As the streets and homes of Palo Alto come to life, decorated with millions of electric lights, it’s hard to ignore the contagious joy of the holiday season. As some Palo Alto residents drive home with Christmas trees strapped to their cars, it’s clear the time has come to hang up decorations, spend time with family and embark upon a diet comprised solely of hot chocolate and cookies. There’s no snow to cover Palo Alto’s dying grass or towering palm trees, but it’s never too warm outside to hone your cooking skills.

This winter, don’t let the kitchen daunt you. I tried three simple traditional holiday recipes from around the world: Jewish Latkes, Mexican Pozole and Chinese boiled pork and cabbage dumplings. Each recipe boasts amazing flavors, as well as a cultural significance to those who prepare it during the holiday season.

[su_heading size=”20″]Jewish Apple Latkes[/su_heading]

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Jewish Apple Latkes are an age-old tradition. Centuries ago, the Jews of Judea reclaimed their Temple after facing years of religious discrimination under Hellenistic ruler Antiochus IV. All of their oil supply had been taken away except for a meager bottle, the contents of which could light a Menorah for only one day. The Temple rededication, however, took longer than a day and required the constant burning of a Menorah. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days and kept a Menorah lit for long enough for the Jews to produce more oil. The oil in which Latkes are traditionally cooked reminds Jews of this miracle.

Palo Alto High School junior Joanna Falla sent me this recipe from a family cookbook. Every year, Falla’s family enjoys a feast of latkes to celebrate Hanukkah. “This dish is significant to me because my grandmother made them [latkes] for parties and now my mom makes them for parties,” Falla says.

This quick-yet-delicious dish will have you in and out of the kitchen before a dreidel can finish spinning.

chopped apple

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Ingredients:

  • 2 large tart apples (cored)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 cup milk (you may need more)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (melted)
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Recipe courtesy of Joanna Falla (makes 6-8 large pancakes):

  1. Slice apples thinly without peeling (circular slices are best, but not necessary). Set aside in a bowl and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Combine egg, milk and butter in a separate mixing bowl.
  4. Gradually whisk wet mixture into the dry mixture to form a thin batter. Add more milk to further thin batter if necessary.
  5. Heat a greased frying pan and pour in a tablespoonful of batter.
  6. Cook each pancake over moderate heat until both sides are lightly browned, flipping when necessary.
  7. (optional) Serve with sour cream or maple syrup.
[/su_column] [/su_row] [su_heading size=”20″]Chinese New Year Dumplings[/su_heading]dumplings1

Chinese dumplings, shaped like gold ingots, bear symbolism of wealth and luck to Chinese families. “Usually, most Chinese families like my own eat dumplings during Chinese New Year because they symbolize prosperity.” Freshman Vivian Feng says. Dumpling making is a common family bonding tradition on Chinese New Year, which will fall on Feb. 8 this year.

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Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces of shredded cabbage leaves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ⅛ cup minced Chinese chives or green onions (white and green parts)
  • ⅓ pound ground pork
  • A pinch of ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)
  • ¾ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 package frozen round dumpling wrappers (gyoza/potsticker wrappers), defrosted at room temperature for 30 minutes
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Recipe adapted from the “Steamy Kitchen” blog (makes 25 dumplings):

  1. To make the filling, put the cabbage in a food processor and process until cabbage is finely minced. Remove the cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Add the ginger, chives, pork, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil to the food processor and pulse to make filling. Re-add cabbage
  2. Now that you have the filling, put a small spoonful of filling in each dumpling fold each one about the middle. Seal dumplings like an envelope: wet your finger and run it along the edges of the wrappers. Make sure your dumplings have no air bubbles because this will predispose them to rupturing when boiled.
  3. Fill a large pot of water halfway and bring it to a boil. Gently place ½ of your dumplings into the water to cook. When dumplings are cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and serve.
[/su_column] [/su_row] [su_heading size=”20″]Mexican Christmas Pozole[/su_heading]

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One can always count on pozole to mark a delicious end to a long day of holiday festivities. A staple in Mexican holiday cuisine, pozole is a soup that tastes just like the filling of a pork burrito.

Junior Marylin Valdez recommends pozole, as her family never goes through a Christmas without cooking up a pot or two of this dish.

“I grew up having this [pozole] be one of our [my family’s] main dishes,” Valdez says. “When it comes to the holidays, it’s something that the family will help make all together and will also enjoy all together at the end of the day for dinner.”

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Ingredients:

  • 3⁄4 lb pork shoulder
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1⁄2 onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon salt
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cups canned white hominy (use white corn in lieu of hominy)
  • 2 cups pork broth or chicken broth
  • 1⁄2 cup canned diced green chilis to garnish (optional)
  • 1 whole fresh jalapeños to garnish (optional)
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Recipe adapted from food.com (makes 5 servings):

  1. Peel and chop onion and garlic cloves. Combine in a bowl.
  2. Drain and rinse hominy.
  3. Place pork in a large skillet and barely cover it with lightly salted water.
  4. Cook pork until outside is light gray but inside is still very pink (the pork will be added to a soup and further cooked later).
  5. Take pork out of skillet and cut into inch-sized cubes.
  6. Saute chopped onions and garlic in oil until translucent.
  7. Heat pork/chicken stock in a large saucepan.
  8. Add sauteed onions and garlic, as well as chopped pork cubes into the saucepan to form a stew. Skim off any foam that rises.
  9. Stir in the hominy/corn.
  10. Cover and simmer broth for 20 minutes or until pork is cooked to desired degree.
  11. Serve in small bowls with tortilla chips and shredded cheese, if available.
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