A celebratory and seasonal Hanukkah menu, featuring sweet potato latkes and blood orange sufganiyot

Build a dinner from age-old favorites with a few twists thrown in

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published November 27, 2021 5:30PM (EST)

Jar of apple sauce and bowl of crispy potato latkes (Getty Images/Westend61)
Jar of apple sauce and bowl of crispy potato latkes (Getty Images/Westend61)

Planning a Hanukkah dinner with family and friends? In addition to breaking out standby recipes, consider a few culinary departures. From crispy latkes with a sweet twist to a fool-proof, but still festive, dessert, these recipes from the Salon archives really shine for the Festival of Lights. 

Sweet potato and apple latkes with hot honey mascarpone 

This sweetened up version of traditional latkes leans on crispy sweet potatoes with pops of bright, shaved apple and some jammy red onions. Instead of the go-to sour cream as an accompaniment, we've substituted rich, tangy mascarpone spiked with just a little hot honey. Quick note: Sweet potatoes have a fair amount of moisture. This becomes really apparent when you shave them down for the latkes. Be sure to really wring all extra water from the fruit and vegetable mixture before frying. 

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Oxtail ragù with orzo

Swap out brisket for this slow-simmered oxtail ragù, which is flavored with finely chopped rosemary and oaky red wine. What I like about this dish for entertaining is that it is the poster child for "set it and forget it" cooking, allowing you to focus on other things (like making dessert?). Typically the accompanying orzo is tossed with butter, but feel free to substitute good-quality olive oil if you're avoiding dairy. 

Simple shaved vegetable salad 

Last month, Maggie Hennessy wrote a gorgeous guide to getting out of one's next salad rut, because it's honestly inevitable. I won't spoil the tips, which you can read in full here, but she did suggest a salad that I think would be a perfect addition to your holiday table. It's blessedly simple — built from shaved crunchy vegetables like carrots, fennel, radishes and red onions, dressed with a simple mustard vinaigrette — but the freshness and acidity will cut through some of the more decadent (i.e. fried) dishes beautifully. 

Sufganiyot with blood orange jam 

Is it actually a Hanukkah party without olive oil-fried doughnuts? We think not. Check out this detailed walkthrough from Food 52 for making sufganiyot, but instead of the called-for apricot jam, consider a variation that uses blood orange marmalade. In an interview with Salon, Institute of Culinary Education chef-instructor Adrienne Cheatham recommended the seasonal fruit: "They are so nice to use in marmalade, because you get a little bit more of those kind of juicy fruity-berry flavors." 

Spiced chocolate cloud cake 

While dinner parties and holidays are a fun time to stretch your culinary muscles — I mean, why not break out an entirely new menu for a group of ten?! — I like to have at least one fool-proof dish on the table. For me, that's this spiced gingerbread cloud cake. It takes its inspiration from Richard Sax's famous flourless chocolate cake. 

"The cake emerges from the oven with a craggy crust and a fallen, basin-like center that gets filled with cool whipped cream," I wrote. "For me, it's a casual dinner party go-to, because it's simple, decadent, naturally gluten-free and that pile of whipped cream can hide a multitude of sins." 

This version packs a little more seasonal warmth; the batter is packed with molasses, dark chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The end result of an achievable, easy-to-make dessert remains the same. 

More Salon stories about Hanukkah: 

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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