When I was growing up in America, the only Chanukah food we ate was potato latkes, served with my mother's homemade applesauce. As far as I knew, there just wasn't anything else. It wasn't until I moved to Israel that I discovered that fried dough was also apart of the holiday's repertoire; like loukomades for Greeks – sfenj for North Africans and the ubiquitous sufganiot (the Jewish version of the Dunkin' Donut jelly doughnut) for everybody.
Making a great Chanukah party is a wonderful tradition, and takes only a merry band of family and friends. One particularly memorable party our family made included, after the lighting of candles, activities like make-your-own-menorahs out-of wood, nuts and bolts; design-your-own-Chanukah-cookies; a few songs, and for the grand finale, a multiple-choice game designed by a 10 year old. Everyone got a present -- even the dog. And everyone went to sleep with a smile.
Although you might opt to make an elegant Chanukah meal, the most traditional way of celebrating Chanukah is by serving potato latkes, which together with sufganiot, fit most children's idea of the perfect meal. But this year, instead of serving one kind, why not make a variety of latkes and serve them with different toppings. A hot soup and a green salad would also help round out the meal. Here are a few suggestions to choose from:
SWEET POTATO LATKES with Spiced Maple Syrup
For the Latkes:
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp. each salt and baking powder
- ¼ cup matzah meal
- pinch each: salt & white pepper
- 2-4 Tbsp. light olive oil for frying
For the sauce:
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- pinch of ground cloves
- salt and pepper to taste
- chopped fresh coriander or mint leaves to garnish
Scrub the sweet potatoes, peel and shred on the fine side of a grater or in the food processor. Transfer to a wire-mesh strainer and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Let stand in the strainer or a colander placed over a bowl for 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork and add the matzah meal, sweet potato, salt and pepper. Let stand an additional 5-10 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the sauce: In a small pan mix the ingredients for the sauce, heat over low heat and keep warm.
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet and add a small ladleful of the batter. Flatten gently and fry on both sides till golden-brown. Check to see if you like the texture of the latke, and , add a little more matzah meal to the mixture, if desired. (Let the mixture stand 3 minutes before using).
Add more oil to the pan as necessary, and fry the remaining latkes. Place the latkes on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Pour some of the heated sauce on individual plates and arrange three latkes on top per serving, or use a serving platter. Garnish with fresh coriander or mint. Pass the rest of the sauce around to taste. Serve with sour cream or plain yogurt if desired. From The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, by Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer.
LIGHTENED UP POTATO LATKES
Potatoes are a nutritious food (fat-free, low in calories, a good source of Vitamin C, an excellent source of potassium, and a source of fiber) and that they stay that way if prepared in healthier ways. With this recipe, you can enjoy this holiday without feeling guilty -- you'll actually be eating two vegetables: potatoes and carrots.
Makes 4 servings.
- 2 1/2 cups shredded, unpeeled russet potatoes (about 1 lb.)
- 1/2 cup grated onion
- 1/3 cup peeled shredded carrot
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 egg + 1 egg white
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
Scrub potatoes and coarsely grate. Immediately place in a bowl of ice water to keep potatoes from discoloring; let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the onion, carrot, flour, chives, salt, pepper and eggs in a medium bowl and stir well. Drain the potatoes and squeeze out moisture; stir into egg mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non stick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Spoon about 1/4 cup of potato mixture for each pancake into skillet, cooking 4 at a time. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, flattening with the back of a spatula and cooking until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining oil and potatoes. Serve immediately with chunky applesauce and low-fat sour cream.
Recalling both the miracle of the olive oil and the olive-pressing season in Israel, these scrumptious olive latkes are a new-fangled way to enjoy a latke.
Makes about 8
- 2 cups finely chopped pitted green or black olives in brine, drained (or use half and half)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1-2 Tbsp. water (optional)
Chop the olives finely or process in the food processor. Transfer chopped olives to a strainer and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Heat ¼ cup the oil and saute the onion and garlic till golden. Set aside. In the meantime, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cumin. Beat in the eggs and onion and garlic mixture with a fork. Add the water if the mixture seems too thick. Heat the remaining oil and use a small cup or soup ladle to form 3-4 small latkes each time. Fry on both sides till golden. Serve with thick yogurt or sour cream. From The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, by Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer.