HANUKKAH GELT–DELICIOUS TO EAT

Hanukkah GeltHere’s a Hanukkah side dish that represents so much more than something tasty to serve at dinnertime. I’ve cut carrots into coins and called them Hanukkah Gelt so the story of Hanukkah can be retold each year and celebrated in joyful long-standing tradition.

These carrot coins are sautéed with a Middle Eastern herbal blend called zaatar and make a flavorful dish served during the eight days of Hanukkah. If yellow carrots are available, they would look even more like gold coins than the orange ones. Some food distributors have yellow carrots available year round. (See below).

 What is Hanukkah gelt?

Gelt is a Yiddish word meaning money. In ancient times, money was in the form of Ancient gold coinsgold coins. Today, many Jewish families give Hanukkah gelt, or Hanukkah money to their children during the eight days of Hanukkah. Some families give real coins, while Foil coinsothers present the kids with coins formed from chocolates wrapped in gold foil and stamped to look like gold coins. These little gold coins, made in different sizes, are wrapped in tiny mesh bags and sold in groceries across the country during the November/December holiday season.

It’s a fun tradition the kids look forward to each year, but how did this practice begin? Meaningful historical events contributed many reasons to give Hanukkah gelt, not only to children, but, sometimes, to others in the community.

How did Hanukkah begin?

Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the re-dedication of an ancient vialJewish Temple that was desecrated by Greek armies. The Jews fought back and won and restored their ruined temple. In the wreckage, they found a tiny bottle of sanctified oil to relight the eternal light over the altar, but there was only enough oil to last one day. The miracle was that tiny bottle of oil burned for eight days. To commemorate the miraculous event the people celebrated in a grand and very fitting way–by lighting candles and celebrating for eight nights in remembrance of the miracle. The tradition was called Hanukkah.

Classic menorahMany families created their own Hanukiah or Hanukkah Menorah, a candelabra with nine branches, eight to hold the eight candles for each of the eight nights the oil burnt, and an extra branch to hold the special candle, the shamash, that lights the other candles.

Brass menorah

Hanukkah gelt tradition

Hanukkah lights are considered sacred and are never snuffed out. Instead, the candles are allowed to burn until they go out naturally. Because the lights are considered sacred, they are not used for other purposes, such as using the light to count coins. So families gave their children coins, or Hanukkah gelt, to reinforce the rule and honor the sacred candles.

Lighted MenorahBecause the Hanukkah lights were so venerated, families made it an annual ritual to Gelt casualremember the miracle of the oil. They gave Hanukkah gelt to the poor so they, too, could afford to buy candles to commemorate the holiday.

During the Greek army invasion, the Jews were forced to give up their religious rituals and adopt only Greek practices. During that long period, many Jews forgot their traditions and Torah lessons and had to relearn them when the temple was restored. Families gave their children Hanukkah gelt during Hanukkah as a reward for Torah study.

gold coin stackJews also gave Hanukkah gelt to celebrate their freedom from the Greek armies and their return to their own traditions. Rather than placing value on material gifts to celebrate the holiday, the Hanukkah gelt represented a celebration of spiritual values.

Today’s Hanukkah rituals

Because Jews follow a lunar calendar, their holidays don’t always fall on the same date of our Gregorian, or Western calendar. Frequently, though, Hanukkah occurs in December during the festive Christmas season and has suffered the influence of commercialism to varying degrees. Many families give material gifts to their children along with the gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins. Tradition does prevail in some families where Hanukkah gelt, the real thing, offers an opportunity for parents to retell the story of Hanukkah to the children.

Hanukkah GeltHANUKKAH GELT

 Yield: about 4 to 5 servings

3 large carrots, sliced into coins

3 large shallots, thinly slicedHanukkah Gelt

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon zaataar

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. In a large, deep skillet, combine the carrots, shallots, water, zaatar, canola oil, and garlic. Cook and stir over high or medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the carrots and prevent burning.
  2. When the carrots are beginning to soften, add the salt and pepper and cook until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue to cook and stir until the carrots are slightly browned.

