November 19, 2010
Chanukah’s the time for lots of latkes
There is something special about Chanukah, a time when all of our children and grandchildren gather from across the country to celebrate the holiday, which begins this year at sundown on Dec. 1. Lighting the candles, followed by family meals, singing songs, exchanging gifts and playing the dreidel game all add up to quality family time.
What makes Chanukah such a festive occasion? Perhaps it starts with the aroma of potato latkes permeating the house. The crispy golden pancakes frying in the kitchen have come to symbolize the Festival of Lights, when we celebrate the miracle of one day’s supply of consecrated olive oil that kept the Jerusalem Temple’s lamp burning for eight days.
Unfortunately, most latke recipes rely on what seems like an eight-day supply of oil—or trans-fat-laden shortening – poured into the pan to achieve the desired flavor and crispness.
But celebrating Chanukah doesn’t have to raise your cholesterol. This year I have created lighter latkes that are baked with a minimum amount of olive oil. I call them fry/baked. The olive oil is lightly spread on a very hot silicone or other nonstick baking sheet, small spoonfuls of the potato mixture are dropped on, and then they go into the oven to be baked until golden brown on each side.
Growing up, I remember helping my mother make the potato mixture using a hand-held grater. Today, latkes take much less time to prepare. To save time, use the knife blade in your food processor to chop the onions and then the grater blade to shred the potatoes. In addition to using potatoes, follow my recipe for zucchini latkes that are made with egg whites and grated onion.
At one time, Salmon Latkes, made with canned salmon, were Gramma Gene’s specialty. When our kids were growing up and they visited, she would always serve salmon latkes and blintzes for lunch.
Through the years, Gramma’s Gene’s recipe has taken on a few extra ingredients, but they blend together in no time at all. Simply mix the ingredients in a bowl and sauté in olive oil. Serve them with lemon or lime wedges and a simple yogurt-cucumber-dill sauce.
Another of our favorite latkes originated in Romania and is made with egg noodles. You can also bake the mixture kugel-style, adding 1 or 2 additional eggs and 2 or 3 tablespoons of raisins. Spoon the mixture into a greased baking dish or muffin pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until crusty.
We begin the Chanukah dinner with a do-it-yourself salad. Let everyone choose from bowls of roasted peppers, carrots, celery, jicama, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms and zucchini. Toss the salad and serve with warm, crusty bread, along with a selection of latkes. Serve crisp cold white wine for the adults and apple juice or milk for the younger group.
Put undrained salmon into a large bowl. Separate salmon into flakes and mash with a fork. Add the eggs, onion, matzah meal, dill and parsley. Using a fork, mash the ingredients until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside for 10 minutes. With wet hands, shape the mixture into latkes. (Mixture can be made 1 hour ahead.)
In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Place latkes into the hot oil, in a single layer, being careful not to crowd in the pan and gently press down with spatula or fork to flatten. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until brown, flip, flatten again, and cook until brown and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove to a paper-towel lined ovenproof plate. Serve immediately or keep warm in 250 F oven. Repeat with remaining mixture, adding oil as needed. Serve hot with Yogurt-Cucumber-Dill Sauce (recipe follows) and lemon wedges, garnished with dill sprigs.
Makes about 2 dozen latkes.
In a bowl, combine yogurt, cucumber and dill. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups sauce.
ROMANIAN NOODLE LATKES
Cook the noodles according to the package directions; drain well. Transfer noodles to a large bowl, add the butter, and toss gently until butter melts and noodles are coated; set aside to cool. Add the eggs, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.
In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 inch of the oil over medium heat. Drop the noodle mixture by tablespoons into the hot oil, flattening each spoonful with the back of the spoon to form a thin latke. Fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. (Do not turn the latkes until the first side is golden and the top is firmly set).
Preheat oven to 450 F. Place a silicone or other nonstick baking sheet in the preheated oven.
Using the knife blade of a food processor, grate the onion. Replace the blade with the shredding blade, and grate the potatoes. Transfer the grated mixture to a large bowl, and squeeze the mixture between your fingers to wring out as much liquid as possible. Add egg, matzah meal, baking powder, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle olive oil on hot baking sheet and spread with a wax-paper-covered wooden spoon. Shape small tablespoons of potato mixture into balls, place on the prepared baking sheet, and flatten to form 1 1/2-inch latkes, leaving 1 inch of space between the latkes. Bake-fry the latkes on the lower rack of the hot oven until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes per side, turning once with a spatula.
When you turn the latkes, flip them onto areas of the baking sheet that still have olive oil. Transfer to plates or platters and serve immediately with applesauce and sour cream.
Makes about 2 dozen latkes.
MARVIN’S ZUCCHINI LATKES
In a large, heavy, nonstick skillet, heat olive oil. Drop zucchini mixture one tablespoon or more at a time into the hot oil and flatten with back of wet spoon. Fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Makes about 20 small latkes.
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