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Friday, December 23, 2011

Sisterhood of the Traveling Menorah

It's Chrismukkah in Cucina49.  What's Chrismukkah, you say?  It's what David and I name the rare holiday season where Hannukah and Christmas collide.

Jewish holidays are on a lunar calendar, so Hannukah can fall anywhere in December.  There are years it's started at the very beginning of December, and years when it is at the very end.  This year it started at sundown this past Tuesday night, which means it's a Chrismukkah year in our household.

In the lobby of Cyrano's 
on the second night of Hannukah.

It's been a busy week with the closing of the wonderful, sold-out run of Inspecting Carol tonight and the start of rehearsals for my next project, along with helping out at a theatre whose board I sit on.  The main Hannukah ritual is lighting a menorah each of the eight nights, so I've started a project I call "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Menorah," where the menorah has come with me for the past couple of nights to wherever my evening commitment has been.  Have menorah, will travel.

Backstage at Inspecting Carol on the third night of Hannukah. 

Before I share one of my favorite recipes from this holiday season, I want to thank my friends and fellow bloggers who have read, commented upon and advised on this blog, which is just five months old.  I've loved hearing from all of you and value your input.  A special thanks to two bloggers who have sent me virtual kudos over the past month:  Curry and Comfort, a fabulous blog specializing in international food and particularly the food of India, which awarded me a "Versatile Blogger Award," and Gluten Free Food, a blog that makes living gluten-free look very tasty, which awarded me a "Fabulous Blogger Award" earlier this week.  Thank you Ramona and Balvinder for the kudos!

I've made the following recipe twice in the last month and will likely make it again in an appetizer version for our big Chrismukkah dinner on Sunday.  You can vary the meats used in the meatballs to suit your taste, but this is one of those moments when (ahem) I'm going to ignore a little pork working its way into the food. 

Mama Lidia's Meatballs
Adapted from Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Bastianich

I used crumbs I made from a stale loaf of rosemary bread,
which added another layer of flavor.
2 pounds 80% lean ground beef
1 pound ground mild Italian sausage
2 cups breadcrumbs, preferably fresh
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. truffle or kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Once the oven comes up to temperature, toast the breadcrumbs for two to three minutes if you are using fresh ones (which I highly recommend).

 Prepare two large cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper.

Place the carrot, celery, onion and garlic in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until the vegetables are almost liquefied. 

In a large bowl, combine the meats with your hands until thoroughly mixed.  Add the vegetable mixture, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs and mix again.  Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add them to the mixture, along with the parsley.  Mix again with your hands to combine the ingredients thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into balls with your hands.  You can vary the size of the meatballs--this recipe makes at least 48 large ones or 96 small ones. 

Bake for approximately eighteen to twenty minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs you are making.  This will result in a par-baked meatball that can then be finished while cooking in a sauce.  For a thoroughly cooked meatball, bake for another two minutes.

Serve with pasta or as an appetizer with a mustard or marinara sauce on the side.


  1. I think that is such a great idea to have had the menorah traveling with you during the holiday season. You do seem very busy these days and I am sure in all the chaos, a glance at the menorah does keep your thoughts in the spirit of the holiday.
    Your meatballs do look tasty, the beef and pork blend is so much better than just plain beef. Kudos to your for making your own breadcrumbs, which clearly makes a delicious difference.
    Happy Chrismukkah and congrats on your recent award!

  2. Happy Chrismukkah! I love celebrating any holiday.. it just means there is more food I get to eat. :) Congrats on your sold out show. Have a wonderful and merry time this holiday! Happy Cooking. ~ Ramona

  3. Chrismukkah - I love it!!! Very happy one to you and yours. I love meatballs and yours look great. Congrats on your show!

  4. Yay for Chrismukkah! It's a holiday not to be missed with these yummy meatballs :) I think your traveling menorah is ace!


  5. Hanukkah is new to me but after reading your post, I at least got some knowledge on what is this all about.

    Nice meatballs but I really need to replace the beef with some other meat. We would also love this over some spaghetti.

  6. Merry Christmasukkah! I love that you carried your menorah with you and lit the candles! The meatballs also sound delicious! Congratulations on the show being SOLD OUT!

  7. Happy Holidays to you and your family!
    Those meatballs look mouthwatering.

  8. Wonderful meatballs, have a wonderful holiday!

  9. Your meatballs look perfect! Enjoy your Chrismukkah celebration!

  10. I am thinking you may be on to something here. You could design a line of portable Menorahs..
    The meatballs look good

  11. The meatballs look perfect! Happy Holidays! xx

  12. What delicious sounding meatballs!! I hope you had a lovely holiday. Sounds like you are one busy person!

  13. Yay! You were chosen in my Tortuga Rum Cake giveaway. Shoot me the address you'd like me to have it mailed to:

  14. Thanks for the comments during the holiday season! I've just posted the first of the Chrismukkah recipes, with more to come.

  15. I grew up in NYC, celebrating Hanukkah with friends and still note it and celebrate it. Lovely post1