Jamie Geller on the Festival of Deep-Fried Oily Foods

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14 Dec 2011
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Chanukah might be known as the Festival of Lights, but for cooks, it’s really all about the deep-fried oily foods that become an indispensable part of our menu. I’ve noticed that during this time, I smell like a fast food joint for eight days straight; you’d think that I had deep fried my clothes, my shoes, everything I touch.

But why do we eat fried foods?

In the Geller house, because we love them, and we need no excuse to munch away. But the rest of the Jewish world has a reason – several, in fact.

The simple answer is that foods fried in oil remind us of the oil that burned miraculously when the Maccabees purified and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Latkes and sufganiot are fried, which is why we eat those specifically on this holiday.

Additionally, the Hebrew word shemen, meaning oil, contains the same letters as shemoneh, eight, which was the number of days that the miracle of the oil lasted. There are no coincidences in Jewish tradition, people.

Mystically, both the Temple Menorah and the oil used to light it are associated with chochmah, Torah wisdom. The war between the Greeks and the Jews was essentially a war of ideas – which culture and whose wisdom would endure? The Greeks wanted everyone under their rule to value their philosophy and think exactly as they did, so they were violently opposed to the idea of G-d’s wisdom and forbad the study of Torah. Many Jews obeyed these laws and were lured from Judaism by the attractive Greek culture. But Jews devoted to Torah just as adamantly refused to give in. Both sides knew it would be a fight to the death.

Well, we all know who won. We still live by the Torah, and somehow, the Greeks stopped thinking. A drop of oil symbolizes the whole thing, so it’s no wonder we indulge in oily delicacies!

Now it’s your turn.  Try these Cheddar Potato Latkes, then move to this fun Chopped Mexican Salad, and end with Nutella and Banana Egg Rolls – or come find more of my Quick & Kosher recipes and many community recipes on JoyofKosher.com.

Chopped Mexican Salad

6 servings




  1. In a large bowl combine rice, lettuce, tomatoes, beans, avocado, onions, cilantro, and cheese and toss lightly.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, salt, chili powder, and cumin.
  3. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat evenly. Divide between 6 bowls or plates and garnish each with a Tablespoon of sour cream to serve

TIP: Add a sprinkle of taco chips to top off this fiesta with a crunch.

Cheddar and Potato Latkes with Spiced Applesauce

12 servings




  1. In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 15 minutes or until tender.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, combine applesauce and spices in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. When potatoes are tender, drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher leaving some lumps. Stir in cheese, egg, matzah meal, chives and salt.
  4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Scoop ¼ cup of batter and carefully place in oil. Flatten to about ½-inch thick with a spatula. Repeat to form 4 more latkes in your pan, being careful not to crowd the pan and cook for 4 to 6 minutes. Flip and cook 4 to 6 minutes more or until golden brown on both sides.
  5. Transfer to a paper towel lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining batter.
  6. Serve with spiced applesauce.

Nutella-Banana Egg Rolls

8 servings




  1. In a medium bowl, combine banana, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon and mix well, smashing bananas slightly with the back of a wooden spoon.
  2. Lay out egg roll wrappers on a large work surface. Working with one wrapper at a time, spread 1 Tablespoon nutella across the wrapper, leaving about ¼-inch border around all edges. Spoon 3 Tablespoons banana mixture across the middle of the wrapper and lightly brush all the edges with water. Position the wrapper so that one point (corner) is closest to you. Fold that corner up just enough to cover the filling. Fold each side over to meet in the middle and roll up from the bottom. Brush final corner with water, and press lightly to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet seam side down. Repeat with remaining wrappers, nutella and filling.
  3. Heat about ¼-inch oil in a large skillet. Fry egg rolls 6 to 9 minutes or until golden brown on all sides, using tongs to brown evenly. Remove and let drain on paper towels.
  4. To serve, dust with confectioner’s sugar and cut in half.

Jamie Geller was “The Bride Who Knew Nothing” – until she found her niche as everybody’s favorite kosher cook next door. She is the author of the best-selling Quick & Kosher cookbook series, creator of the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine and host of the popular Quick & Kosher cooking show online at youtube.com/joyofkosher and on-air on JLTV.  Join Jamie and the world’s largest kosher food community on joyofkosher.com to discover 5,000 FREE kosher recipes, inspiring menu ideas, how-to videos, and more! Follow more of Jamie’s Quick & Kosher cooking adventures on Twitter @JoyofKosher and on facebook.com/joyofkosher.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.