Those Were the Nights of Chanukah

There is something special about the casual nature of a Chanukah party: family time by the glow of the menorah, lively music in the background—the relaxed feeling of a weeknight get-together. Party food that is totally different than the formal fare that regularly graces our Shabbat tables is also part of the draw. I relish the opportunity to make special dairy recipes I don’t often get the opportunity to showcase. Freshly fried foods, rich melty cheesy dishes and items that are best served right away are a treat to cook, but even more fun to eat! It’s a time to be in the moment of the light and joy of the holiday and to appreciate the miracles around you. And like all holiday splurges, the diet starts next week. 


Roasted Beet, Pear & Goat Cheese Medallion Salad 
Yields 68 appetizers or 1012 mini salads
Dressing yields about ½ cup

Fried goat cheese rounds are a special touch in this salad of contrasts. All of the other salad components can be prepared ahead. 

3 beets, scrubbed and ends trimmed (or can use vacuum-sealed roasted beets)
23 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
45 ounces goat cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 cup bread or panko crumbs
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup canola oil
1 (6-ounce) bag baby spinach or mixed field greens
1 Anjou pear, halved, cored and sliced thinly crosswise
½ red onion, minced
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Lemon-Honey Dressing
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Layer two large pieces of tin foil, one on top of the other; place beets in the center. Drizzle oil over the tops and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Gather the tin foil around the beets and close to form a tightly sealed pouch. Place pouch on a baking sheet and roast for at least 1 hour, or until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork. When tender, remove from oven and cool. Once cool, gently slip off (or scrape away) the skins from beets. Halve and cut beets into ½-inch slices. Set aside.

Using unflavored floss, gently cut thin slices of goat cheese (approximately 1/3” thick) by holding the floss ends in each hand and pulling downwards through the goat cheese. Carefully dredge each slice in beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Transfer breaded cheese rounds to parchment or waxed paper; refrigerate until ready to fry. 

Heat canola oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot and shimmering, fry cheese rounds until golden brown, turning once—about 30−60 seconds per side. Use a slotted spatula to transfer to a rack to drain.

Combine all dressing ingredients except oil in a small mixing bowl. Whisk to blend. Continue to whisk while slowly pouring in a stream of oil. Whisk until well-blended and emulsified. Season to taste with more salt and pepper as needed.

Toss baby spinach leaves in a large bowl with about half of the Lemon-Honey Dressing until lightly coated. Divide greens amongst salad plates; arrange sliced beets and pears in an alternating pattern around the perimeter of the leaves. Add a sprinkling of minced red onion; drizzle a little more dressing over salad if needed. Place 1−2 goat cheese rounds in the center of the beets and pears. Garnish with a sprinkling of nuts. Season to taste with a few grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.

Chef’s Notes: 
– If you need to prepare the fried goat cheese rounds in advance, refresh uncovered in a single layer in a 350°F oven for 5−8 minutes before serving.
– Dressing can be prepared up to 5 days ahead.
– Beets can be prepared up to 3 days in advance. 


Parmesan-Herb Twists
Photo: Baila Gluck

Parmesan-Herb Twists
Yields 18 strips

Flaky and cheesy, these pastries are a fun accompaniment on any dairy buffet table. 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from half 17.3-ounce box), thawed 
1 large egg, beaten 
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
½ teaspoon dried basil 
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt 
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 16 x 12-inch rectangle. Using the tip of a sharp knife or pastry wheel, cut in half lengthwise. Brush both halves with egg wash. 

Sprinkle half evenly with cheese, herbs and spices. Cover with remaining pastry half (egg-washed side down); press lightly to adhere. Run a rolling pin over dough to seal or use fingertips to crimp edges.

Cut dough crosswise into 18 strips (each about 6-inches long and ½-inch wide). Transfer strips to prepared baking sheet; twist each strip, pressing down on ends to adhere them to the sheet. Bake until twists are puffed and golden, 12−14 minutes. 