Note: Zaatar is a traditional Middle Eastern herb blend with a long history and is used throughout the Fertile Crescent, Iraq, Arabian peninsula, and Israel. Many food historians believe the original zaatar was made of hyssop. Today, the mixture frequently consists of ground thyme, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac and is available in Middle Eastern groceries. Some cooks may include oregano, marjoram, savory, cumin, coriander, or fennel seeds. The herb blend is used as a seasoning on meats and vegetables, but it’s zaatar manakeesh we see most often, which consists of combining the herb blend with olive oil and spreading it over pita bread.

Yellow Carrots available at:

Specialty Produce http://www.specialtyproduce.com

Melissa’s Produce http://www.melissas.com

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SOUTHERN PECAN PIE–PERFECT FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

Pecan Pie copyDOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Pecans are native to the American South, and you can bet those creative Southerners put them on the menu every chance they could find. Those delicious little pecans even made the South famous for its pecan pie, an irresistible dessert that makes ex-pat Southerns very homesick.

Many Southern families have their own treasured family recipe–possibly even some handed down from grandma’s or great-grandma’s secret recipe. Years ago, family recipes were so cherished many were kept secret.

I have great respect for those delicious heirloom recipes that bring families together at special times like the holidays. And I also love the way Southerners say pecans– south of the Mason-Dixon line they call them puh cons.

My holiday version has all the eye-appealing and flavorful attributes of its traditional counterpart with the added benefit of being totally vegan. But I must admit that veganizing the recipe was one heck of a challenge.

My first 8 attempts–yes, it actually took 9 tries to get it right–came out too runny or totally soupy. It was maddening and totally frustrating, but I was one determined gal. The goal was to find a way to thicken and bind the ingredients, as eggs would do in the traditional recipe. About the 8th time the top baked perfectly, and I thought I had achieved success at last. But, no! As soon as I cut into it, it was soup.

NutGourmet cover copyTaking the place of the eggs in my successful recipe is a combination of tapioca flour and flaxseeds that gives the pie its unique, creamy texture. The tapioca flour also performs the double duty of thickening the filling as well as providing an inviting glaze that enhances its appeal. The key was tapioca flour –it worked like magic! Now I’m thrilled to share this recipe that’s from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

There are many ways to arrange the pecans on the top. Some people simply sprinkle broken pieces over the filling, but I wanted a pecan pie that was pretty darned eye appealing. If you have the time, start by sorting out beautiful pecan halves of similar sizes for the topping. Then arrange them side-by-side in concentric rings beginning in the center of the pie.

At serving time, make way for those wild and crazy pecan lovers. There’s bound to be a mad scramble for a piece of pie!

DOWN HOME PECAN PIE

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie

Nutty Wheat Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flourPecan Pie copy
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup organic canola oil
2 tablespoons cold water

Pecan Filling
1 1/4 cups coarsely broken pecans

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) dairy-free margarine
1 1/2 cups light or dark corn syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup regular soymilk
1/2 cup tapioca flour, packed

5 tablespoons flaxseeds
1 1/4 cups pecan halves

  1. TO MAKE THE PIE CRUST, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet. Combine the pastry flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.
  2. Add the oil and mix with a spoon until all the flour is incorporated. Add the water and stir thoroughly until the mixture forms a soft dough and all the water is absorbed.
  3. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two sheets of waxed paper. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper, place the pie pan over the dough, and invert the dough and pan together. Remove the waxed paper carefully and firm the edges of the crust. Trim the excess crust with a knife. Bake the Crust for 5 minutes and set it aside on the baking sheet to cool.
  4. TO MAKE THE PECAN FILLING, put the coarsely broken pecans on a small, rimmed baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 minutes. Immediately pour them onto a dish to cool. When cool, spoon the pecan pieces into the bottom of the pie shell.
  5. Melt the margarine over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the corn syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 5 minutes and set aside to cool for about 30 minutes.
  6. Put the soymilk in a small bowl and stir in the tapioca flour. Set it aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the liquid. Don’t rush this step. The tapioca flour needs a full 5 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.
  7. Meanwhile, put the flaxseeds in a blender or mini chopper and grind them to a fine meal. Add the flaxseeds and the soymilk mixture to the cooled corn syrup mixture. Stir to combine, and pour the mixture into the blender. Blend for 1 minute, until smooth. Pour over the toasted pecans.
  8. Top the pie with the pecan halves, arranging them in concentric circles, beginning in the center. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before chilling in the refrigerator. The pie will firm after it is thoroughly chilled.