A Taste of Two Celebrations

In the Bay Area, winter holiday time is eclectic, rich in traditions from across the globe. Over the years, we’ve been invited to feasts of every variety. Come Hanukkah, my house is thick with the smell of potato latkes frying. Christmas morning is spent at my friend Mary’s house, who always puts out a delicious ham simmered in white wine, plus mounds of biscotti and Christmas stollen for dessert.


I, for my part, am famous – at least among my boys and their hungry friends – for my potato latkes, which I always serve with applesauce made from apples from the first tree we planted when we moved into our house 22 years ago.


And what’s a potato latke without my friend Mary’s fabulous ham?


Talk about the ecumenical spirit!




Sara’s Latkes


  • 4-5 large russet potatoes
  •  2 eggs
  •  1 grated onion
  •  ¼ cup flour
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  •  Grated pepper to taste
  •  1½ teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/3 cup vegetable oil


Peel the potatoes and soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Dry well, then grate in a food processor if you have one, a fine grater if not. Place in a colander and press gently to drain off as much liquid as possible.


Transfer the grated potatoes to a mixing bowl, add the flour, egg and other ingredients.


Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan. When hot, drop in tablespoons of the mixture and fry until brown on the underside. Turn and brown on the other side. Drain well and serve hot, with sour cream and applesauce.




Mary’s Ham


  • Large, smoked ready-to-eat ham
  •  Bunch of parsley
  •  2 onions
  •  Bay leaf
  •  Handful of thyme
  •  2 stalks celery
  •  2 bottles white wine


Place ham, vegetables and herbs in a large stockpot and place on the stove top. Pour in both bottles of white wine until the meat is covered. Turn the flame to high until it comes to a boil, and then turn it down, making sure it continues to simmer for about four hours.

Serve with a loaf of warm crusty bread.


Sara Solovitch is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.

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