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Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple after the Jews drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem, is replete with tradition and togetherness.

Chef Mali Wilson’s baked salmon is a delicious way to celebrate.
Mali Wilson is a chef to the stars.

“I like the idea of the Jewish freedom fighters,” says Mali Wilson, Grammy-nominated producer and artist, Emmy Award-winning actor, philanthropist and chef to the stars, such as Ludacris, Lenny Kravitz and Carly Simon. “It’s a wonderful celebration of redemption.”

Raised in a multicultural family learning many different religions, Wilson didn’t tap into her Jewish roots until later in life. But she’s always cooked, and since one of the hallmarks of Hanukkah is the food, she has a knack for tweaking a traditional dish with a healthy hack or adding a little soul to her matzah ball soup. “Food brings everyone together, but dishes like kugel and latkes can get boring if you don’t watch it,” she says.

Wilson loves sharing her recipes and time-saving tips with her Hanukkah-celebrating friends who might want to keep things simple but traditional with a twist. (She also shares her culinary gifts weekly on NBC’s “Atlanta & Company” if you’re hungry for more.) Her easy cheat sheet pick-ups from the grocery store include challah bread as well as cans of lentil and split pea soup. “Grab a low sodium can of each, then combine them, add some garlic powder and pepper to taste. If you’re feeling creative, garnish the soup with some grilled red onions. This makes a great protein- rich Hanukkah starter that’s perfect for cooler days,” she says.

Wilson is working on a new album, so maybe next year you’ll have music to cook by.


Baked Salmon

Sweet Potato Apple Kugel

Crispy Potato and Zucchini Latkes

Homemade Instant Pot Apple and Pear Sauce

Roasted Hanukkah Cauliflower Steaks with Harissa Tahini

Roasted Hanukkah Cauliflower Steaks with Harissa Tahini

Roasted Hanukkah Cauliflower Steaks with Harissa Tahini
Yield: 4 entree servings or 6 side dish servings

1 large cauliflower head
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey (omit for vegan version)
Shawarma spice mix to taste
1 ½ tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sumac
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cardamom
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Harissa Tahini
¼ cup tahini paste
1 tablespoon harissa
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons water
Salt to taste if desired


Heat the oven to 435 degrees. Trim cauliflower stems and cut head into 4-6 one-inch-thick steaks. Spread (do not stack) cauliflower steaks on a foil-lined baking sheet and coat in olive oil and honey, taking care not to break them.

In a medium bowl, combine the spices, salt and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of the cauliflower steaks with a healthy dose of the mixture. (Save remaining mixture for future use.)

Reduce temperature to 420 degrees and roast cauliflower for 12-15 minutes, then flip and roast for another 8-10 minutes or until steaks are tender and golden. (If they’re tender but not golden, broil for 20-30 seconds until brown, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn.)

While cauliflower roasts, in a medium bowl combine Harissa Tahini ingredients, adding water (or almond milk) as needed until you have a thick yet pourable sauce.

To serve, place hot cauliflower steaks on plates or a serving platter and drizzle with Harissa Tahini. Optional garnishes include raisins, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, mint or currants.


STORY: Shelley Skiles Sawyer

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