latkes

The Jewish holiday Hannukah (The Festival of Lights) begins tomorrow night. Food-wise for me, that means pretty much one thing. Latkes.

Latkes are pancakes made from grated potatoes and onion. They are fried in oil (to symbolize the one day’s worth of oil that miraculously burned for 8 days so many years ago) to crisp deliciousness. While there are many ways to make latkes, one thing is for sure: you want to make sure they don’t turn out soggy by pressing as much water out of the grated potatoes as possible.

While purists will say that there should be no flour or other fillers added to potato pancakes and that they should be fried very thin, I find that adding 2 tablespoons of flour (or matzoh meal or leftover mashed potatoes, if you have them), helps everything stay together nicely (you’ll end up with thicker latkes, though, like the ones in the picture above). The egg acts as a binder, as well, though I’ve made them without eggs and they worked out just fine. If you are looking for even thicker latkes, you can add an additional egg and a bit more flour (or matzoh meal or leftover mashed potatoes).

While you may, of course, grate the potatoes by hand, it is much much easier to use a food processor. In fact, I initially got my food processor because my family loves latkes so much. It really makes preparing them a snap; so much so that my kids are more likely to ask for and get these than they are regular pancakes on weekend mornings (and now I use the food processor for so many other tasks so I’m so happy I have it).

Once you master traditional potato pancakes, you can branch out and vary them in numerous ways. I’ve added grated apple and different herbs such as chives and parsley; I’ve used shallot and garlic instead of onion; I’ve made sweet potato zucchini latkes with ginger, cilantro, and chilies and I’ve seen recipes featuring parsnips and carrots, as well (Joan Nathan has some great recipes in her book Jewish Cooking in America).

Grapeseed oil is my frying oil of choice when it comes to latkes (for sweet potato latkes, I generally use in coconut oil).

Latkes are best when eaten right after they’ve cooked, but if absolutely necessary, you can freeze them and then warm them in a 350°F oven before serving.

By the way, this is my entry for Holiday Food Fest, hosted this week by Shirley from Gluten Free Easily!

How to Make Latkes

yield: 12-24 depending on how big they are

Ingredients:

*2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (or use starchy baking potatoes like russet or Idaho), peeled
*1 onion
*1 egg, beaten
*Course sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
*2 Tb. all purpose flour or matzoh meal or mashed potatoes
*Grapeseed oil for frying

Directions:

1. Using a hand grater or a food processor, grate the potatoes and the onion. Place in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and squeeze out the water.

2. Mix the potato and onion in a bowl with the egg, season with salt and pepper, and add the optional flour or mashed potatoes. Mix well.

3. Heat a cast iron skillet or a griddle and coat with a thin layer of the oil (about 1/2 inch). Place spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the oil, flattening each one with a spatula.

4. Fry several minutes, until golden brown, and then flip over and continue frying until both sides are well browned. Drain on paper towels. Add additional oil to the pan as needed to fry the rest of the latkes.

5. Serve immediately with crème fraîche or organic sour cream and applesauce.

Do you have an interesting variation on latkes? I’d love to hear about it!

I’m struggling to write something really interesting about this Arugula Salad with Pomegranate, Avocado and Goat Cheese. I’ve erased the first sentence of this post at lease ten times…

The fact is, this salad is made up of what needed to be eaten out of my refrigerator last night. I got home from my kids’ sports practices pretty late, I was starving, and there you go.

pomavsalad

While it may seem like a random combination of ingredients- the bitter arugula, the sweet and crunchy pomegranate, the creamy avocado and the slightly salty goat cheese- it just works. If you don’t have pomegranate molasses for the dressing, you can use honey instead, or just leave out the sweetener.

This arugula salad is lovely on its own, or feel free to add some protein for a more complete meal: cooked chicken or meat, or some beans and/or nuts or seeds would all work (I had it with leftover roast chicken…yummy).

A word about “dealing with” pomegranates: I’ve always loved pomegranates but used to rarely buy them because removing the seeds seemed so difficult and messy. Then I learned about de-seeding the cut pomegranate in a bowl of water- super easy and no more mess! Check out Elise from Simple Recipes’ directions for cutting and de-seeding a pomegranate here.

Arugula Salad with Pomegranate, Avocado and Goat Cheese

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Salad:

*2 large handfuls of baby arugula
*seeds/arils from 1/2 pomegranate
*1 avocado, sliced
*2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley
*1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled-optional
*coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dressing:

*2 tablespoons olive oil
*1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar or to taste
*1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

Directions:

1. Toss the salad ingredients in a medium bowl.

2. In a smaller bowl, mix the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad.

3. Sprinkle with course salt and freshly ground black pepper.

pomavsalad2

whblogo2-150x150This Arugula Salad is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. WHB is managed by Haalo!

Here’s my first attempt at making a homemade version of my favorite Girl Scout’s cookie: the Thin Mint. While these chocolate mint cookies did not turn out exactly like their inspiration (my chocolate coating was a bit too thick), they were wonderful in their own right, and gluten-free to boot.

chocolatemintwafers

Note that the original recipe containing all purpose flour states that it makes 50 cookies. Because the almond flour does make the dough stickier and it’s not super easy to work with, I opted to make fewer cookies-I ended up with 20- and they were a bit bigger than they’re probably supposed to be. If making these with all purpose flour, you can go ahead and make them smaller and thinner.

Recipe for Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Cookies

Adapted from the recipe for Chocolate Mint Wafers in the 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Holiday Sweets

Ingredients:

1 cup almond flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 Tb. unsalted organic butter
1/2 cup organic sugar
1 large egg, preferably organic and free-range
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. semisweet chocolate (or use 12 oz. dark chocolate)
1/4 tsp. pure peppermint extract
White nonpareils for decorating-optional

Directions:
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and continue mixing until well combined. With mixer on low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (The dough can also be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.)

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with Silpat nonstick baking mats or parchment paper. For balls of dough (equal to 1 tsp) and place on prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Dip your fingers in almond flour and flatten balls into 1 1/2 inch rounds (about 1/4 inch thick). Bake until slightly firm to the touch, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

Combine chocolate, peppermint extract and 1/8 tsp. salt in the top of a double boiler. Heat until smooth, 2-3 minutes, and then let cool slightly.

Replace parchment on baking sheets. Holding each cookie with the tines of a fork, dip in the chocolate to coat completely. Tap fork on side of bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place on prepared sheet, and continue until all cookies are coated. Sprinkle with optional nonpareils. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (until chocolate has hardened completely) before serving.

ECC+logo+2This is my entry for Susan from Flood Blogga’s Eat Christmas Cookies Blogging Event. You can see all the great cookies entered so far at the Eat Christmas Cookies Season 3 Roundup!

I am also linking this cookie recipe to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays!