Latkes take on special flavors this year


Sweet potato latkesThe great holiday convergence of Chanukah and Thanksgiving has thrown wide open the possibilities for latkes.

For many, sweet potato latkes have become quite popular during the past several years, but now they are almost a “must have” on Thanksgivukkah tables the second night of Chanukah. Thanksgiving regulars like corn and squash create a savory southern version while pancakes fried in oil — after all, that’s essentially what latkes are — bring new flavors from India and Syria to brighten up Chanukah.

And we can’t forget the toppings. Spice up your homemade apple sauce by adding some cranberries as the mixture cooks or mix cranberry sauce (homemade or store-bought) into prepared applesauce, sour cream or yogurt. Cranberry yogurt sauce on latkes promises to burst with flavor.

Latkes for Chanukah aren’t just about getting to eat fried food without the guilt. Try having a latke tasting at your Thanksgivukkah celebration or make a different latke each of the eight nights of Chanukah.

Apple Latkes
Susan Barocas
The crispy tartness of the apples is a delicious surprise with a first bite of these latkes. Sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar or just powdered sugar, this latke makes breakfast special or served with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream — and a dollop of whipped cream, if you dare — for a Chanukah dessert beyond sufganiyot.

2 large tart apples, cored but not peeled
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cup flour, sifted
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Vegetable oil for frying

Slice apples thinly and put in a bowl. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, mix to cover and set aside. Put flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and use a whisk to blend well, getting rid of any lumps. Combine egg, milk and butter. Stir into flour mixture to form a thin batter. Grease a frying pan with a thin layer of oil. Heat the pan over medium to medium high and pour in a tablespoon of batter. Place 2 or 3 apple slices in the center and top with another large tablespoon of batter. Cook over moderate heat until lightly browned. Turn carefully to brown other side. Serve with sour cream or yogurt. Yield: about 12 medium-sized latkes.

Sweet Potato Latkes
Marion L. Usher
Growing up Canadian, I hosted my first American Thanksgiving in 1977. I missed the mark with nearly everything I served that day. I am a quick learner, however, and over the years, these latkes have become our family favorite. They are perfect for blending Thanksgiving and Chanukah at this year’s holiday table.

1 pound sweet potatoes (about 3), peeled and coarsely grated
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1/3 cup flour (can be gluten-free)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Corn or vegetable oil for frying

Mix all ingredients except oil together. Heat oil over medium high in a deep skillet. When hot, lower tablespoon portions of batter into the oil using a slotted spoon. Fry a few minutes until golden and crisp on one side, then flip and fry on the other side for a few additional minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Yield: 20 small latkes

Savory Corn and Squash Fritters
Esther Schuster
One of our guests always brings her family’s favorite corn casserole to Thanksgiving dinner, and I always prepare a pareve squash casserole, one of my acquired Southern traditions. I decided to try to combine these two traditional dishes into a new treat, Thanksgivukkah latkes. Reminiscent of fritters and lighter than potato latkes, they were surprisingly tasty. And without all the butter and cheese that usually goes into the other dishes, they aren’t quite as bad for you as you might think. Who knows, a new tradition may have been born. The only problem now is, which holiday do I make them for next year — Thanksgiving or Chanukah?

Prep time:
Cook time: 45 minutes
Yield: 24 latkes or fritters
2 pounds raw yellow crookneck squash chopped and drained ( Liquid from drained squash and leeks can be reserved for veggie broth for soups; it freezes well.)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, defrosted and drained
2 leeks, the white and light green parts only, chopped
1 cup corn meal or corn bread mix (If you use corn bread mix, reduce salt and baking powder by half )
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 clove fresh minced garlic or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
For a spicier option, add chopped chile peppers to the fritter batter or experiment with different spices like dill, basil and tarragon.

Wash yellow squash and leeks and chop in a food processor until pretty finely chopped. Place in a strainer and drain excess water for about 30 minutes. Mix corn, squash and leeks together. In a large bowl, stir together corn meal or mix, baking powder, spices, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk eggs until well beaten, then whisk into corn meal mixture. Combine squash, corn and leek mixture with the corn meal and egg mixture and blend thoroughly.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop batter by large spoonful into hot oil. Fry on both sides until crisp and brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with traditional latke toppings of sour cream and apple sauce or, to spice things up a bit, top with your favorite salsa or perhaps add a little salsa to sour cream. Plain Greek yogurt can be substituted for sour cream. For a garden fresh accompaniment, saute some extra chopped leeks and mix with sour cream, salt, pepper and a little fresh dill.

