Chanukah and Christmas

Home for the Holidays

With the holidays go rich memoriesfor the good times shared together and for the traditional family dishes prepared and expected year after year. In our own family, a feast would not be complete without rich appetizer platters of sushi, jumbo shrimp, and cheeses, followed by the long-standing traditional favorites of turkey, pecan pie, chocolate chip cookies and a myriad of ice creams. While an easy formula, it is one without much balance or flare, so it leaves plenty of room for innovation to round out the meal.

Each year, I find myself a bit bewildered about how to add interest and variety to this expected list of favorites. If you are anything like me, you may be searching your cookbook shelf for some innovative side dishes to accompany your own traditional family favorites. I discovered Myra Kornfelds Healthy Hedonist Holidays, published just last year, to be a wonderful resource. Starting with fresh, seasonal whole foods, natural sugars, and innovative seasonings, she creates many side dishes to complement traditional holiday feasts, from Ramadan through the Fourth of July. Many of the following recipes are from her book. Front and center, we also place Kasha Varnishkes, a traditional Eastern European dish, for its richness, a splurge perfect for a holiday feast. In this dish, the flavors of onions cooked slowly in chicken fat meld with kasha to truly tantalize, while lauric acid (a wonderful anti-microbial) inherent in chicken fat, lend a welcome boost to the immune system at holiday time.

Kasha Varnishkes (serves 4)
2+ cups chopped onions
cup rendered chicken fat or olive oil
cup kasha
Salt and pepper
pound farfalle (bow-tie) noodles

Put onions in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. Cover skillet and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is dry and almost sticking to the pan. Add fat or oil, raise heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is nicely browned, for 10 minutes or so longer.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a separate medium saucepan, bring 1 cups water to a boil, stir in the kasha and a teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer until kasha is soft and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Let stand, off heat and covered.
Salt the large pot of boiling water and cook noodles until tender but firm. Drain and combine with the onions and kasha, adding more fat or oil if you like. Season with salt and lots of pepper and serve immediately.
Source: Mark Bittman

Parsnip Latkes with Leeks and Thyme (yield: 12-14 pancakes)
1 pound parsnips, peeled
1 cup leek, finely diced, white and light green parts only
cup minced red onion
2 T. minced fresh thyme
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 T. unbleached white flour
1 t. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 200 F degrees. Grate the parsnips to make about 6 cups. Steam for 2 minutes until just tender. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the leek, onion, thyme, egg, flour, salt, and a generous sprinkling of black pepper.
Form a heaping tablespoon of batter into a patty by hand. (Do not overwork.) Repeat with the remaining batter to make 12-14 latkes. Place them on a large plate.
Warm a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet until it feels hot to your hand held 1 inch above the pan. Lay out 4 or 5 latkes in the oil, without overcrowding. Cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Flip to other side, pressing down the patties with a spatula to flatten slightly. Cook until golden, another 2 minute or so. Add more oil to the pan as you cook more batches. Spread on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until you are ready to serve.
Source: Myra Kornfeld

Beer-Braised Brussels Sprouts (Serves 8)
1 pound Brussel sprouts (2 10-ounce packages)
3 T. honey
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
cup beer
t. salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 T. butter

Slice off hard stems of sprouts and cut in half. Whisk honey and mustard together in a small bowl and set aside. Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sprouts, cut-side down and saut until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add the beer and honey-mustard mixture, along with the salt. Lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the sprouts are tender. Uncover and cook at a rapid simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces and forms a glaze, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with black pepper. Melt the butter in a small pot 2-3 minutes until nutty and golden. Drizzle over the sprouts. Serve hot. Source: Myra Kornfeld.

Gingery Beet Relish with Horseradish (Makes 3 cups)
2 pounds medium beets (or 1 pounds large)
1 T. minced fresh ginger
2 T. prepared horseradish
cup chopped parsley
t. salt
cup balsamic vinegar

Wrap beets in foil and bake in a 375 degree oven until tender. Cool slightly and peel off skins under cool running water. Grate the beets to yield 3 cups. Transfer the beets to a medium bowl. Add the ginger, horseradish, parsley, salt, and vinegar and toss to combine. Serve as a zesty side dish.Source: Derived from Myra Kornfeld.

Watercress and Endive Salad with Apple and Blue Cheese
2 bunches of watercress, hard stems removed
2 heads endive, cut into inch-wide lengthwise spears
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. sherry vinegar
t. Dijon mustard
1 t. honey
6 T. Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly-ground pepper
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into very thin strips (1 heaping cup)
6 T. crumbled blue cheese (from a 3-ounce chunk)

Place watercress and endive in a bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice and sherry vinegar in a small bowl with the mustard and hone. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk to combine. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper to taste. Stir the apple strips into the greens. Toss with the dressing and divide onto plates, sprinkled with about 1 T. crumbled blue cheese per serving.
Source: Myra Kornfeld.

Sweet Potato Gratin with Coconut Milk and Chipotle Chile (serves 8)
3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6 medium), peeled and cut into inch rounds
One 15-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
1 T. fresh lime juice
1 t. salt
1 T. Maple syrup
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, coconut milk, chipotle chile, lime juice, salt, maple syrup, and garlic. Transfer the mixture to a baking dish (8 x 11 inch Pyrex is ideal). Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the sweet potatoes are just tender. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until the tops are browned.
Source: Myra Kornfeld

Crunchy Quinoa Salad
2 cups quinoa (your might try mixing red and white varieties)
4 cups filtered water
2 carrots, cubed or half-mooned
2 sliced scallions
2 stalks celery, washed and sliced
-1 cup sliced or chopped tamari almonds
cup arame (optional)
Dressing: Equal parts Shoyu, Mirin, Tahini, whisked together to taste

Cook Quinoa separately and let cool. (Bring water to a boil, add quinoa and a pinch of sea salt per cup of grain, reduce heat and cover, simmer about 15 minutes.) Cook Arame separately (Follow package directions. Drain. Cool, set aside.)
Once Quinoa and Arame are cooled, mix them with carrots, scallions, celery, almonds and toss. (You may want to leave vegetables raw in summer, for a more cooling quality, and but blanch carrots & celery for these cooler times of year.)
Dressing: 1/3 Parts Each Shoyu, Mirin, Tahini whisk together, add to salad, toss, and enjoy.
Source: Derived from