Potatoes have long been associated with Hanukkah, which began on the evening of December 10th, because potato patties – potato shredded pancakes – are common at holiday dinners. In fact, it is oil reminiscent of the Hanukkah miracle, and it can be used in a wide variety of potato dishes.

After ancient Jerusalem was freed from the invaders, the oil needed to rekindle the eternal light of the Holy Temple is said to miraculously have lasted eight days instead of one. That is why Hanukkah is celebrated by candlelight for eight days.

Olive oil was used to light lamps and cook in ancient Israel, and we use this oil to prepare our potato dishes for Hanukkah.

Potato ball, made from a baked mix of potatoes, eggs, and flavorings, is a favorite of ours for the vacation. Some cooks make their balls from grated potatoes with a batter similar to that of potato fritters. In our family we sometimes make mashed potatoes with mushrooms and onions sautéed in olive oil, sprinkled with vegetables and flavored with saffron.

In contrast to my mother, who was born in Poland, we fry our potato fries in olive oil. Although we often serve the usual latke side dishes made from sour cream and apple sauce, we like to vary our toppings. We enjoy eating our potato fries with yellow pepper cheese sauce and black olives, a popular Peruvian way of serving potatoes. After all, it was in Peru that potatoes were domesticated for the first time, and the Peruvians are experts at preparing potatoes.

We also like smashed potatoes, for which lightly cooked potatoes are flattened and baked with olive oil to make their edges crispy. They might be the easiest Hanukkah potato goodies to prepare.


Mashed potatoes with sauteed mushrooms

Served mashed potatoes ball with mushrooms sautéed in olive oil. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


2 1/2 pounds of yellow fleshed boiled potatoes, such as B. Dutch yellow baby potatoes or medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes

1 1/4 teaspoons of salt and more to taste

Pinch of saffron threads, crushed (approx. 1/8 teaspoon)

6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 pound onions (2 medium-sized), chopped (about 3 cups)

6 ounces mushrooms, diced (about 2 2/3 cups)

1 teaspoon paprika plus more to sprinkle

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and more to taste

1 large carrot (about 5 ounces), diced small (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup small broccoli florets

1/2 cup frozen peas

4 large eggs

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1 hard-boiled egg, finely diced

Chef’s Notes: If you are using small potatoes with tender skins, there is no need to peel them.

Mashed potatoes with mushrooms sautéed in olive oil are shown straight out of the oven. (Photo by Yakir Levy)


1. In a large saucepan, cover the whole potatoes with water, add a few pinches of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium heat until tender enough to mash, about 25 minutes for small potatoes, 40 minutes for large ones. Transfer them to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Pour your broth into another bowl.

2. Combine the saffron and 1/3 cup of hot potato broth in one cup. Let stand covered for about 30 minutes.

3. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes, until mixture browns slightly. Taste; Customize spices.

4. Return 2 cups of potato stock to the pot. Bring to a boil. Add the carrot and broccoli. Cook uncovered over high heat for 5 minutes. Add the peas; cook until the vegetables are tender, about 1 minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you are using large potatoes, peel them. Finely mash the potatoes in batches with a potato masher. When using small unpeeled potatoes, remove large pieces of peel that are easy to peel off.

6. Stir in the saffron mixture and 2 tablespoons of oil, then the uncooked eggs one at a time. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper; mix well. Gently stir in parsley, mushroom mixture, vegetables and hard-boiled egg.

7. Oil a 2 liter casserole dish. Spoon into the potato mixture; smooth the top. Drizzle with the remaining oil. Sprinkle with paprika.

8. Bake, uncovered, until top is firm and golden, about 50 minutes. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

9. Serve hot or warm. Run a knife around the edges to make serving easier. Serve with a spoon.

Potato fries with Peruvian yellow pepper and cheese sauce

Potato fries are served with Peruvian yellow pepper cheese sauce, olives and hard-boiled eggs. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Fried latkes can be refrigerated overnight. Heat them on a baking sheet in a 450-degree oven for a few minutes.

Yield: 4 or 5 starter servings


2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper

1 1/4 to 1 1/3 pounds of rust-red potatoes (about 3 or 4)

1 medium onion (about 8 ounces), peeled, halved

1 large egg

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (for frying), more if necessary

Cheese sauce with yellow pepper, room temperature and additional pepper puree (see recipe)

15 black olives

2 tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley

3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered


1. To keep the latkes warm, heat the oven to 250F. Have a baking sheet ready. Line a plate with paper towels.

2. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and white pepper in a small bowl.

