Looking for ten good men - and HANUKKA
Just in case you've NOT seen the posting on Mar gavriel's site (the name of which has been changed to: Mar Gavriel's Yekkish Cynicism; see here: http://margavriel.blogspot.com/),
he and several others are organizing (is that the right word in this context?) a Henewkish event to take place near the end of December. For which ten adult males are needed.
If you are within a few miles of Upper Manhattan (which, from the disadvantage point of North Beach, sounds like an impossibly exotic locale - imagine, all those mysterious Easterners!), you might want to learn more about this.
To quote his post word for word:
Minyān on the First Day of Hanukkā
WHERE: Some place in Upper Manhattan, to be determined
WHEN: First Morning of Hanukkā, Monday, Dec. 26
WHAT: Special minyān (including recitation of the Qerōvā in the repetition of the `Amidā), 8:30 AM
Followed by fleishig breakfast / Hanukkā party / JBlogger re-union at around 10:45
R.S.V.P. as soon as possible in the comments here (http://margavriel.blogspot.com/2005/11/minyn-on-first-day-of-hanukk.html).
By the way, this seems as good a time as any to opportunistically get a jump on Hanukka by posting what I hope may actually be the second blog-scribble of the season on that subject.
[Serious request - please suspend scepticism when reading any mentions of the deity - the existence of the deity MUST be assumed, in order to be fully involved in the holiday. And it does no harm to operate on that same assumption at all other times, either.]
Oily thoughts, Oily Recipes.
The miracle of the oil has, I think, three aspects.
The first aspect is that it reminds us that what is right, though often dwarfed by what is wrong, can nevertheless triumph, and outweigh the other side; that such a result is possible is what balances the universe.
Those who rededicated the temple were outnumbered, but they won - perhaps because they were right. The oil lasted more days than was possible, the right outweighed the wrong and extended the victory.
The second aspect is that while G_d does not (usually) intervene, He is not impartial. The partiality of Hashem is fundamental to our successes and moral victories. Our effort is a required component, but that which enables us is from the Master of the Universe.
The third aspect is that there should be a focus for one's efforts. Victory was one component, but had the efforts toward that end not had as culmination the rededication of the temple (hanukka refers to re-dedication), the effort would have been pointless.
That the light miraculously lasted eight days is a reminder that our goals are not hubris and pride, but restoring sanctification to a place in our lives. Action and sanctification (the week and the Sabbath, for example) complement each other.
Now, what would Hanukka be without some nice greasy eats?
I remember, with a hunger made all the more intense by time, the delicate apple beignettes which my friend Moosje's mom made, and deeply regret that at that young age I did not have the presence of mind to ask her for her exact recipe. They were a recurring delight every December, when the weather in Brabant is bitterly cold and the days are dark. Those comfortingly hot sweet treats each year again in coldest winter, and the candles, sparkling, brilliant... Where there is light, there is hope, and there is simcha.
My father's friend Henri, on the other hand, would make sfganiot (bemuelos) for Hanukka - divinely intoxicating when eaten warm from the kitchen.
I especially remember one year when the entire evening became a glorious sugar high haze... Probably as a result I hardly remember the slides of Henri's trip to Samaria. My mother was horrified when she heard how many bemuelos I had eaten.
Sfganiot, under whatever name they hide, are probably the original Hanukka treat. After all, apple fritters (such as I mention above) are very Dutch, and potatoes (as for Latkes) come originally from the Americas, and were distrusted for centuries after their introduction to the western world.
But, more suited for Hanukka than either apple fritters or bemuelos, are the Dutch relatives of the latter: oliebollen.
The name, quite simply, makes them utterly perfect for the occasion - 'oil balls'.
So then, here are four oily recipes: Oliebollen, Appelflappen, Latkes, Bemuelos.
4 (four) Cups white flour.
1.75 (one and three quarters) Cups warm (scalded) milk.
3 (three) TBS Sugar.
3 (three) Eggs.
1 (one) TBS oil.
1 (one) Tsp. Salt.
1 (one) TBS active yeast.
1.5 (one point five) cups chopped raisins.
A few drops vanilla essence, a little fresh orange or lemon zest.
Plus oil for deep-frying and powdered sugar for dusting.
Proof the yeast in the milk, with one tablespoon of the sugar dissolved therein (meaning: stir sugar and yeast into the warm milk, and let the yeast foam up and become all nice and active again).
Mix all other ingredients, and add the yeasted milk gradually after it has foamed. Mix well. Cover with a damp cloth, put in a warm place, and let the batter sit two hours or more till doubled in size.
Heat the oil for frying to 375 - 400 degrees. Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil (use a second spoon to push the batter off the first). Fry golden, remove from oil when done, drain on papertowels, and dust with powdered sugar.
Note I: A teaspoon of cinnamon can be added to the batter, or to the powdered sugar.
Note II: If the milk is too hot for you to put your finger into, it is too hot for the yeast. Better wait a moment - you don't want to kill the yeast, do you?
Note III: Leave plenty of space in the deep-fryer or the cauldron - there is nothing worse than bliksems hot oil splashing up or boiling over.
Note IV: Some folks avoid lactose and/or gluten. Sorry, this recipe is not for you. Get real.
[By the way, oliebollen are often sold from temporary stands outside train-stations and at busy intersections in many towns, from the beginning of November all the way through March. There's nothing quite like burying your snoot in a brown paper bag of warm balls, getting the powdered sugar down the front of your raincoat, while sheltering from the cold sleet, just outside the station.
Oliebollen are also eaten on new year's eve, along with some other things that I'm not too sure of. With coffee and Genever - no Dutch celebration is complete without coffee and a shot of Genever.]
APPLE BEIGNETTES (APPELFLAPPEN)
Use the same batter as above, minus the raisins. Instead, make the batter a little looser, dip sliced crisp apples in the batter, and fry golden. Dredge with powdered sugar. Serve hot.
One and a half pounds of potato (about four regular baking potatoes), peeled.
One large onion, peeled.
Half a dozen sprigs parsley, very finely minced.
Two TBS flour (preferably potato flour, but regular will do).
Grate potatoes and onions with a quick hand, squeeze out excess moisture in a sieve or doubled cheese-cloth, and mix all ingredients together.
Heat some oil in a frypan, spoon in a couple of mounds of the latke batter, and flatten with a spatula or the back of the spoon. Fry crispy on one side, turn over and do the other. Drain on papertowels on a heated plate.
Do not make the latkes too thick - they will not cook through before turning too dark.
Do not make latkes too large - they will not hold together well.
Do not use olive oil - it has too low a burning temperature.
If the potato mixture gets soggy (which of course it will!), it is a good idea to squeeze it out - containing it within a cheese-cloth for this very purpose is not a bad idea.
Serve with homemade applesauce: peel and slice some crisp apples, put in an enamel pan with a dash of calvados, a squeeze of lemon, a little sugar, and a pinch of spice. Cook on low till the apples can be broken up with a fork.
Or serve with Dilled Sour Cream: mix half a cup sour cream, one tablespoon finely snipped fresh dill, a few drops lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.
Drained yoghurt can be substituted for the sour cream.
Blackstrap molasses or Dutch appel stroop (thick stroppy apple syrup) are, though odd, also good. For homemade appel stroop simmer down some concentrated apple juice (some sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice optionally added) till thick and gluggy.
BEMUELOS (BEMUELITOS, SFGANIOT)
Two and a half cups flour.
Three quarter cups warm milk.
Quarter cup cane sugar.
Two TBS butter (softened).
Two TBS yeast (two packages).
Two egg yolks.
Half Tsp each: Ground cinnamon, mace (or nutmeg).
Generous pinch salt.
Tangy apricot preserves for filling, oil for frying, fine granulated sugar for rolling.
Proof yeast (let the yeast re-activate and foam up) in the warm milk with the sugar dissolved therein. Knead all ingredients to an elastic dough. Cover with a damp cloth, let rest a few hours till doubled in volume, or leave it overnight in the refrigerator.
Roll the dough out as a thick rope, which then cut into two dozen pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, make a pit in each ball, and insert a teaspoon of tangy apricot preserves into each pit. Pinch-pull the dough together over the filling to seal. Cover and let rise again for half an hour in a warm place.
Fry in hot oil (375 - 400 degrees Fahrenheit) till brown, turn onto papertowels to drain, roll in fine granulated sugar (it has to have that slightly gritty mouth-feel, which is why we don't use powdered sugar) and serve warm.
Hanukka sameach, y'all!
PS. Regarding measures, please note that the American measuring cup contains sixteen tablespoons (TBS), and that each tablespoon (TBS) is equal to three teaspoons (Tsp.).