Hanukkah for Moderns

Two menus inspired by culinary customs from the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East suit today’s worldly tastes.

When you think of Hanukkah, chances are you imagine potato pancakes with applesauce, brisket, kugel, and rugelach. That’s traditional―if your roots trace back to Eastern Europe, as those of many American Jews do.

But for Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors hailed from Spain or Portugal and later migrated throughout the Mediterranean region to North Africa, Turkey, Greece, and other destinations, culinary traditions are quite different. Sephardic cuisine highlights the sunny, bright flavors of the Mediterranean―oranges from Spain, cumin from Morocco, bulgur from Turkey, olives, fresh thyme, lemon, dried fruit, and garlic―all fare that suits light cooking and modern palates.

And since Hanukkah lasts eight nights, to commemorate the miracle in 165 B.C. when one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days to light the eternal flame in the Temple of Jerusalem, you’ll likely gather with family and friends more than once during the holiday. Here are two menus that spotlight Sephardic flavors: There is a company-worthy dinner to share with friends and a casual supper to enjoy with family.

Hanukkah with Friends Menu (serves 8)

Family Festival of Lights Supper Menu (serves 8)