When the days are short and the long, cold nights descend early, the Festival of Chanukah arrives. This year Chanukah begins on Friday evening, December 15th. The flickering lights of the Chanukah menorah (chanukiah) will join the lights of the Shabbos candles. Once again we recall the miracle that took place over 2,000 years ago, when a small band of Maccabees were victorious over their enemies, and a little jar of oil, enough to burn for only one day, miraculously burned for eight.
In honour of the miracle which occurred with oil, it is traditional to eat foods fried in oil. Potato latkes and sufganiyot (Israeli-style doughnuts) are popular. Dairy dishes are also customary.
Although potato latkes are traditional, why not experiment with other vegetables such as zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots and spinach? If you have a fear of frying, you can even bake latkes for a lower-fat version. Here are some tips to turn you into a latke maven!
When making potato latkes, use Idaho (russet) potatoes because they are higher in starch and less watery when grated. The processor will grate them quickly. Immediately add grated onions – the onion juice forms a barrier against the oxygen which makes potatoes turn black.
Latkes can be made in advance and frozen. Arrange latkes in a single layer on a baking sheet. When frozen, wrap them well. To save space when freezing or reheating latkes, stand them upright in a loaf pan. Reheat them uncovered at 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes.
Here are some Chanukah recipes from my kitchen, as well as the kitchens of some of my favorite “pan-pals” from around the world. We are all cookbook authors and we are all considered latke mavens–and each one of us has our own “grate” recipe! There’s a whole lotta latke-making going on, so grate away!
When my recipe for these luscious latkes was featured in a newspaper article several years ago, my gentile neighbor excitedly told me that her mother had seen the recipe, tried it and loved it. The latkes were such a huge hit that she planned on adding them to her menu for Sunday dinner, along with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Which goes to prove that you definitely don’t have to be Jewish to love latkes!
Norene’s Easy Potato Latkes (Pareve or Dairy)
Yields 2 dozen pancakes or 3 dozen miniatures.
I use Idaho (russet) potatoes, but some cooks prefer Yukon Golds or red-skinned potatoes. If you scrub them well, peeling isn’t necessary. For more quick and easy recipes for your cooking and eating enjoyment, visit my website at www.gourmania.com.
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled or scrubbed
- 1 medium onion
- 2 eggs (or 1 egg plus 2 egg whites)
- 1/3 cup flour or matzo meal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons oil (plus more as needed)
- Cut potatoes in chunks and onion in half. Place in processor bowl fitted with the Steel Blade. Add eggs and process until pureed, 20 to 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients except oil; process a few seconds longer to blend into a smooth mixture.
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Drop potato mixture into hot oil by large spoonfuls to form pancakes; brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Add additional oil to pan as needed. Stir batter before cooking each new batch. Latkes can be placed on a baking sheet and kept warm in a 250 degrees F oven.
- To bake latkes instead of frying, place oven racks on lowest and middle position in oven. Preheat oven to 450°F. Drop potato mixture by spoonfuls onto well-oiled baking sheets; flatten slightly. Bake 10 minutes, until bottoms are browned and crispy. Turn latkes over. Transfer pan from upper rack to lower rack and vice versa. Bake 8 to 10 minutes longer.
Serve latkes with applesauce or sour cream. Freezes well.
Source: The Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz
My dear friend Sheilah Kaufman of Potomac, MD is a cookbook author, food writer and traveling cooking teacher. She is the author of numerous cookbooks, including two of my favorites, Simply Irresistible: Easy, Elegant, Fearless, Fussless Cooking and Sephardic/Israeli Cuisine. For more delicious recipes from Sheilah’s kitchen, visit her website at www.cookingwithsheilah.com. Sheilah is a fantastic cook and her recipes are always amazing. When she came for a visit to Toronto several years ago, she promptly took over my kitchen and cooked for me. Could one ask for a better friend?
Sheilah Kaufman writes “This is my favorite latke. My friend and fellow cooking teacher Sherron Goldstein gave me this recipe years ago when we talked about my love for sweet potatoes. I make my own special applesauce to serve with it. I’ve been making this applesauce for over 30 years and it’s fabulous!
Sheilah Kaufman’s Favorite Sweet Potato Latkes (Pareve or Dairy)
Yields 24 pancakes
- 2 lbs. sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and coarsely grated
- 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 4 scallions, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 eggs
- Canola oil for frying
- Sour cream
- Stir together sweet potatoes, ginger and scallions. Mix together flour, salt and pepper. Slowly add to potato mixture and blend.
- Drain any liquid from potatoes. If necessary, put grated potatoes in a dish towel and wring out moisture. Return to mixing bowl.
- Beat eggs and mix into potatoes.
- Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet. Use enough oil to generously cover bottom of pan. Heat to medium-high.
- Measure a scant ¼ cup for each latke. Drop sweet potato mixture into skillet. Flatten a little with the back of a spatula. Make latkes about 3 inches round. Do not crowd pan.
- Cook latkes until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn on second side and cook until cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes more.
- Transfer latkes with a spatula to a baking sheet that is lined with three layers of paper toweling. These can be held in a 225°F oven waiting to serve.
- Serve latkes with applesauce and sour cream, if desired.
Sheilah Kaufman’s Unusual Applesauce or Apple Dessert (Pareve or Dairy)
6 to 8 servings
To turn it into a dessert, Sheilah serves it with whipped cream or ice cream!
- 8 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced fine
- Zest of 3 fresh lemons
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup orange blossom water
- In a large pot, bring sugar, cinnamon and water to a boil. Add the apples, zest, lemon juice and orange blossom water.
- Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to “dry” as liquid evaporates. Cook until apples are soft. Serve hot or cold with latkes.
And here are two excellent Chanukah recipes that come from my friend Sue Epstein of Efrat, Israel, formerly of Atlanta. Although we’ve never met in person, we email each other regularly and occasionally speak on the phone. Sue is a food writer, cookbook author and cooking teacher. These recipes come from her wonderful cookbook Budget Cooking – Elegant Dining (Pitspopany Press, $19.95 U.S.).
Sue Epstein’s Crusty Potato Cake (Pareve or Dairy)
Served in one large cake, this family-size latke-type dish has a crisp golden-brown crust and translucent tenderness inside. It’s easier to make than individual latkes and is also lighter in fat. Serve with applesauce, sour cream or enjoy plain as a meat accompaniment.
- 6 large potatoes, peeled
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 3 or more Tablespoons oil
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon white or black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons pareve margarine, softened, optional
- Using a food processor with a thin slicing disk, slice potatoes very thin. Place sliced potatoes in cold water to cover for about ½ hour. This prevents discoloration.
- Rinse potatoes thoroughly under running water, drain, and dry thoroughly on kitchen towels.
- Onions can also be thinly sliced in the food processor.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy frying pan (preferably one with a non-stick finish) over medium heat, until oil begins to ripple. (If frying pan does not have non-stick finish, use 4 tablespoons of oil.)
- Add drained potato slices and onions and saute, shaking the pan and turning potatoes frequently, until they are lightly browned and beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper and press potatoes down with a spatula. Continue cooking and shaking the pan frequently to prevent sticking, until the bottom is golden brown, about 7-10 minutes.
- Invert potato cake onto a lightly oiled large flat plate so that the browned side faces up. If the frying pan is dry, add remaining tablespoon oil at this point. Slide cake back into the frying pan and cook until potatoes are tender and the second side is golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Sue Epstein writes “I like to make these cookies for Chanukah. It’s a great activity to do with the children…. simple to make and they can cut out the cookies with Chanukah cookie cutters and decorate them…. and everyone loves them. This recipe was on the back of a Domino sugar package 40 years ago and I still think it’s the best sugar cookie around. As a matter of fact, I’ve made these cookies, using a hand-shaped cookie cutter, and decorated them with icing rings and other jewelry for bat mitzvahs, and with tefillin straps (using black icing) for a bar mitzvah. They’re always a big hit. Enjoy!”
Sue Epstein’s Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies (Dairy or Pareve)
Yields 6 to 7 dozen cookies
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup soft butter or margarine
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg white, slightly beaten
- Cream sugar, salt and margarine well. Add egg and beat. Blend lemon rind and vanilla into mixture. Gradually stir flour and baking powder into creamed mixture. Roll to 1/8-inch thickness on a floured board. Cut out with cookie cutters or a glass dipped in flour.
- Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheets. Brush with beaten egg white, sprinkle with sugar if desired.
- Bake at 350°F for 11 to 12 minutes.
- Optional Decorating Glaze: Blend 1½ cups powdered sugar into a slightly beaten egg white. Add 1 tablespoon melted margarine or butter, 1/8 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth. If glaze is thin, add more sugar. Divide glaze into several parts, Tint as desired with food coloring. Apply glaze to cookies with a spoon or paint brush as desired.
My friend, Ethel Hofman is a cookbook author, syndicated Jewish food columnist and a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Ethel grew up in the only Jewish family living on the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland and now makes her home in Philadelphia.
Ethel has several unusual latke recipes in her wonderful cookbook Everyday Cooking for the Jewish Home. Her book contains her recipe for classic potato latkes, which are traditional during Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of the oil that miraculously lasted the Maccabeans eight days. Ethel also includes such recipes as Glick’s Colossal Butternut Latkes as well as Maple-Drenched Almond Latkes, which are perfect for a Chanukah dessert. Enjoy…
Glick’s Colossal Butternut Latkes (Pareve)
At Glick’s kosher bakery-delicatessen in Melbourne, Australia, these oversize classic latkes are popular take-away food at Chanukah. To reduce cooking time, use two skillets.
- 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and shredded
- 2 medium baking potatoes (about ¾ lb.), coarsely grated
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ½ cup matzah meal
- 2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 to 4 Tablespoons peanut oil
- In a large bowl, combine squash, potatoes, and cilantro. Add beaten eggs, matzah meal, lemon pepper, ginger, and salt. Mix well.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 7-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour in 1½ cups mixture. Cook until underside is browned and latke firm enough to be flipped over, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 5 to 7 minutes longer, until underside is browned. Keep warm. Repeat with remaining mixture, stirring well before transferring to skillet and adding more oil as needed.
Ethel Hofman’s Maple-Drenched Almond Latkes (Pareve)
10 to 12 servings
Ethel likes to serve these latkes as dessert with fresh sliced strawberries or with thawed and sweetened frozen raspberries.
- 1½ cups cold unseasoned mashed potatoes
- ½ cup almond paste, softened
- ¼ cup finely chopped blanched almonds
- 3 Tablespoons matzo meal
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- ¼ to 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- Warmed maple syrup
- In a medium bowl, combine mashed potatoes, almond paste, almonds, matzo meal, sugar, and egg white. Beat until well blended.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat. Drop mixture by rounded tablespoons into heated skillet. Flatten slightly with a wide spatula. Cook until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a serving dish.
- Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil as needed to prevent sticking. While latkes are hot, drizzle warm maple syrup over them and serve.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.