Tag Archives: Latkes

Recipe: Sumac or Za’atar Latkes

Both sumac and za’atar (hyssop) were biblical spices, the former used to impart a lemony flavor to food, and the latter to season almost anything. During the time of the Macabbees’ revolt in late autumn, and lemony sumac berries had just been harvested, and za’atar grew wild in the hills.

Today, the word za’atar refers to a spice blend of hyssop, salt, sumac and sesame seeds, popular on bread, in salads, and over yogurt cheese. You can find sumac and za’atar in Middle Eastern and Persian markets. This recipe was created by Nadav Granot, chef at the biblical gardens of Neot Kedumim, in Israel.

SUMAC OR ZA’ATAR LATKES

Makes about 8-10 (Serves 4-5)

  • ½ cup virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium-large)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt (slightly less if using za’atar)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared za’atar mix or dried crushed sumac
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 – 2 ½   tablespoons hot water
  • Thick Yogurt or Sour Cream

Pour ¼ cup oil into a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic till lightly golden, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the sumac or za’atar.

Stir in the onion and garlic mixture and beat in the eggs. The batter will be thick and sticky.

Add 2 tablespoons water (or more if necessary) so that the batter is the consistency of pancake batter.

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 a dollop of thick yogurt or sour cream.

Adapted from The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, by Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer (Harper-Collins 2004).

Rededicating Hanukkah Foods

By Merav Levkowitz

For those of us with food allergies and intolerances, social events tend to be awkward and isolating. So many Jewish events revolve around food and involve eating in social settings or at the houses of others. Though many Jews are used to  accommodating kashrut, vegetarianism, and lactose intolerance, which is common among Jews (but irrelevant during a kosher meat meal!), it can be uncomfortable to ask even the most accommodating host to modify his/her menu or recipes and cook differently, especially when old family recipes are at hand. Celiac disease is one such dietary restriction that requires extra attention and is rising in the prevalence in general and especially among Jews.

Celiac disease is, in a nutshell, an autoimmune digestive disease in which the body is unable to tolerate gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. The exact cause of Celiac disease remains unknown, but it is genetic and often triggered by environmental factors or intense physical event like illness, pregnancy or severe stress. In response to the offensive gluten, the immune system attacks and destroys the villi, the finger-like projections that line the inside of the small intestine and absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. Celiac disease that goes undiagnosed can manifest itself in a wide range of deceptive symptoms, including digestive issues, fatigue, infertility and seizures, among others, and can ultimately result in malnutrition and elevated risks for many illnesses and infections. Once diagnosed, the only way to treat it is to maintain a diet that is strictly free of gluten, which, in addition to being found in the primary grains mentioned above and their products, hides in many other products, like sauces, dressings, food fillers, lip gloss, and envelope adhesive.

In the Jewish world, a gluten-free diet means no challah, matzoh balls, sufganiyot (doughnuts), or even latkes (potato pancakes). Even with the increased awareness and greater supply of specialized products available in stores, maintaining a gluten-free diet often gives the impression of perpetual Passover. We Jewish Celiacs get used to reading labels and asking questions religiously, hosting, testing gluten-free recipes, cooking for ourselves and knowing that we will have to satisfy ourselves solely with the aroma of most challot. Although we cannot eat matzoh, during Passover we bask in the joy of knowing that for eight days our friends and family may get a small taste of what we experience year-round. Still, there is a feeling of loss that comes with not being able to participate in many Jewish rituals, mitzvot, and family traditions.

But with Hanukkah approaching, there is hope for Celiacs and our friends to reclaim the holiday this year and make it safe and enjoyable for all! Try out these flourless potato latkes and gluten-free sufganiyot, and check out this line-up of other gluten-free Hanukkah recipes. Hanukkah is, after all, about rededication and miracles and what better way to celebrate this than by sharing doughnuts that are safe for everyone?!  Happy cooking, and happy Hanukkah!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Latkes with Spiced Maple Syrup

With Hanukkah approaching fast, people everywhere are getting excited to dine on treats such as latkes and Sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts).  But after eight days, those delicious dishes can get tiresome.  This year, why not try out a little variation? According to Phyllis Glazer, modern takes on traditional foods are becoming all the rage in Israel (check out her article on the history of latkes in the current issue of Moment here!).  Here is one of our favorites:

Sweet Potato Latkes with Spiced Maple Syrup

Makes 10-12  (4-6 servings)

For the Latkes:

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼  cup matzah meal
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch white pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons light olive oil for frying

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • ½  teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ¼  teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chopped fresh coriander or mint leaves to garnish

Directions:

Scrub the sweet potatoes, peel and shred them on the fine side of a grater or in the food processor. Transfer to a wire-mesh strainer and squeeze to remove 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 combine the ingredients for the sauce, heat over low heat and keep warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet and add a small ladleful of the batter. Flatten gently and fry on both sides till golden-brown.

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 and pass the sauce separately. Garnish with fresh coriander or mint.  Serve with sour cream or plain yogurt if desired.

“Adapted from The Essential Book of Jewish Festival Cooking, by Phyllis Glazer with Miriyam Glazer (Harper-Collins 2004).”