Potato PancakesSpicy Vegan Latkes
Shaina Shealy
Born out of necessity — feeding vegan friends while living in India — these eggless latkes have a surprising ingredient in oatmeal and, also surprising, the taste and texture close enough to traditional latkes to satisfy anyone’s craving.

8 medium potatoes, peeled
3 onions
1 cup instant oatmeal
1 cup hot water
1/3 cup crushed almonds
1 teaspoon sea salt
black pepper to taste
1 cup vegetable oil for frying
Optional: Add minced fresh chili, grated fresh ginger, cumin, garam masala, coriander, shredded carrots, fresh spinach chopped small, turmeric and/or minced garlic to taste.

Grate potatoes by hand and chop onions into very small pieces, or shred potatoes and onions together in a food processor. In a separate large bowl, combine oatmeal with hot water until it becomes a soft and sticky porridge. Add potatoes, onions, almonds and salt with optional spices and vegetables. With your hands, form mixture into somewhat thin patties the size of your palm. Fry in ½ inch vegetable oil until golden brown. Lay on paper towel to drain excess oil. For a delicious Indian topping, mix a squeeze of lime, salt and some chopped cilantro into plain yogurt.

J-Silversterin-edgehEdgeh (Syrian omelettes)
Julie Silverstein
Edgeh are herbed omelets cooked in olive oil and traditionally served during Chanukah in Syrian communities. Think of edgeh as a much “egg-ier” latke. The rest of the year you can find them in innumerable variations at street stands throughout the Middle East. They make an easy light meal any day of the week and a great vehicle for leftover veggies. Just add a cup of cooked chopped zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower, artichoke or potatoes to the batter and cook.

4 large eggs, beaten
5 tablespoons scallions, green and white parts chopped
4 tablespoons parsley, mint and/or cilantro, chopped
½ cup fine bread crumbs (For a gluten free and more nutritious alternative to white bread crumbs, use chickpea flour known as besan in Middle Eastern markets)
½ teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper
½ cup pure olive oil

In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, scallions and your herb or herbs of choice. Parsley is traditional but mint or cilantro are great, too, alone or in any combination. Hint: When rushed, I like to use a pair of scissors for chopping. Add bread crumbs and seasonings until well incorporated. If your bread crumbs are already seasoned, there may be no need to add salt. If they are salt free, add 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the batter. Heat the oil in a large skillet at medium temperature. The oil is ready when you can drop a bit of batter into the oil and it sizzles. For each edgeh, drop 2 tablespoons of batter into the hot oil. Fry on each side until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Yield: 8 3-inch patties

cranberry yogurt by itselfZesty Cranberry Yogurt Sauce
Shain Shealy
For a healthy and yummy Thanksgiving twist on a Chanukah classic, try this sauce in place of sour cream on your latkes. It’s great with old-fashioned latkes, but with sweet potato latkes — it is unbelievable. Use leftovers as a complementary topping for savory sweet potato dishes or drizzle cranberry sauce over yogurt and granola for a zesty breakfast or midday snack.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15-25 minutes
Yield: 10-14 servings as a sauce for latkes
2 cups whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
¾ cup dates, chopped
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dried cranberries or raisins
½ cup toasted walnut pieces
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (can be low-fat)
1 tablespoon orange zest for garnish

Cook cranberries, dates, orange juice and zest, cloves and cinnamon on low heat for 15 to 25 minutes until the cranberry skins break apart. Remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken. Stir dried cranberries or raisins and walnut pieces into mixture, then cranberry sauce into Greek yogurt and garnish with orange zest.

Jewish Food Experience: ‘Inspired by tradition. ‘Delivered with a twist’

Cooking, eating, sharing and enjoying food are part of nearly every Jewish holiday and gathering with family and friends. The Jewish Food Experience brings people together around Jewish food to build Jewish identity and community. Through programs on the website,, JFE highlights international flavors, Jewish holidays and occasions, volunteer opportunities to help fight hunger in our community and more.

JFE Partnership Grants help support programming around Jewish food at organizations throughout our community. Information about grants can be found on the website along with stories and recipes by local “foodies,” including chefs, home cooks, restaurant owners, authors and food bloggers as well as news of Jewish food events, the latest cookbooks and eating hot spots, all with a focus on the greater D.C. metro area. Launched in 2013, JFE is a project of the United Jewish Endowment Fund of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Susan Barocas is director of the Jewish Food Experience

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