Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights which lasts for eight days, begins at dusk tonight, Wednesday the 27th of November. The holiday commemorates the victory of the Jewish people against Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 165 B.C, and the restoration of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which had been ransacked and desecrated.
The light in the Temple, which was to burn through every night, had been put out. The sealed vessels of consecrated olive oil for the light had been opened and defiled. But one unbroken vessel of pure olive oil, enough to burn for only one day, was discovered among the wreckage. It miraculously burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil was pressed.
So the tradition of eating fried foods on Hanukkah began, which Jews all over the world gladly observe. Traditional savory pancakes like potato latkehs are a familiar treat. Sweet sufganiyot donuts appear in all the markets and bakeries. But we overlook the significance of the fried goodies. It’s really all about the olive oil. So we offer this healthy, herby, version of zucchini fritters, from the wonderful Delights From The Garden of Eden cookbook, by Nawal Nasrallah (author of Dates).
And while the author’s intention wasn’t to celebrate Hanukkah, there is another traditional Hanukkah food in this recipe: cheese.
Herbed Zucchini Fritters
Adapted from Delights From The Garden of Eden, by Nawal Nasrallah
Yield: 12 pancakes
3 medium zucchini – about 1-1/2 lb. or 675 grams – grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions or onions
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup parsely, chopped
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper (optional)
Olive oil for shallow frying
Toss zucchini with salt in a colander. Set a plate directly on top and weight it down with a heavy pot or a bowl filled with water. Let zucchini drain for 30 minutes. Press out excess moisture.
Put zucchini in a big bowl and add the remaining ingredients except the oil, mixing well.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet. Drop 2 tablespoons of mixture into skillet. Flatten the pancakes with a spatula. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden.
Transfer to a plate and keep warm in a pre-heated oven. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.
Happy Festival of Lights, and happy feasting!
More scrumptious things to cook for Hanukkah:
Photo of zucchini fritters via Shutterstock.