The best new Hanukkah recipes from a master of spice
Here are two fresh ideas for any Hanukkah gathering — one savory, one sweet — from Israeli-born chef Lior Lev Sercarz, who owns the New York specialty spice shop La Boite. (Full disclosure: These are recipes pulled from a cookbook called “Mastering Spice” that I co-wrote with Sercarz.)
Although neither dish involves deep-frying — the hallmark cooking technique of the holiday — Sercarz deploys lots of olive oil to make shallow-fried chickpeas and an orange blossom cocoa bundt cake. Both can be made before your guests come over and are ideal for a crowd.
Fried Smoky Chickpeas With Garlic and Ginger
1 ½ hours, largely unattended. Makes about 6 ½ cups.
Sercarz, spice merchant that he is, has assembled an unexpected and unusual alliance of spices for this chickpea appetizer — pungent amchoor (made from dried mangoes), smoky Spanish paprika, the caraway-adjacent seeds called ajowan — but the end result is simple to understand: irresistible snacking goodness. The fried chickpeas are tasty enough to eat alone but can be served with meat or fish or over yogurt. You can buy the spices online or in an Indian or Middle Eastern market.
Main Spice Blend
- 2 ½ teaspoons dried garlic slices
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese
- 1 teaspoon pimentón (smoked paprika)
- ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
- 1 pound dried chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
- Kosher salt
Fried Chickpea Spice Blend
- 2 ¼ teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon ajowan seeds
- 1 tablespoon amchoor powder
- ½ teaspoon pimentón (smoked paprika)
- To make the main spice blend: Finely grind the garlic and mix with the ginger, cinnamon, pimentón and Aleppo.
- To make the chickpeas: Put the chickpeas in a large airtight container and add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.
- Drain the chickpeas and put in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches and add the oil. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, skim off any foam that’s risen to the surface, and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Stir in half the main spice blend. Reserve the remaining spice blend for serving.
- Simmer until the chickpeas are tender all the way through, about 50 minutes. Sample one; it should be very soft (chickpeas will firm up as they cool).
- To make the fried spice blend: Finely grind the cumin and ajowan seeds together, then mix in the amchoor and pimentón.
- Drain the cooked chickpeas well, then transfer to paper towels and roll around to dry completely. If you have time, refrigerate them overnight on a plate lined with paper towels to dry even more thoroughly.
- Coat a large skillet with olive oil to a depth of ¼ inch and add one-third of the fried chickpea spice blend. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the spices are sizzling, about 30 seconds. Add a generous 2 cups chickpeas and fry, stirring and turning to coat evenly with the spices, until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat with more oil and the remaining spices and chickpeas.
The simmered chickpeas can be cooled completely in the cooking liquid and then refrigerated in their cooking liquid for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.
Glazed Orange Blossom and Chocolate Olive Oil Bundt Cake
3 hours, largely unattended. Serves 10 to 12.
Olive oil keeps this fine-crumbed cake fresh and moist even after it sits out for days. Its flavor — cocoa and orange blossom, amplified and echoed by urfa, a spice with the aroma of chocolate and citrus — is as complex as it is instantly agreeable. And anyone intimidated by baking will appreciate this no-fail batter that’s mixed by hand.
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon urfa pepper
- Nonstick pan spray, oil or butter, for the pan
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- 1 orange
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3 to 6 tablespoons whole milk
- To make the spice blend: Stir together the cocoa, cinnamon and urfa. Reserve one-third of the mix (¼ cup) for the glaze.
- To make the cake: Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a small (10-cup) Bundt pan. Set the pan in a roasting pan in case any batter spills over (it shouldn’t) and to prevent the cake bottom from browning too much.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining spice blend until well mixed. In another bowl, combine the oil, milk, eggs and orange blossom water. Using a microplane grater, zest the orange directly into the bowl. Halve the orange, squeeze ¼ cup of juice (57 grams), and add to the bowl with the liquids. Whisk until smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Start whisking slowly from the center of the bowl, gradually drawing in the dry ingredients to prevent them from clumping. Once all the dry ingredients are incorporated, whisk just until smooth. The thick batter should drip off the whisk. Pour into the prepared bundt pan.
- Bake, rotating the pan 180 degrees once halfway through, until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
- Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Unmold and cool completely on the rack.
- To make the glaze: Mix the reserved spice blend with the powdered sugar. Add 3 tablespoons milk to make a thick glaze, adding up to 3 more tablespoons if necessary. Pour the glaze over the cooled unmolded cake and set aside until the glaze sets up, about 45 minutes.
The glazed cake can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from Mastering Spice by Lior Lev Servarz and Genevieve Ko.
Eat your way across L.A.
Get our weekly Tasting Notes newsletter for reviews, news and more from critics Bill Addison and Patricia Escárcega.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.