Miraculous Olive Oil

The legendary oil that fueled the original Hanukkah miracle, burning brightly for eight days on end, was most certainly olive oil. Capable of wonders both big and small, historically and still to this day, it’s an indispensable staple that’s saved me from all variety of culinary plights. Just as the biblical story exhorts, a little bit of extra virgin olive oil goes a long way.

Why is this the obvious, and only rational choice? While it doesn’t last forever, kept in a dark and cool place, tightly sealed bottles will stay just as fresh for up to a year and a half without any preservatives, high-pressure canning practices, or refrigeration. Plus, it can handle the heat. Contrary to popular belief, extra virgin olive oil does indeed have a high smoke point (400° F), so it can handle anything from a light sauté to a deep (and deeply flavorful) fry. You can bake with olive oil, as well.

Extra virgin olive oil is made by sheer force, extracted by pressure without heat or chemicals. It represents quality you can taste. Virtually free of acidity(below 0.8%,) each oil is judged by experts, who must agree that it meets the high flavor standards to bear the official designation of “extra virgin.” Each bottle that makes the grade must exhibit the presence of nuanced fruity, bitter, and spicy notes, in every bold drop. If these signature components aren’t all in perfect, harmonious balance, it won’t receive the esteemed rating, and you’ll never suffer the injustice of a subpar specimen.

European extra virgin olive oil in particular is held to some of the highest standards. The olive tree has been revered in Europe since antiquity. Over thousands of years, farmers have evolved hundreds of cultivars and optimized them for different environment conditions and terrains to produce the most flavorful yields.

Beyond its legendary piquancy, aroma, and zest, extra virgin olive oil can literally shed a light on the darkness of a largely overlooked holiday practice. The fabled tale of the Hanukkah miracle is more than just mythology, after all. Even without a fancy vessel or ornamental candles, my menorah burns as brightly as ever this year, powered by oil alone. If you have wicks and olive oil, you can make one from scratch in a matter of minutes, too!

Just make sure you save a little drizzle for dessert. While balsamic vinegar often gets all the attention as an unconventional ice cream topper, lending a savory, tangy twist to the usual old frosty scoop, I happen to love the richness that this golden-green elixir adds instead. Vanilla would be most traditional, but what’s to say it doesn’t pair just as well with a luscious spoonful of giandua (hazelnut-chocolate) ice cream, melting luxuriously to mingle with the oil itself?

Quality staples are worthy of a celebration everyday, but especially for the holidays, splurging on really good extra virgin olive oil will taste like a little miracle in every dish.

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Decadent Delicata

Hannukah is NOT the time to embark on some radical new low-fat diet. No matter where you believe lipids belong on your own personal food pyramid, oil is hero of this holiday, and the substance we all celebrate. From the oil in the miraculously burning lamps to the oil frying our food, the stuff has left its gloriously greasy residue all over this joyous event. This is the one rare time of year that we’re implored to ignore conventional nutritional advice and fry, fry again.

That’s not to say that just any old grease ball on a plate will suffice. Typical holiday fare turns starchy potatoes into crisp latkes and yeasted dough into jelly-stuffed sufganiyot. Dessert is where things get interesting, as the number of acceptable permutations for those requisite oily cakes hovers somewhere in the thousands. Latkes, on the other hand, are either right (however your grandma made them) or wrong (everything else.)

So on this occasion I throw caution to the wind along with another decadent treat into the vat of angrily bubbling oil. If there ever was such a thing as a “healthy” doughnut, laughable baked versions notwithstanding, it would unarguably be one made of a vegetable.

Inspired by their naturally alluring rings, simple sliced delicata squash stand in for the carbohydrate portion of the program, replacing the predictably dense dough with tender, subtly nuanced, pumpkin-like flesh. Far more flavorful than the bread-based default, it wins the battle for ease of preparation as well; the thin green skin needn’t be peeled, so just slice, remove the seeds, and you’re well on your way to an entirely new sweet holiday sensation.

Lightly battered and graced by a crunchy coating of simple cinnamon sugar, it’s hard to believe that such decadent treats are little more than plain squash rings dressed up in their finest. While you won’t fool any vegetable haters into confusing these for traditional doughnuts, you may just win them over.

Take it one step further still with a luxurious glaze of apple cider icing, redolent of the orchards on a brisk fall day. Reducing the cider does take a bit of patience, but every extra minute is well worth the wait. These dainty iced doughnuts are always the first to disappear.

Delicata Doughnuts

1 Medium (A Little Over 1 Pound) Delicata Squash
3/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons Tapioca Starch
2 Tablespoons Chickpea Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
3/4 Cup Water

Neutral Oil for Frying, such as Rice Bran or Canola

Cinnamon Sugar:

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

Cider Icing:

2 Cups Unfiltered Apple Cider
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar

To begin, fill a large saucepan about 1/3 full with your neutral oil of choice and heat to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and dry your delicate before slicing it into 1/2-inch thick rings. Clean out the inner guts and seeds by either scraping it with a spoon, or using small round cookie cutters to punch out the stringy innards.

