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A twist on tradition

First a hearty mazal tov to Ronnie Fein, kosher food blogger, cookbook author, and frequent contributor to JCC Circle Monthly on recently being named the second recipient ever of the Gil Marks Award at Kosherfeast, a dinner that kicks off the enormous kosher food trade show, Kosherfest.

Ronnie has graciously shared some of her Hanukkah-appropriate recipes with us. Did you know that there’s a dairy tradition to the holiday, as well as the more commonly known fried one? Holofernes, a cruel Syrian-Greek general lay siege to the Judean city of Bethulia. He had cut off the town’s food and water, and the residents were ready to surrender. Only Judith, a young widow, refused. Bearing a basket of bread, wine and cheese (that’s the dairy part) she entered Holofernes tent, saying she had information that would help defeat the town. He ate her goods and fell asleep. Seizing the moment, Judith decapitated him. Ouch!

So you prefer the one about how the single cruse of oil burned for eight days? Well, Ronnie isn’t forcing you to decide. She’s offered some untraditional recipes that fit both preferences.


  • 4 round crackers, preferably sweet
  • 4 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted almonds
  • mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the crackers on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Slice the cheese into 4 equal rounds and place them on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has softened and the edges begin to brown. While the cheese is baking, combine the honey and cranberries in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until warm. Place the cheese on dessert plates. Pour the honey/cranberry sauce on top. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Garnish each with a mint leaf.

Make 4 servings


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 6-8-ounces grated Swiss cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until softened and golden brown. Remove the onions to a bowl to cool. In another bowl, mix the melted butter with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Brush a film of this mixture inside a baking pan about 11”x7” (or 10” round). Peel the potatoes and cut them into thin slices. Wipe the potatoes with paper towels to dry the surface. Place the potato slices in the bowl with the melted butter and olive oil and toss them around to coat them completely. Place a layer of potatoes in the pan, overlapping the slices. Top with some of the onions. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and some of the thyme or rosemary. Repeat layers two more times. Scatter the cheese on top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Note: You can make these in individual ramekins; cooking time after you remove the cover will be shorter; check after 20 minutes.


  • 2 large sweet onions (or 4 medium yellow onions), sliced thin
  • seltzer
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • vegetable oil

Place the onions slices in a bowl and pour enough seltzer on top to cover the onions. Let rest for about 30 minutes. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, paprika and garlic powder. Remove the onion slices from the seltzer and press in a sieve or colander to drain off as much seltzer as possible. Place the onions in the bowl with the flour mixture and toss to coat the slices. Heat about 2-inches of vegetable oil in a large, deep sauté pan to about 360 degrees (a bread crumb will sizzle). Working with a handful of onion slices at a time, fry for about 3 minutes, tossing them as they cook, or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Continue with the remaining onion slices.

Should make 4 servings but if you really love crispy onion strings, this recipe will serve 2

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