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Latkes

29 Nov

I’ve been thinking about the latkes I’ll be frying for Chanukah this year.  I spend days and days making latkes.   As often happens, when I start thinking about a holiday food it brings back memories of the foods I enjoyed as a kid. I grew up with traditional foods prepared by my mother and grandmothers and though I will always love them, I also like throwing new twists at old favourites.

As I was thinking about using sweet potato, leeks, zucchini, mushroom and maybe some blue potatoes in latkes, the blue potatoes reminded me of my Baba’s (grandmother) blue latkes. No, Baba didn’t use blue potatoes like I was planning. Her pancakes were made from red, waxy potatoes that had turned a purplish-blue as the starches oxidized after they were finely grated. Some people add white vinegar to the potatoes to stop the oxidizing but I always grate the onions first and let their juices keep the potatoes from discoloring.   Baba went au natural and we ate them as they were —  and loved them! But, if I want blue latkes I’ll use those blue potatoes.

Here are a few of my favourite latke recipes.  While I love, love, love potato latkes, it’s nice to have a few variations to have throughout the holiday. Try one or all of them.

Remember – Chanukah is a holiday that calls for eating things fried with oil. So I use oil to pan-fry all of the latkes. If you are looking for a lighter version, you can spray a non-stick frying-pan with vegetable spray – but be warned – the results will not be the same. For crisp on the outside, soft on the inside latkes use the oil. (You are commemorating a miracle!)

Some latke pointers that I shared a couple of years ago and thought it’s time to share again:

  • Use a food processor or box grater to grate vegetables and then squeeze as much liquid from the vegetables as you can. Discard liquid.
  • Use a non-stick or cast-iron frying pan for frying. Heat 1/4” – 1/2“ of canola or vegetable oil over medium heat. The oil should be hot enough for the latkes to sizzle and bubble as soon as they touch the oil, but not too hot or they will burn before they are cooked through.
  • To keep your potatoes from oxidizing grate the onions first. Toss the potatoes with the onion juices as you grate them and it will keep them from turning brown or blue.
  • Drain the cooked latkes on paper towel.
  • Fry one latke and taste it, checking the seasoning before frying the whole batch. If you like things light on salt and pepper cut back my quantities – taste one and add seasoning to suit your tastes.
  • Serve with apple sauce, sour cream, crème fraiche, Greek yogurt or or tzatziki.
  • Latkes are best served hot, right out of the pan (after draining). If you are feeding a group, place the fresh latkes on a baking sheet and keep in a 200º oven as you make them. If necessary, they can be frozen, thawed and reheated on a baking sheet at 350º degrees, uncovered, until warm (about 10-15 minutes).
Potato Latkes (adapted from Passover – a Kosher Collection)
  • 1 lb. | 454 g yellow onion, peeled and grated (2 medium)
  • 2 lbs. | 910 g red potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ oz. | 14 g cake meal (or flour) (2 Tbsp. | 30 mL)
  • 1 ½ tsp. | 7 mL salt
  • ¼ tsp. | 1 mL black pepper
  • canola  oil for frying
Grate the onion first, then grate the potato and mix them together. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the onion/potato mixture and place in a mixing bowl.
Add the eggs, cake meal, salt and pepper and mix well.
Heat ¼-inch | 5-mm of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Use two spoons or an ice-cream scoop to gently place batter into the oil (use about 2 Tbsp. | 30 mL of mixture for each latke).
Fry for about 4 minutes, or until the edges start to brown, then turn over and cook another 3–5 minutes until both sides are golden brown.
Transfer to paper towel to drain.  Continue frying the rest of the latkes, adding more oil if necessary.
Enjoy on their own or with sour cream or applesauce.
Makes 12-16

Zucchini Leek Latkes (adapted from Passover – A Kosher Collection)
I’ve seen young children who maynot enjoy vegetables gobble these up. They’re a little softer than potato latkes, so be gentle when you flip them over.
  • 1 ½ lbs. | 680 g zucchini, trimmed and shredded
  • 8 oz. | 225 g red potato, peeled and shredded
  • 8 oz. | 225 g leek, washed well and thinly sliced (2 medium)
  • 1 ½ tsp. | 7 mL salt
  • ½ tsp. | 2 mL black pepper
  • 2 ½ oz. | 70 g cake meal  (½ cup | 120 mL) (or flour)
  • 1 tsp. | 5 mL paprika
  • 3 large eggs
  • canola oil for frying
Grate the zucchini and potato and squeeze out any excess liquid. Combine with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Heat ¼-inch | 5-mm of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Use two spoons to gently place the mixture into the oil (use about 2 Tbsp. | 30 mL of mixture for each latke).
Fry for 2–3 minutes, or until the edges start to brown, then turn over and cook another 2–3 minutes, until both sides are golden brown.
Transfer to paper towel to drain and continue with the rest of the latkes, adding more oil if necessary.
Makes 16-18

Wild Rice and Mushroom Latkes

  • 3 cups button/crimini mushrooms – thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion – peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 can (425 g) cooked wild rice – rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • canola oil for frying

Sauté onions for 2-3 minutes in oil over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have released their juices and are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place the cooled mushrooms and onions in a mixing bowl and add the salt, pepper, eggs and flour. Mix well.

