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Thinking outside the box

Molly Yeh’s Latke Hotdish Recipe
This beloved Upper Midwestern dish gets a seasonal makeover!

By Molly Yeh

I developed a love for hotdish after moving from New York to a farm on the North Dakota/Minnesota border. It’s a type of casserole from the Upper Midwest — a one-dish, comforting meal that’s an easy way to feed a crowd. There are three basic components: a starch, a protein, and a vegetable, bound together by a creamy sauce (often derived from a can). This recipe uses pureed butternut squash as a binding agent, making it dairy-free.

Tator tots have been a popular hotdish topping since the mid 1950s but, to celebrate the season, I’ve subbed them for latkes. The latke recipe makes enough mini latkes for this hotdish, plus a few more to nosh on as you’re cooking!

You can make the hotdish filling a day in advance and store it in the refrigerator — it may just need a few more minutes in the oven when you come to cook it.


For the hotdish filling:
2 1/2 Tbs canola or vegetable oil
2 lbs brisket, cut into 2” pieces
kosher salt
black pepper
1 large onion, sliced
2 carrots, chopped into 1/2” coins
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1/2” pieces
1/2 cup red wine
1 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef or vegetable stock leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
2 apples, cored and sliced
1 small (2-2 1/2 lbs) butternut squash, halved and deseeded a good pinch of crushed red pepper

For the latke topping:
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1 large yellow onion
3/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup all purpose flour
black pepper
canola or vegetable oil, for frying


For the hotdish filling: 

Heat 2 Tbs canola oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the brisket, season with 1 1/2 tsp salt and a few turns of black pepper, and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the 

onion, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the red wine and cook for a few minutes until it’s reduced by half.

Add the brown sugar, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, stock, rosemary, and apples and simmer uncovered for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender. 

You want this to reduce and get quite thick and saucy;  however, if it reduces too far to where it’s more gloopy than saucy, add a bit more stock.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the innards of your squash with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and a few turns of pepper, and roast until a fork pokes easily into the center, begin checking at 1 hour.

Puree the squash and then stir it into your hot dish mixture with crushed red pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Increase the oven heat to 400 degrees F. Transfer the mixture to an 8” by 12” casserole dish and top with latkes lined up in neat rows. Bake until the mixture is bubbly and the latkes are deep brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

For the latke topping:

Shred the potatoes and onions in a food processor or with a grater or mandoline. Place in a strainer that’s been lined with cheesecloth. Toss with salt and let sit over a bowl for 30 minutes. Gather the top of the cheesecloth and then use your hands to squeeze out as much excess moisture as you can.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in the eggs, lemon juice, flour, and a few turns of black pepper.

Heat a skillet with a 1/4” oil until shimmering. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, fry up loosely packed rounded tablespoons of the latke mixture until browned on both sides. Add more oil to the pan as needed. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside until ready to use.

Reprinted from nosher.com


Grilled Cheese Latkes are Melty Masterpieces

By Melinda Strauss

There’s just something about comfort food that always gets me excited to eat. Give me some mac n’ cheese, tuna casserole or a grilled cheese sandwich and I am good to go. Can you tell that I love dairy? Hanukkah, which is traditionally celebrated with oily
and cheesy foods, really is the perfect holiday for me!

On Hanukkah we eat foods fried in oil to symbolize the oil that lasted eight days when the Maccabees rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after their victory over the Greeks. The dairy is to celebrate Judith’s victory when she saved her village from the Babylonians. Basically, she served the General of the Babylonian army a basket of wine and salty cheese (the salt made him thirsty and got him very drunk). When he passed out, she beheaded him and scared away his army. It’s a bit graphic but definitely worth celebrating!

So now let’s get back to my comfort food, which really does tie in to Hanukkah beautifully. I decided that what this holiday really needed was a crispy latke fried in oil then sandwiched together with cheese. Sounds good, right?!? Jewish-American comfort food taken to the max.


2-3 large potatoes, peeled (2 cups grated)
1 egg
3 Tbsp plain bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp light olive oil
5-10 slices cheddar cheese


Line a large bowl with a kitchen towel and line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels.

Peel and grate the potatoes and place them in the towel then squeeze out all of the liquid from the potatoes. Discard the liquid then place the dried potatoes in the bowl. Stir in the egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper until combined.

In a heavy saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. To test if the oil/butter mixture is hot enough, drop a small piece of the potato mixture into the pan and if bubbles form around the edges, the oil is ready.

Carefully place two ¼ cup-sized scoops of the potato mixture in the pan and cook for two minutes, until the latkes are browning on the bottom.

Flip the latkes over carefully with a spatula and place 1-2 slices of cheddar cheese on one latke. Cook for one more minute then place the second latke on top of the cheese and press down. Cook for 30 seconds then flip over the grilled cheese latke sandwich, press down and cook for 30 more seconds.

