Hi all! Sorry for the long hiatus following Thanksgiving…between actually turning a year older and feeling like I aged 60 years from a back injury, the writing has been slow. But we are up and running again, and just in time for the holidays! I promise to return to the pumpkin and squash recipes I neglected to post in the near future.
I usually try to include some healthy recipes along with my more indulgent options, but admittedly December is a time of year when I splurge a bit. No worries, I am sure that my seasonal kugel (Jewish noodle pudding) made with whole wheat pasta, sweet potato and black bean latkes, and cranberry applesauce will be just as delicious.
Here is what’s coming up:
– Cranberry applesauce
– Crispy latkes (my family’s recipe)
– Sweet potato and black bean latkes
– Savory pumpkin cranberry kugel
– Hannukah sugar cookies
– Mayan hot chocolate (for the end of the world on December 21 of course)
– Gingerbread with candied ginger
– Triple layer chocolate peppermint brownies
Hannukah in a Nutshell
Hannukah (yes, this is how I spell it, although you may see Hanukkah, Chanukah, or anything in between) is the Jewish Festival of Lights. Over the years, it has become a celebration of religious freedom and tradition. The eight day festival celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after the uprising of the Jewish people against the Syrian-Greeks somewhere around 200 B.C.E. According to the story, the Jews could not find enough oil to light their menorah (a candelabra of sorts). Somehow, the limited supply that they found lasted eight days, the required time needed to make more oil. In celebration of this miracle, many Jews eat foods fried in oil during Hannukah, including latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganyiot (jelly-filled doughnuts), and traditional Jewish foods like brisket, kugel, and blintzes.
Latkes: Why Potato?
It only makes sense that I start with latkes. I will confess that I may be eating some leftovers from last night’s Hannukah party even as I write this entry. We made over 200 latkes this year…my apartment is going to smell like oil and potato forever. So totally worth it!
Now here is a question: how did the South American potato become the primary ingredient in the Eastern European latke? Latkes weren’t always made out of potatoes after all…at one point cheese was the ideal choice! The first known potatoes date back to the Incas in Peru around 200 B.C.E.-interesting timing with the Hannukah story, right? Potatoes first arrived in Europe during the Age of Exploration in the 16th century when the Spanish Conquistadors brought their findings from the New World back home. When other crops failed in Poland and the Ukraine in the early 19th century, potatoes were planted as an alternative. They became a cheap and widely available food for the masses, including Jews who needed things to fry during Hannukah. And so the latke was born.
For further reading:
This is my family’s recipe that we have been using for years every Hannukah. We tend to prefer crunchy and dark latkes, but I know many people prefer the thick and soft version. Try making a few of each and see which you like better! Either way, nothing beats fresh homemade latkes!
4 large potatoes
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves minced garlic
½ cup bread crumbs
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Paprika and black pepper to taste
1) Wash, peel, and grate potatoes and onion.
2) Pat dry with paper towel as best you can…this process will continue throughout the cooking.
3) Mix the rest of the ingredients with the potato and onion in a large bowl.
4) Heat oil in fry pan. Test if ready by throwing in a bit of batter.
5) Fry latkes on both sides until puffy and golden (in my family’s case, almost but not quite black). **TIP: Use paper towel to drain balls of batter before spooning into oil and flattening. This reduces splatter and makes latkes more crispy.
6) To keep warm, place cooked latkes vertically in loaf pan lined with paper towel and put into 200 degree oven.
7) Serve with sour cream and applesauce (or my upcoming cranberry applesauce).