Prepare the batter by simply whisking together all of the dry ingredients before slowly adding in the water. Whisk just until the mixture is smooth. Separately, stir together the cinnamon and sugar topping in a medium bowl, and set aside.

For the glaze, place the apple cider in a small sauce pan and simmer until it has reduce to a mere 1/4 cup. Add in the vanilla and confectioner’s sugar, stirring until perfectly smooth and lump-free. Set aside.

When the oil has come up to the right temperature, dip the delicata rings into batter one at a time, letting the excess drip off. Carefully lower them into the hot oil, cooking no more than two or three at a time, depending on the size of your pot. Let them cook undisturbed for about a minute before turning, flipping them frequently from that point onward to monitor browning. When the rings are evenly golden brown all over, use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer them to a wire rack. While still warm, toss them individually in the cinnamon sugar, if using. If using the cider icing, let the donuts cool just until you can comfortably handle them, and gently dip the tops into the prepared glaze.

Best eaten as soon as possible!

Makes 10 – 14 Doughnuts

Printable Recipe

A Hannukah Miracle

Take it as evidence that I’m a bad Jew, if you must, but the rumors are true; I had never made latkes before. Picture thin shreds of white potato that have sopped up gallons of oil and yet remain pale and flaccid, to be served with dairy-rich sour cream or overly sweetened apple sauce- Can you blame my resistance? Admittedly, the latkes my parents painstakingly make every year are never like this, but out of laziness and sheer stubbornness, I refused to remove my blinders and give them a chance. Despite the connection I felt to the ritual of their preparation, I found myself unmoved, year after year. Working as a tag team, my mom in the kitchen working with the raw ingredients, my dad out back doing flame-control, the smell of smoke and canola oil permeating the air, it’s this tradition that epitomizes the Hannukah experience to me. That’s why we’re unofficially pushing back the date of celebration, so that my dad can be home to fry them like usual. Whether that means standing outside at the grill in the snow, rain, or just freezing cold, it doesn’t matter. He knows that the hungry hordes need their crispy, golden brown latkes, and there’s no way on earth we’re deep frying that much potato matter inside the house.

And there starts my prejudice; Anything that requires cooking outside of the kitchen must be too much of a hassle. What with all the holiday cookies to bake, why waste time making boring old potato pancakes anyway? Deep fried food doesn’t disagree with me per say, but it loses quite a few brownie points if I’m the one doing the frying. Who wants third degree burns as a holiday parting gift? That’s why, with the actual Hannukah week free and clear, I stuck to what I know best and fired up the oven, set on breaking my latke-less streak at last.

Notice, these are baked latkes, not fat-free; They still need ample lubrication to prevent sticking and tearing. Most notable, however, is not the method by which these nouveau potato pancakes are cooked, but the subtle flavors I chose to wake up these potentially snooze-worthy staples. Taking inspiration from Chinese scallion pancakes, short ribbons of green onion are woven amongst the strands of potato, punctuated by the gentle warmth of ginger. Sure, purists may turn up their noses, but these nontraditional spud bundles have made me a convert. Latkes can be a beautiful (and yes, delicious) thing, when treated with a little extra love and attention. And yes, please, go ahead and fry them if you prefer. Just keep that vat of hot oil far away from me.

Yield: Makes 8 – 12 Medium-Sized Latkes

Baked Ginger-Scallion Latkes

Baked Ginger-Scallion Latkes

Taking inspiration from Chinese scallion pancakes, short ribbons of green onion are woven amongst the strands of potato, punctuated by the gentle warmth of ginger.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Pounds White or Gold Potatoes
  • 2 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Generous Bundle Scallions (about a dozen), Cut into 1-Inch Pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Parsley
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Finely Minced Fresh Ginger
  • 1/4 Cup Garbanzo Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Flax Seeds, Ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 – 4 Tablespoons Canola Oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and use 1 or 2 tablespoons of the canola oil to generously grease a baking sheet. Don’t be shy; you need to really smear it on so that nothing stick later.
  2. Peel and grate the potatoes, placing them in a colander in the sink or set over a large bowl. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and salt, to prevent browning and extract some of the water, and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes. Squeeze the potato shreds with your hands to extract the excess water. Don’t be shy, really wring those spuds out, because too much water now will mean less crispy latkes later. Transfer the significantly drier potatoes into a [dry] large bowl.
  3. Cut the scallions into one-inch lengths, and add to the potato. If your scallions are on the chunkier side, slice them in halves or quarters first. Add in the parsley, ginger, flour, ground flax, and pepper, and toss to combine.
  4. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of potato mixture for each latke, and use your hands to really press it all together. Place each latke on the prepared sheet fairly close together since they don’t spread. Flatten each mound down as thin as possible to get crispier results. Brush the tops of the pancakes with 1 – 2 tablespoons of oil, and again, don’t be skimpy about it. Side your sheet of latkes into the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. At that point, flip them all over, and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately, with vegan sour cream if desired.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 88Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 138mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 2g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.