Place the hot grilled cheese latkes on the paper towels to drain then repeat this process to make 3-4 more sandwiches.

Once the latkes have drained, it’s time to eat!

If you want to take these grilled cheese latkes to the next level, you can add avocado or spinach to the cheese while cooking or switch it up with your favorite cheese.


CHANUKAH under wraps
12 fabulous holiday gifts from Israel, for all budgets

Add a special touch to your Chanukah presents by sourcing them from Israel at a range of prices from under $12 to under $600. No matter where you live, you can buy Israeli gifts from the comfort of home. Here are 12 items for every person on your gift list and for every budget.


Sock Monsters Laundry Sock Locks, by Ototo Studio, $11.20 

The perfect gift for anyone who has ever lost a sock in the laundry. That would be all of us. Ototo’s silicone sock monsters are designed to help keep socks together when you wash and dry them, whether it’s in the tumble dryer or on the line. Eight different sock monsters to each box. 


Arthur Egg Cup Holder, by Peleg Design, $13.84 

Peleg Designs have turned the humble egg into an egg in shining armor, with their King Arthur egg cup holder, which includes a spoon “sword” and protective helmet that keeps your egg warm until you’re ready to eat. Peleg also does a pair of sumo egg holders for $15.99, which are definitely worth a mention, and a yogi sponge holder for $12.99. 


Shani’s Shoebox by Rinat Hoffer, $15.99 

This delightful book for ages 4-8 is one of the only titles by award-winning Israeli children’s author Rinat Hoffer that’s translated into English. (Hoffer’s Hebrew bestsellers include Ayelet Metayelet and Hanan Haganan.)


Chutzpah: Why Israel Is a Hub of Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Inbal Arieli, $18.99

Inbal Arieli says chutzpah is an essential spice in the secret sauce of Israel’s innovation culture because it fosters entrepreneurial skills from a young age. Her book proposes structures, concepts and principles that can be used by parents, executives, innovators and policymakers anywhere to follow Israel’s example.


Sindyanna Trio Gift Set, $21.99 

Produced by a fair-trade nonprofit in the Upper Galilee employing Jewish and Arab women, Sindyanna extra-virgin olive oil has won many awards. This gift package contains three 3.38-ounce bottles for every need, from cooking to skincare.


Shoresh Body & Soul Organic Cocoa Body Butter (220ml), $23

Nicole Cohen makes this moisturizing body butter from organic cocoa butter, organic shea butter, cold-pressed almond oil, organic vanilla CO2 essential oil and orange essential oil. Cocoa butter helps heal dry, cracked skin and is a great source of natural antioxidants.


Papier Mache Pomegranate Mobile from Yad LaKashish, $25.80

When you buy this colorful mobile made of recycled paper, you help support the elderly people who handmade it at Jerusalem’s Yad LaKashish workshop in exchange for a living wage and a supportive community. Each pomegranate is approximately 2 by 3.3 inches; the mobile is about 41 inches long.


Falafel Wall Clock from Barbara Shaw Gifts, $33 

This lighthearted wall clock will remind you that it’s always time for lunch, Israeli-style. (Include a AA battery to complete the gift!) If falafel is a little too quirky, you can also buy a more classic version of this clock with the word Ahava (love), written on it in Hebrew for $35.


TLV: Recipes and Stories from Israel by Jigal Krant, $35.80 

This cookbook/narrative/photo essay combines the essence and flavors of Tel Aviv. You’ll find recipes for street food (hummus, falafel, shakshuka and sabich) and see dishes common to the city’s infinite restaurants, where chefs make poetic use of the eating traditions of their immigrant population and Arab neighbors.


Tealight Candle Holders by Orly Rabinowitz, $46 

Colors such as bright pink, orange, light blue, and vivid green in these handmade polymer clay and glass tealight candle holders really pop in the glow of lit candles. They can also be admired on their own for their beautiful use of the Millefiori technique that requires no paint.


TytoHome Medical exam kit from TytoCare, $299.99 

TytoHome is a home medical kit and telehealth platform so you don’t have to drag the kids to the doctor. The modular unit examines body temperature, heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and abdomen, and sends results to a healthcare provider. Invented in Israel, TytoHome is available at Best Buy stores across the United States and at BestBuy.com. The cost of each exam, not exceeding $59.99, depends on the nature of the exam and/or the user’s health insurance plan.


Raptor AR Smartglasses by Everysight, $599 

For the serious cyclist, this ride computer could be the best present ever. Equipped with voice control and heads-up display, Raptor AR Smartglasses project an unobtrusive augmented reality layer of information in front of the biker’s eyes. Raptor’s HD front-facing camera allows the user to relive moments with real-time metrics embedded on the videos. 

Reprinted with permission from www.Israel21c.org. 

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