CONCORD, N.H. -- The holidays are upon us, and that means there is a lot of eating to be done.
Thankfully, the season is scheduled to create the perfect celebratory eating circuit. Start with Thanksgiving, follow it closely with Hanukkah, then cruise through Christmas and end with a New Year's banquet bash.
Not Jewish? So what. Just as you don't need to be Christian to celebrate Christmas, you also need not be Jewish to appreciate Hanukkah -- or at least to savor some of its traditional foods.
Though I'm not Jewish, my father is. That meant that while I may never have had a bar mitzvah, I've enjoyed plenty of great Jewish foods, including my grandmother's raisin kugel (think chewy cake and cookie in one).
But perhaps my favorite Jewish food is the knish (pronounced kuh-NISH), a sort of burrito for the Hanukkah set. Soft dough is baked around a variety of fillings, potatoes and mushrooms among the more traditional choices.
A great source for a wide variety of veg-friendly Jewish recipes -- including a number of knish options -- is Steven Raichlen's "Healthy Jewish Cooking" (Viking, 2000). For a great starter knish, try Raichlen's fat grandma's potato knishes, which he says are easier to form than the more traditional bread-coated variety.
Fat Grandma's Potato Knish
(Preparation 1 hour 5 minutes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, minced (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes (about 3 or 4), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as chives, parsley, basil and dill
Freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons flour or bread crumbs
1 cup unflavored bread crumbs
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over a medium flame. Add the onion and cook about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add garlic and paprika and cook until caramelized, another 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot with cold salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan. Cook the potatoes over a medium flame 1 to 2 minutes to evaporate any remaining liquid. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly.
Mash the potatoes in the pot. Stir in the onion mixture, herbs, egg and salt and pepper, to taste. Mix in the flour or bread crumbs. Potato mixture should be thick enough to form with your hands.
Wet your hands and form the potatoes into patties about 1 1/2 inches thick and 3 inches across.
To use the optional crust, combine the bread crumbs, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder in a shallow bowl. Dredge each knish through the crumbs, shaking off any excess.
Arrange the knishes on a nonstick baking sheet lightly sprayed with oil. Spray the tops and sides of the knishes with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning the knishes with a spatula after 15 minutes.
Makes 8 knishes.