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Zox Kitchen

Zox Kitchen: December 14, 2012

‘Tis The Season To Eat Healthy, Crispy Latkes, Pancakes

Cooking and eating savory pancakes called latkes this time of year is a favorite of Jews during the Hanukkah Festival of Lights. But it also is a special treat to Christians and those of other religions alike.  Who doesn’t appreciate the crispy fried pancakes made from potatoes or root vegetables fried in oil? They bring a warmth and nurturance to colder weather and a satisfaction that is incomparable.  

The Jewish holiday Hanukkah and the potato latkes fried in oil during this holiday remind us of the 2000-year-old religious connection to oil in the menorah which is the candelabra that holds the candles children light today. But the savory pancake was originally made from cheese, and the latke / Hanukkah story is in fact a feminist story about Judith of Maccabee who saved her people and the Temple of Jerusalem over 20 centuries ago.  Judith overcame the might of the Greco-Syrian general with her guile and beauty and her latkes which have come to symbolize religious freedom for everyone, and the miracle of the oil in the Temple of Jerusalem which  lasted for 8 days instead of only one.  

Hanukkah was a festive holiday in our neighborhood. As kids we carried it to the streets where we had contests to see who could make the best tasting latke on the block. I remember them all as tasting so very good- crispy, crunchy and wonderful with applesauce and sour cream on top. Today I have become fond of making nontraditional pancakes as well as traditional ones.    

 Traditional Latkes With White Potatoes - Serves 10

3 ½ lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes (7)

1 cup of diced onions

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup of unbleached flour or matzo meal

season with salt

fry in canola or peanut oil

Shred long strands of potatoes with a box grater or food processor with grater attachment.  Pour them in a large bowl of water to avoid oxidation. When ready to prepare, empty the water. Then squeeze out excess liquid until potatoes are dry using cotton or paper towels. Transfer to a large mixing bowl with shredded onions. 

Mix in eggs, one at a time with ¼ cup increments of matzo meal or flour until latke mix is a little sticky. Form patties 4 inches wide and 1 inch thick in the middle and begin to carefully place patties into frying pan, one at a time, using your spatula. Leave some space around each patty so they can evenly fry and brown on both sides.

Sweet Potato Latkes - Serves 10

1/2 cup medium size yellow onion, diced

1 ½  lb. Yukon Gold white potatoes (3 medium size)

1 ½  lb. sweet potatoes (4 medium size)

½ cup matzo meal 

salt to taste

1 teaspoon cayenne

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

fry in canola or peanut oil  

Follow the same directions as given for Traditional Latkes, as described above.

Potato-less Latkes With Carrots, Parsnips, Celery Root And Serrano Chiles - 10 servings

1 ½ lb. parsnips (5 medium size)

1 lb. carrots (5 medium size)

½ lb. celery root  (1 medium size)

1 serrano chile, diced 

½ cup chopped cilantro

3 eggs, lightly beaten

salt to taste

1 tablespoon each: nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon

fry in canola or peanut oil

Again follow the same directions given for Traditional Latkes, described above. You still want to eliminate all moisture from the root vegetables in the same way by using a towel. Otherwise the presence of moisture will compromise the stickiness of the patty.