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Get Ready For Chanukah

white bean salad 1

We're just days away until the first candle is lit on your family’s Chanukah menorah. It’s never too soon to get out your holiday check list. So, did you buy a new box of candles yet? Are your pounds of potatoes and onions purchased for batch after batch of latkes? More important than anything else, especially if you have children, are all of your gifts bought, wrapped, labeled, and hidden?

Some years ago we started a Nathan family tradition, attempting to combat the mad rush we usually experience while preparing for the holiday. More like a family concept than a tradition, I should note… This two-step idea just made sense to us so feel free to adapt it into your family’s Chanukah routine…

Forget about a present for each night of Chanukah. Buy what really strikes you as a good gift; frivolous, perfect, or the thing (s)he’s been begging for….whatever. Buy it, wrap it, and don’t freak out about the nights that aren’t covered. Read on…

Make it a “Family Night” instead. After the candles have burned out and everyone is wondering about not having received their gift yet, as on all other nights of Chanukah, go on and do something. That’s right – do something instead of give something. Head to the ice cream parlor, or the skating rink. Catch a movie at the Cineplex with the whole family, or rent a video and pop up some sweet kettle corn. This is called family time and is more precious than any gift you can put a bow on.

On one of those nights that you’re trying to infuse some family time into the Chanukah celebration, the chef in me suggests that you get into the kitchen. Choose a recipe that everyone can participate in. You can prepare the family supper, or a special treat such as cookies, cake, or even the Chanukah specialty, latkes — crisp, warm and delicious. Let someone else scrape his knuckles on the grater this year! Even younger children can mix the meichel, so don’t be afraid to give everybody a job! If you’re looking to prepare something different, try the sweet Apple Latkes with Spiced Sour Cream or the Provencal Potato Latkes, with Roasted Red Pepper Relish found in my cookbook, Jeff Nathan’s Family Suppers.

And if you really want to try something out of the ordinary for Chanukah, here's a terrific recipe for Tuscan White Bean Salad. This recipe honors an abundance of the ever present oil of Chanukah, while staying away from the frying.

Wishing you all peace and happiness this holiday season!