Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gluten-Free Chanukah - Hurry it's almost here!

Even though you probably still have Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge, your thoughts are turning to latkes, applesauce and beef brisket if you celebrate Chanukah. The eight-day Jewish holiday begins at sundown tomorrow, less than a week after the table was laden with turkey and all the trimmings.

With the two holidays snug against each other, you might not be ready for another big, filling meal. And, if your house if anything like ours, gathering everyone together again so quickly might not be possible. Students have returned to college, relatives who visited from far away may not yet have recovered from holiday traffic and the first night is right in the middle of the week.

Perhaps more than other years, this Chanukah seems to call for a relatively simple, easy to prepare dinner with traditional latkes as the center piece. I am thinking roasted chicken, a wonderful salad full of dark greens studded with some leftover dried cranberries and nuts, latkes and sufganiyot (donuts).

The latkes and sufganiyot will serve as reminders of the drop of oil that  Chanukah legend says miraculously burned for eight days in the temple in Jerusalem following the Macabees' victorious fight for religious freedom.

Traditional latke recipes call for some flour, but I have found all you really need are shredded potatoes, eggs, salt, a little onion and oil for frying. If you want the consistency flour creates, almost any gluten-free flour or starch will work. I have used corn starch, potato starch and some ready-made flour mixes over the years. I would just stay away from any that have a strong flavor, plain bean flour or sorghum for example, unless you want to add that flavor to the latkes.

The food processor makes shredding easy, just be sure to squeeze out the excess liquid before you put the shredded potato in a bowl. Mix in the eggs, salt and onion and any gluten-free flour if you are using it. (The amount of each will depend on how many latkes you want to make. Three to four  large potatoes, 2 eggs and about 1 tablespoon of flour if using will make about 24 latkes.)

Drop the potato mix into oil that has been heated in a skillet. When the latkes are brown around the edges, you know it's time to flip them. Fry until the second side is crispy. Drain on paper towels. (You can keep the latkes warm in the oven but they will lose a little crispiness compared to latkes that come right from the frying pan.) Serve with applesauce, sour cream or if you have a real sweet tooth like my family, sprinkle them with sugar.

There is a great recipe for simple donut holes in The Gluten-Free Gourmet, the late Bette Hagman's first and still fabulous cookbook. I have used if for many years. If you are more ambitious and, even with little time, want jelly-filled doughnuts, there is a whole website to devoted to sufganiyot. I am not kidding - it's sufganiyot.com, that includes a gluten-free recipe.

The blog elana's pantry is another good gluten-free resource this Chanukah. Elana has a full dinner menu featuring luscious roasted chicken with olives and prunes that's Chanukah-worthy without being too hard to make. The dinner takes an interesting twist with butternut squash latkes.  The menu meets all my requirements for simplicity and exceptional flavor.

If you have other allergies in addition to celiac disease, check out the Chanukah recipes at hipp kitchen.

I have to admit I feel a little badly that Chanukah will not get a lot of attention this year due to its spot on the calendar. But if you have a nice dinner and light the candles in your menorah ( a total of 44 over eight nights), the holiday will serve as the light that warms and cheers us during the time of year when daylight is shortest.

Happy Chanukah!
Amy Ratner

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