Heat oil in a frying pan and carefully spoon heaping tablespoons of the mixture into the oil. Fry for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown and set.

Drain and serve.

Makes 16-18

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Cooking & Tasting

11 Aug

Last week I took a few days off of work so I could spend the time at home, working on recipes for the cookbook. I got a lot done, but not as much as I had planned.

I’m going through my lists of tested recipes and to-test recipes, trying to figure out what’s left to do.  The problem is that I keep thinking of new ideas, so the to-test list isn’t really getting any smaller.

In the last week or so I’ve worked on:

  • potato latkes (not just for Chanukah!)
  • zucchini/leek latkes
  • sweet potato ginger latkes
  • matzo balls
  • zucchini/spinach/chicken soup (needs a good name)
  • brownies
  • meringue cookies with toasted coconut/almonds/chocolate chips
  • sautéed eggplant & roasted pepper salad
  • an old-school beef flanken recipe
  • blueberry coffee-cake
  • sweet potato/apple side dish
  • roast chicken with roasted vegetables – a little sweet, a little spicy
  • matzo brei (can’t have passover without one recipe — will do at least two — one sweet, one savoury and maybe a couple of other variations)
  • strawberry/blueberry conserves for the matzo brei ( it would also be good on matzo)

Some of the recipes I’ve been making for years and just needed to be written down.  Some are new for me and have to be tried a few times, tweaking things here and there.  Some recipes (like a brisket I cooked on Sunday) just don’t work at all and aren’t worth tweaking.  Those are the most frustrating.

While I normally count on immediate family members for taste-testing (don’t worry, there are no critiques more honest — sometimes brutally honest — than those of your parents and siblings), I was lucky enough to have some extended family visiting from out-of-town.

tovina latkes

This little 2-year-old thought the sweet potato and ginger latkes were just fine . . . and she stopped eating them after latke #4 or 5.

The 6 dozen latkes made that afternoon were gone quickly. And it was a lot of fun having the kitchen full of family, grabbing the latkes as soon as they came out of the pan.  It’s true — these Chanukah treats are as good in April or August as they are in December.

So I’m moving along in the kitchen, and getting as much typing done as I can between customers.  It’s almost time to start thinking about what has to happen when the cooking is all done.  Just not yet.

Chanukah oh Chanukah..

21 Dec

As we’re still in the midst of Chanukah it seems appropriate that the first recipe I share is for potato latkes.  There are so many recipes out there – and many of us use the same recipes and techniques that have been passed down in our families for generations.   My recipe is nothing new – but I like the results. 

Before we begin, some latke pointers:

  • Use a box grater to grate vegetables. If making large quantities, use a food processor. Squeeze as much liquid from the vegetables as you can.
  • Grating the onion first, then tossing the potatoes with the onions as you grate them will help keep the potatoes from oxidizing and turning that blueish grey that is so appealing.
  • Use a non-stick or cast-iron frying pan for frying. Heat 1/2″ of canola or vegetable oil over medium (350 degrees). The oil should be hot enough for the latkes to sizzle and bubble as soon as they touch the oil, but not too hot or they will burn before they are cooked through.
  • Drain the cooked latkes on paper towel.
  • Fry one latke and taste it, checking the seasoning before frying the whole batch. If you like things light on salt and pepper cut back my quantities – taste one and add seasoning to suit your tastes.
  • Serve with apple sauce, sour cream, creme fraiche or tzatziki.
  • Latkes are best served hot, right out of the pan (after draining). If you are feeding a group, place the fresh latkes on a baking sheet and keep in a 200º oven as you make them. If necessary, they can be frozen, thawed and reheated on a baking sheet at 350º degrees, uncovered, until warm (about 10-15 minutes).

Traditional Potato Latkes
1 large yellow onion, peeled and shredded
2 lbs. red potatoes (5 medium), peeled and shredded
2 whole eggs
3 T. flour
1 1/2 – 2 tsp. salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. black pepper

Grate the onion and potato, drain and place in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt and pepper and mix well.

Heat oil and use two spoons to place batter gently into the oil (use about 2 T. of mixture for each latke). Fry for about 4 minutes, or until the edges start to brown, then turn over and cook another 3-5 minutes until both sides are golden brown.

Transfer to paper towel, drain and enjoy.
Makes 12-14 latkes.