Linda Morel | Special to the JT
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 tend to be busy at other events on a Sunday at sunset. It’s the perfect time for people of all ages to enjoy a casual get-together, and to light candles, exchange gifts, and have some fun and light food.
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 on the side with these silver-dollar ones.
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 make sure to have plenty of juices and seltzer on hand as well.
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)
Makes at least 16 roll-ups
- 1 pound Nova Scotia smoked salmon
- 1 large container whipped cream cheese
- 4 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
- 16-20 toothpicks
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)
- Two 2-cup ovenproof baking casseroles
- 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
Coat casserole dishes with nonstick spray.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
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 immediately with crackers.
Toasted Nut Brie (Dairy)
- 1 round of brie
- ¼ cup of walnuts or pecans, chopped
With a sharp knife, remove the top rind from the brie and discard it.
Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees.
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.