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December 10, 2016
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Food Traditions - Jewish

Some people don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings about the holidays. Some people aren’t religious. My father is the first one and I am the latter. Now that the holiday season is approaching, what am I to do? As a daughter of a dad who is from a Jewish family, a mom from a Unitarian Universalist family and I not identifying with either, when I just want to enjoy some of the traditional foods associated with Hanukah? Answer: create my own “holiday.”

And that’s exactly what I did.
I gathered those I love—my family (dad Larry, mom Sarah and brother Henry), my boyfriend Timmy and my best friend since childhood Brianne and her boyfriend Boyd. We came together at my house to celebrate nothing at all but to enjoy each other’s company and eat some delicious Jewish food.

My dad made his latkes, my mom made Tzimmes (pronounced: SIM-us) and Brianne (a professional chef) made a creamy leek soup. Tzimmes is a traditional Jewish stew of sorts (often made for Rosh Hashanah) with its sliced carrots representing gold coins, symbolizing the hope of prosperity in the year to come. My mom puts her own twist to it—mashing sweet potatoes and carrots together and adding matzo balls. We have it every Thanksgiving. My dad puts his twist on the latkes too, using matzo meal instead of flour. The leek soup paid homage to my ancestors as it is popular in Romania, which is where many of my family members hail from.

We had all the ingredients for a holiday—family, friends and food. I cooked up a holiday and it was a success. A new tradition might sound oxymoronic, but they have to start somewhere, right? So, here’s to new traditions.

[Isabel Braverman is editorial assistant at
The River Reporter.]

One family shares three Hanukah recipes

Larry’s Latkes
6 medium potatoes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 large eggs
¼ cup matzo meal
salt, pepper to taste
pinch of baking powder
vegetable oil for frying

Peel potatoes and grate in a food processor. Drain in a colander, pressing out the liquid.
Finely chop the onion using the steel blade in the processor.
Return potatoes to the food processor, add all other ingredients (except oil) and process until just smooth and evenly colored.
Heat 1/8 inch of oil in a large heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, until a drop of batter sizzles on the surface. Drop a large spoonful of batter into the skillet and flatten it with the spoon to make a thin pancake. Fry the latkes on both sides until brown and crisp, adding more oil if necessary. Drain the latkes on paper towels and keep them warm, in a single layer in a 200 degrees oven, until all the latkes are made. Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Sarah’s Tzimmis

3 cups water
6 yams
6 carrots
1 small onion
1 small apple
1 Tbsp. butter
½ Tbsp. brown sugar
salt, pepper to taste
1 box of matzo meal with directions for making matzo balls + ingredients

Peel and chop the yams, carrots, onion and apple into bite-sized pieces. Put in large pot with butter, brown sugar, salt, pepper and water and simmer uncovered until mushy. While simmering, make the matzo balls. When the stew is finished, stir in the matzo balls.

Creamy Leek Soup
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
7 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
1 bay leaf
salt, pepper
½ cup cream

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and potatoes and stir for about a minute. Add the stock or water, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
Puree the soup in a blender. Put in a serving bowl and stir in the cream and salt and pepper to taste. We garnished with some dried sage, but chives or croutons would be delicious.