3. Peel the potatoes. Rub the potatoes and onions alternately with potatoes and onions using a coarse grater or chopping disc of a food processor or the large holes of a grater. Transfer the mixture to a colander. Squeeze it with a handful and remove as much liquid as possible. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

4. Add the egg; mix well. Add the flour mixture; mix well.

5. Heat 1/2 cup oil in a deep, heavy large pan over medium heat. For each latke, slide 1 heaping tablespoon of potato mixture into the pan. Using the back of a spoon, flatten it into a pancake about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Add more pancakes without crowding. Fry them until crispy and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side; Use 2 pancake rotators to twist them gently so the oil doesn’t splash. Transfer them to paper towels. Stir the batter before frying each batch. If necessary, reduce the heat so that the pancakes don’t get too dark. Add more oil to the pan as needed. Heat it up before adding more latkes. Keep them warm on the baking sheet in the oven. When the last spoons of batter are watery, leave the liquid in the bowl to avoid splashing.

6. Before serving, pat the latkes off with paper towels. Serve hot or warm with the sauce, additional pepper puree, olives, parsley and hard-boiled eggs.

Yellow pepper and cheese sauce

This Peruvian yellow pepper cheese sauce is made from yellow paprika. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

Frozen aji amarillo, Peruvian yellow pepper, is available in markets with South American ingredients. For information on how to replace peppers, see the variant.

Yield: about 1 cup, 4 or 5 servings


2 frozen Peruvian yellow peppers (just under 3 ounces), thawed, cut in half, seeds and membranes removed

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 chopped garlic clove (1 teaspoon)

1 cup (packaged) queso fresco (fresh Mexican cheese) (approximately 5.3 ounces), cut into small pieces

1/2 cup whole milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1. Pepper puree: cut the paprika into pieces. In a blender, puree the peppers with 1 tablespoon of oil to make a paste. Put in a bowl; Do not wash the mixer yet.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes, until soft but not brown. Add the garlic and heat while stirring for a few seconds. Let the mixture cool in a bowl.

3. Put the onion mixture in the blender. Add the cheese, 1/3 cup milk, and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pepper puree. Blend until everything is smooth. If the sauce is too thick, gradually mix in more milk at low speed. Scrape the sides of the blender. Beat the sauce again until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and more pepper puree to taste.

4. Serve the remaining pepper puree separately.

Variation: Replace Peruvian paprika with 1/2 yellow paprika. Remove the core and seeds. Fry the pepper on the foil with half the skin facing up until the skin turns black in some places, about 5 minutes. Enclose pepper in foil. Let cool down. Peel with a paring knife. Puree with oil after step 1 and add paprika sauce to taste.

Smashed potatoes with pepita pesto

Smashed potatoes are served with pepita pesto. (Photo by Yakir Levy)

These sharp-edged potatoes are based on a recipe from “Live Life Deliciously” by Tara Teaspoon.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


1 1/2 pounds of red or white baby potatoes

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan (optional)

4 tablespoons of olive oil, divided

Pepita pesto (see recipe)

Mashed potatoes baked with olive oil. (Photo by Yakir Levy)


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water, add the salt and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Drain well.

2. Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet with 3 tablespoons of oil. Roll the potatoes around on the baking sheet to brush with oil.

3. Use the bottom of a glass to flatten the potatoes until they are about 1 cm thick. Sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle with the remaining oil.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and crispy around the edges. Serve hot and top with a little pesto. Serve the rest of the pesto separately.

Pesto nugget

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


1/3 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon of grated orange peel

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 cup of Italian parsley sprigs or 1/2 cup of mixed fresh basil, mint, and oregano

3 to 4 tablespoons of fresh orange juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pinch of red pepper flakes or to taste


Combine the pepitas, salt, zest, garlic and parsley in a food processor.

Pulse until the parsley is very finely chopped.

Add the orange juice and olive oil.

Pulse until you get a pesto-like sauce.

Add black and red pepper.

Taste of salt.

Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Faye Levy is the author of “1,000 Jewish Recipes”.

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