieces

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and about 1/2 cup flour. Add the remaining flour and cocoa.

Mix together well to make a stiff dough. No white streaks should remain. If mixture is too soft, add a little more flour.

Lightly flour a board.

Roll the dough into a 10-inch long log. Cut into 1/4-inch thick slices and place on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and place a piece of peppermint patty on each cookie. Return to oven and bake 2 minutes longer.

Lightly press softened mint patty on each cookie. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 18 to 20 cookies.

Approximate nutrients per cookie: calories, 93; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 14 g; fat, 4 g; cholesterol, 19 mg; sodium, 5 mg.

Walnut-Raisin Bars
(Dairy)

This is my Scottish cousin's recipe. She bakes huge batches for Chanukah to give away as gifts to family and friends.

4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
33/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup ginger or other preserves, warmed
11/2 cups raisins
6 Tbsps. chopped walnuts
cinnamon and confectioner's sugar to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray an 11x7-inch baking dish with nonstick baking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Stir in the oil and the flour, mixing well. You should have a stiff dough. If too sticky, add a little more flour. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Divide dough in half. Press one-half into the prepared baking dish to cover the bottom of dish. Spread with the preserves.

Sprinkle with the raisins and nuts. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

On a floured board, roll the remaining dough into a rectangle. Place on top of the raisins and nuts, pressing lightly at edges. Prick all over with a fork.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden.

Cut into bars while warm.

Cool and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

Makes 40 bars.

Approximate nutrients per bar: calories, 145; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 19 g; fat, 7 g; cholesterol, 21 mg; sodium, 158 mg.

Food Editor Ethel G. Hofman, author of the recent Mackerel at Midnight, is also a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

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