Friday, December 16, 2011

let there be latkes

December roses still blooming in my front garden.
It's hard to take the winter holidays seriously when it is so warm outside. A white Christmas seems highly unlikely this year. Next week Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, begins its eight day run featuring dreidels, candles and a gift each day for the children who celebrate.
But it is the potato pancakes that define the eating experience of this holiday; I look forward to making a big batch every year. My family will be eating them tonight while we decorate our Christmas tree. It seems like the perfect way to enjoy the best of the holiday season!
For a very cute history of potato pancakes, or latkes, which includes the beheading of Holofernes by Judith, check out this link.

Applesauce is the traditional condiment for latkes, but I thought I would try something different this year, something fruity, but with a little more interest.

I have mean meaning to try Chef Dona Abramson's Roasted Pear-Tomatillo Salsa, a recipe that was featured in the NY Times several years ago. I pulled out the yellow clipping that has been lurking in my recipe files; now was the time to finally use it. The simple recipe took no time to prepare. It calls for whole coriander seeds that get toasted and then finely crushed. This step requires you source the whole seed, something that may not be available in every supermarket. I buy mine in the Indian stores in Jackson Heights, Queens. It is worth seeking them out, as the freshly ground seed gives off a lovely delicate perfume which really defines this salsa.
This salsa has a delicate color and a delicate flavor. The roasted pears give it a nice sweetened depth.

For a variation on potato latkes I substituted grated zucchini for the potato. These pancakes come out a bit lighter. I like to make them bite size and serve as finger food to guests, but larger sized latkes are great as part of a meal.
 A mini zucchini latke with a dollop of Pear-Tomatillo Salsa on top

To make zucchini pancakes:
•grate 1 cup of zucchini and grate one small onion • combine the grated vegetables in a bowl and add 1/4 cup flour, a beaten egg and a pinch of salt • heat cooking oil in a shallow pan • form small patties, about 1 tablespoon in size for bite sized pancakes or 3 tablespoons in size for a larger pancake, and fry in them the hot for about 3 minutes per side till crispy and golden. Drain on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil and serve immediately

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

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