The Jew And The Carrot

Can a Latke Crisis Teach Us Self-Restraint?

By Devorah Brous

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

There are so many ways to make latkes.

Some use canola or peanut oil to fry latkes. In my own feeble attempt to make latkes a bit healthier, I use olive oil. But I usually make them without thinking twice about whether there will be enough oil, or from where the oil has been sourced.

Yet over the past two years, we have seen an international shortage of extra virgin olive oil. Olive growers in California, Turkey, Tunisia and especially Spain and Italy are grappling with unseasonable weather, drought and surging pest populations. Harvests are plummeting and prices are rising.

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Latkepalooza: Philly's Potato-Pancake Smackdown

By Michael Kaminer

Photograph courtesy of Abe Fisher.

Leeks and feta cheese. Cajun seasonings. Black garlic jam and pickled apples.

These are latkes?

Welcome to Latkepalooza, the annual Philadelphia smackdown that challenges local chefs to reinvent the humble potato pancake.

On Sunday, December 7, nine eateries across a wide swath of Philadelphia’s stellar restaurant scene will showcase recipes created especially for the 12-year-old cook-off, now a hot ticket for Philly foodies.

The event began in 2003 “as a way to blend a popular Hanukkah tradition with Philadelphia’s growing foodie culture — a direct result of the city’s restaurant renaissance,” said Sahar Oz, director of programming at Philadelphia’s Gershman Y, which launched — and still hosts — the event. More than 350 latke lovers are expected this year.

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Potato Latke with Gin-Cured Salmon, Pickled Beets and Boursin

By Yehuda Sichel

Photograph and recipe courtesy of Abe Fisher.

The Latke

Makes one big latke, cut into wedges to serve

2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons flour
2½ teaspoons salt
1 egg

  1. Combine all ingredients quickly, don’t overmix.

  2. Using a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat, fill hot pan halfway with oil.

  3. Let oil get hot (a dollop of the mix should sizzle) before adding all of the mixture to the pan.

  4. Cook 5 minutes on the first side, flip and cook 5 minutes on the second side, flip and cook 2 minutes, flip again and cook 2 minutes. Remove from oil and drain.

Gin Cured Salmon

1 side of filleted salmon, pinbones removed
1 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons granulated or brown sugar
1 bunch dill, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
¼ to ½ cup of gin

1) Combine all salt, sugar, dill, parsley. Then add ¼ cup gin to dry ingredients, until mixture has a wet sand consistency. Use this “sand” to pack the fish, laid out on a sheet tray with space in between each piece.

2) Pack fish with wet sand mixture. Let it sit in fridge 7 days, uncovered, to cure.

3) After 7 days, slice thinly to serve.

Pickled Beets

2 bunches of baby beets, rinsed but skin on
2 cups water
2 cups white distilled vinegar
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ground allspice
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup chopped chives, to garnish

1) Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

2) Place beets, liquids, sugar, allspice and salt in a pan. Cover, and cook in oven for 45 minutes, until beets are fork tender. Allow beets to cool in the liquid. (Peels will come right off.) Discard peels and cooking liquid.

3) Dice beets small and mix with chopped chives, reserving a few to garnish finished dish.

Homemade Boursin-Style Cheese

1 head garlic
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt to taste
¾ cup butter
1 cup cream cheese
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons dried chives
2 tablespoons fresh dill
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup sour cream

1) Preheat oven to 275˚ F.

2) Wrap whole head of garlic in foil. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and bake for 1½ hours or until very soft.

3) Combine butter, cream cheese and roasted garlic in a food processor with white pepper. Process until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in chives, dill, parsley and sour cream. Salt to taste. Store up to a week in the refrigerator.

To assemble the dish:

Serve latkes hot, cut into wedges. Schmear boursin across each plate; place one latke wedge down; top with two shingles of sliced salmon; add second latke; shingle two more layers of salmon. Top with pickled beets; garnish with chopped chives.

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How To Avoid Latke Fatigue

By Devra Ferst

Courtesy of First Press
BAMcafe Indian Spiced Latke with Cauliflower Chutney & Crushed Cashew Nuts

Tonight will be the fifth night of Hanukkah, meaning I’m right on schedule. I have entered into the arena of latke fatigue — and perhaps you have to. It’s at this point in the holiday that I have had more than one too many classic, plain potato latkes. Many of them were delicious, made up of layers of pillowy shredded potatoes surrounded by perfectly crisp and crackly edges. But, at this point, both my mind and my palate are coated in a thick layer of oil and are in need of something new — a flavor to temper the richness of all the oil. If I were a chef on a cook-off show, this is when I would reach for the “acid,” to “balance the flavors.”

To find latke inspiration, I had to leave tradition aside to seek out something different — and, I knew just where to find it. For the past four years, the New York’s Annual Latke Festival has pitted chefs from some of the city’s top restaurants against one another in a latke showdown. This year was no different: 17 chefs took on the challenge to create a latke that would satisfy some 300 guests and a group of judges with some very serious food credentials.

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14 Ways of Looking at a Latke — Reimaging the Classic

By Devra Ferst

While our blogger Temim Fruchter has been on the search for the perfect Hanukkah donut, I have been hunting down an unusual and creative gourmet latke as a reprieve from classic recipes. So far this year I have sampled 14 varieties – ranging from classic to topped with braised beef, purple potato to ginger and pork belly-stuffed (yes, pork belly, more on that later) – and while my desire for fried potatoes has been satisfied twice over, my appetite for a truly intriguing latke has only barely been whetted.

Innovation in the arena of latkes seems to go one of two ways. Either the cook dresses the latke, as New York Times columnist Melissa Clark proposes in a recent Dining section article, or the cook remakes the latke by adding ingredients or seasoning the of the potato.

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Mixing Bowl: Hanukkah Edition

By Devra Ferst

This week in the world of Jewish food we’ve all been lusting after delicious fried Hanukkah goods, but in case you need a break, we bring you some healthy Hanukkah culinary options as well. Happy Hanukkah.

For Hanukkah recipes from Mario Batali’s Latkes with Apple Sauce to Brisket Bourguignon check out Serious Eats’ Hanukkah page.

But the recipe we’re really dying to try right now is The Kitchn’s innovative Apple and Cheese-Stuffed Latkes.

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Some Not So Traditional Latkes Ideas

By Liz Schwartz

The unofficial state motto of Oregon is “Things look different here,” and it’s true. More to the point, people who live here look at things differently. So when the Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz steering committee met to talk about upcoming events a few months ago, we decided to take a fresh look at (or taste of) latkes.

We all love latkes. But let’s face it; after years of potato-oniony goodness, we decided it be more interesting to try some alternative recipes that would give everyone some new ideas for their own upcoming Hanukkah celebration. More importantly, this event was an opportunity to get together, cook and eat; what more could you ask from a gathering of Jews?

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