Baked Brie En Croute with Pears & Cranberry
Photo: Baila Gluck

Baked Brie En Croute with Pears & Cranberry
Yields 46 servings

Encased and baked in rich puff pastry, this baked brie is studded with roasted pears, cranberry and toasted pecans. Serve with toast, crackers or all by itself for an elegant starter—easy and delish!

1 pear, peeled, cored and diced small 
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme
23 teaspoons honey
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed 
1 round brie cheese
1/3 cup whole cranberry sauce
¼ cup chopped, toasted pecans
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with heavy duty foil or parchment paper.

Toss pears with oil, pepper, thyme and honey. Spread out on one baking sheet to an even layer. Bake for about 10−12 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Remove from oven; cool slightly.

Meanwhile, unroll pastry dough and place brie in the center of the pastry. Trim dough corners with a pastry wheel or the tip of a sharp knife to form a circle (its border should extend about 3−4 inches from the brie). 

Transfer pears to a mixing bowl and combine with cranberry sauce and pecans. Top brie with a generous helping of the mixture (you will have some extra). 

Brush border of pastry with egg wash. Gather and stretch pastry up and over the brie, folding and sealing dough together well on top. 

Place sealed pastry on remaining prepared baking sheet; brush with egg wash. Bake for 18−20 minutes, until golden brown. 

Chef’s Note: Twine can also be used for sealing up the pastry around the brie.


Coffee-Cream Sufganiyot
Yields approx. 1820 small doughnuts or 1214 large doughnuts

A fry thermometer is invaluable to ensure oil is at the right temperature. Too hot, and the doughnut will be burnt on the outside, raw on the inside. Too cold, and the doughnut will be greasy. 

1 cup lukewarm whole milk 
1 envelope dry active yeast (2½ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 cups white bread flour, plus more for dusting/kneading, as needed
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
Vegetable or canola oil, for frying 
Cinnamon and sugar, for rolling doughnuts

Coffee-Cream Filling
2 cups whipping cream 
2 tablespoons sugar
23 teaspoons coffee flavored liqueur

In the bowl of a mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the warm milk, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Mix until dissolved. Set aside until foamy, about 5−10 minutes.

In a separate large mixing bowl, combine flour, remaining sugar and salt and set aside. Add the beaten eggs and melted butter to the yeast mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture, continually incorporating the flour after each addition until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. Kneading can be done in a mixer with a dough hook; if kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic—it should be a soft, slightly sticky dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. 

Punch down the risen dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to roll out dough to ½-inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch rounds with a lightly floured biscuit cutter or a glass. Re-roll the scraps to create more rounds. Place the doughnuts onto a lightly floured baking sheet; cover lightly with a towel. Let rise about 30−40 minutes. 

Fill a large heavy pot with vegetable or canola oil—about 3 inches deep. Heat pot over medium-high heat until oil reaches 360°F. Carefully drop the risen doughnuts into the hot oil, a few at a time, until golden and puffed, turning once, about 2−3 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the doughnuts to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Roll warm doughnuts in a mixture of granulated sugar and cinnamon. Transfer to racks to cool completely. 

Using electric beaters, beat whipping cream in a large mixing bowl with sugar and liqueur until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a pastry bag; set aside. 

Insert the blade of a small sharp knife into the side of each doughnut about ¾ of the way to create a space for the filling. Insert the tip of the filled pastry bag into the prepared slit and squeeze until center of doughnut bulges slightly. Repeat with remaining doughnuts. 

Chef’s Note: Doughnuts can be filled up to 3 hours before serving. Let stand at room temperature until serving time.


Naomi Ross is a cooking instructor and food writer based in Woodmere, New York. She teaches classes throughout the country and writes articles connecting delicious cooking and Jewish inspiration. Her first cookbook, The Giving Table, was recently released.

This article was featured in the Winter 2023 issue of Jewish Action.
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