I love when Chanukah starts on a Sunday evening. Naturally, I was thrilled when I looked at my calendar and found the first night of Chanukah falls on Dec. 18 — a Sunday!
The end of the weekend is the perfect time to invite family and friends, simply because they rarely attend a Sunday party at sunset. It’s the perfect time for people of all ages to enjoy a casual get-together, light candles, exchange gifts and have fun.
A cocktail party works well because of its versatility. The occasion revolves around hors d’oeuvres, which are easy to make and can be stretched into a light dinner. Because so many cocktail foods call for cheese, I suggest a dairy menu.
Young and old alike adore mini latkes. I rely on my usual latke recipe but form the batter into two-inch latkes. I serve applesauce and sour cream with these silver-dollar latkes.
I supplement the hors d’oeuvres I prepare with hummus, baba ghanoush, crudites and a cheese board accented with grapes. Cookies are always a welcome addition at the end. Because these foods can be bought pre-made, this is an easy way to entertain.
No cocktail party is complete without alcoholic beverages. Prosecco, vodka and a crisp white wine, such as sauvignon blanc, complement these foods. I have plenty of juices and seltzer on hand too.
There’s something joyful about sharing good food and warm feelings with special people on the first night of Chanukah. I’m mesmerized as I watch those first two miraculous candles flicker, knowing a whole week of possibilities lies ahead.
Nova roll-ups | Dairy
Yield: 16 roll-ups or more
1 pound Nova Scotia smoked salmon
1 large container whipped cream cheese
4 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
Open the package of smoked salmon. There should be about 16 strips of smoked salmon about an inch wide. If the slices are wider, cut them vertically with a sharp knife. Place the smoked salmon on a plate.
Spread some cream cheese along the length of the smoked salmon. Sprinkle some chives over the cream cheese.
Take one of the narrow ends of each smoked salmon slice and roll it toward the other narrow end until the entire smoked salmon slice is rolled up.
Place it on a serving plate with the seam side facing down so it doesn’t open. Put a toothpick through the roll-up. Continue until all of the smoked salmon slices are rolled up.
Cover them with plastic wrap until serving. The roll-ups can be refrigerated, but bring them to room temperature before serving.
Artichoke dip | Dairy
Equipment: two 2-cup ovenproof baking casseroles
Nonstick vegetable spray
2 cans of artichoke hearts (not jars marinated in oil)
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
Seasoned breadcrumbs for sprinkling
Paprika for dusting
Crackers for spreading
Coat the casseroles with nonstick spray. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Drain the artichokes in a colander. Using your hands, squeeze as much liquid from the artichokes as possible. Break off the leaves and place them into a mixing bowl. Remove the hairy part attached to the hearts and discard it. Cut the hearts into small pieces, and add them to the bowl.
To the bowl, add the Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream and garlic powder. Mix the ingredients with a spoon until well blended. Dividing evenly, move them to the prepared casseroles. Even out the surfaces.
Sprinkle the casseroles with the breadcrumbs, covering the entire surface area. Dust it with paprika for color. Bake them for 15 minutes or until the casseroles are bubbling. Serve this immediately with crackers.
Scallion squares | Dairy
Yield: 25 squares
6 tablespoons sweet butter
6 bunches of scallions
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
1¼ teaspoons salt
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ cup whole milk, plus 1 tablespoon
Place the parchment paper on a cookie sheet and reserve. Preheat your oven to 450 F.
On a plate, cut the butter into 1¼-inch cubes. Microwave the butter for 5-10 seconds to soften it. Reserve.
Cut off the scallion roots and the coarse ends of the leaves at the other end. Discard both. Dice, then chop the scallions. You should have about 1 cup. Reserve.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg until combined. Add the butter, and mix it with a fork until a crumbly dough forms. Add the scallions and milk, and mix until well incorporated.
Lightly dust your kitchen counter with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface, and knead it with your hands 6-8 times. Spread the dough into an 8-inch-by-8-inch square. With a sharp knife, cut it into 25 squares (cut 5 down and 5 across). Move the small squares onto the parchment paper.
Bake the dough for 12-15 minutes or until the squares turn a deep golden brown. Serve them warm or at room temperature.
Toasted nut brie | Dairy
1 round of brie
¼ cup of walnuts or pecans, chopped
Crackers for serving
With a sharp knife, remove the top rind from the brie and discard it.
Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 F.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a small roasting pan. Spread the nuts on the foil.
Bake the nuts for 2 minutes or so, checking often, as they burn easily. When the nuts are golden and fragrant, remove them from the oven and, with a spoon, sprinkle them on top of the brie. Press the nuts into the brie.
Leave the brie at room temperature until ready to serve. Serve with crackers. PJC
Linda Morel writes for the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication.