Newsday's Thanksgivukkah recipe contest: Meet the finalists

Sherry Vaders, in her Holbrook kitchen, won first

Sherry Vaders, in her Holbrook kitchen, won first prize in Newsday's Thanksgivukkah recipe contest with her sweet pumpkin noodle kugel. (Nov. 14, 2013) (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

What happens when the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving? Thanksgivukkah.

The two holidays' first convergence was in 1888; the next isn't due to arrive until 79811. (Bear in mind, however, that Hanukkah has had quite a head start. The "Festival of Lights" commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt around 160 B.C.E. Thanksgiving has only been celebrated in the United States for about 300 years.)

The two holidays aren't the worst bedfellows, since they both share a theme of gratitude, Thanksgiving for the bounty of the harvest and Hanukkah for the miracle of the oil that was only enough to burn for a day, but which lasted eight.

They also share a theme of overeating, although in distinct ways. Thanksgiving overindulgence is characterized by first eating too much turkey, and then way too much stuffing and sweet potatoes and, finally, five or six desserts. Whereas, Hanukkah overindulgence focuses on the extreme ingestion of one lethal food: potato pancakes.

And so, in the spirit of overeating, we asked our readers to come up with recipes that would be equally welcome on either the Thanksgiving or Hanukkah table. We winnowed the entrees down to three, tested them out and picked a winner. The prize is a 16-pound turkey from Whole Foods.

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WINNER: Sherry Vaders of Holbrook

THE DISH: Sweet Pumpkin Noodle Kugel

This recipe has it all: The combination of pumpkin and noodle kugel succinctly captures both holidays; it's easy to make and, most important, it's delicious. Vaders based it on a noodle kugel that originated with her great aunt Goldie. "My family loves it," she said, "and they also love pumpkin pie. I figured I'd just combine the two."

1 bag (12 ounces) extra-wide egg noodles

1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine

6 large eggs

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

2 (6-ounce) cans pineapple juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook egg noodles in plenty of salted water until just cooked, 4 to 5 minutes. Place margarine in a large bowl. Drain noodles and pour immediately into bowl over margarine. Stir so that melted margarine coats noodles. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl combine eggs, sugars, pumpkin, pineapple juice and spices. Salt to taste. Combine noodles and egg-pumpkin mixture and pour into a 13-by-9-inch casserole (or 11-inch round dish). Sprinkle pecans on top of kugel. Cover with foil and bake for about an hour, until hot throughout and firm. Uncover, turn oven to broil and broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until pecans and top of kugel are brown. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10 as a side dish.

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RUNNER UP: Jon Green of Hewlett

THE DISH: Festive Fruit Relish

This recipe was created by Green, a native of Hewlett who is attending law school in Oregon. A committed vegan, Green was determined to come up with something that used no animal products. This sweet-spicy-tart relish would be a great accompaniment to turkey or latkes, and we liked the unusual combination of fresh cranberries, pears and persimmons -- the faint echo of haroset lends a little Passover drama to Thanksgivukkah.

2 fuyu persimmons, diced

1 Bosc pear, diced

3/4 cup fresh whole

cranberries

8 pitted dates, diced

4 to 5 tablespoons sugar

1/2 to 1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and finely minced

3 to 4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

Mint for garnish

Combine all ingredients except mint. Set aside for 30 minutes, then pour into a serving bowl and garnish with mint. Makes about 8 servings.

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RUNNER UP: Alicia Seitz of Huntington Station

THE DISH: Matztuffing

We were immediately drawn to this stuffing recipe, which uses matzo balls in place of bread cubes. Seitz uses it to stuff a 10- to 12-pound turkey, but we cooked it separately in a casserole.

Vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons parsley, plus more for garnish

Salt

Pepper

10 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1/2 cup dried cranberries

10 cooked matzo balls (See note)

1. Film a skillet generously with oil. Add celery, carrots, onion and parsley and a big pinch of salt and grinding of pepper. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are translucent and soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, cranberries and 2 tablespoons water. Cover, raise heat to medium-high and cook until mushrooms give off their liquid, 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring frequently, until all liquid has cooked off. Cover and set aside.

2. Cut each matzo ball into 6 to 8 pieces and place in a large bowl. Add vegetables and mix gently but thoroughly. Let sit for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

3. Use either as stuffing for a 10- to 12-pound turkey, or place in casserole covered with foil. Cook at 350 degrees until hot throughout (30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size of pan and temperature of uncooked stuffing), then remove foil and cook at 425 degrees until surface is nicely browned. Makes 8 to 10 servings as a side dish.

Note: We made matzo balls using Streit's packaged mix. The box, which contained two envelopes, made 16 (2-inch) balls. Make sure you simmer in generously salted water, or the balls will be bland.

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