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The Kosher Table

Chanukah is upon us
Lisa Tuttle
Lisa Kelvin Tuttle

The countdown to Chanukah has begun and that familiar feeling of anticipation is in the air . . . time to polish those menorahs, unpack the dreidels, and make our gift lists. If there's one word that sums up much of the excitement for me, though, its latkes! My mouth waters at the mention of the word. When I was growing up, my mother would make them with us every day of Chanukah. My sisters and I would bring them to school each year to share with our class, and we'd freeze entire batches to enjoy long after the festival had passed. One year we had a latke fry-off at my synagogue with more than 25 different versions of potato latkes! I can recall my surprise that not one was the same as any other--there were thin crispy latkes, some were soft and fluffy, others were creamy or chewy. When I asked my friends which ones they liked, just about each person said that even though all the others were good, they'd choose their own mom's latkes every time.

In those days the idea of making latkes with anything other than potatoes and onions was pretty rare, but now latkes have gone quite gourmet. The Philadelphia restaurant Brasserie Perrier currently features smoked salmon, potato, and basil croquettes with a citrus crème fraiche on its roster of cold appetizers. I've seen recipes that call for scallions instead of onions and the addition of fresh herbs, lemon juice, and all sorts of exotic seasonings. Joan Nathan writes, in Jewish Cooking in America, that before potatoes arrived in Poland and Russia, latkes (from the Russian "latka") were most likely made from buckwheat groats, lentils, or other legumes. 

In my perusal of a variety of Jewish cookbooks, I came upon recipes for green pea latkes and sweet potato latkes, zucchini latkes, latkes made with parsnips, carrots, and beets . . . even guacamole! And though applesauce and sour cream really can't be beat, I've had the pleasure over the years of experimenting with a wealth of tantalizing toppings. Last year, some friends hosted a Chanukah dinner with three exotic variations on the latke and guests brought a few kinds as well. I guess you could say it was a regular "pot-latke" supper.

When my mom passed away just days before Chanukah, one of the first things I did when I got up from sitting shivah was to get out her big box grater, pile potatoes on the counter, and start peeling. My tears started long before I got to the onions, and that will probably be my experience again this year and every year from here on. But one thing is certain, food--for me, Jewish food especially--is linked to important people, to tradition, and more than anything, to memories. Here's to honoring our memories and the miracle of the oil.

Until we eat again . . . 


Lisa Kelvin Tuttle has professional experience in the gourmet, catering, and health-food fields, as well as being an experienced kosher camp cook. Her greatest pleasure, though, is cooking Shabbos dinner for family and friends. She resides with her husband, Alan, and sons Adam and Jeremy in Wynnewood.

Edie's Potato Latkes

  • 6 large Idaho potatoes
  • 3 medium yellow onions
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup self-rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  1. Grate the potatoes and onions either by hand, using the largest holes on a box grater, or with the grater attachment of a food processor. Then, using your food processor's blade attachment, pulse the grated mixture two or three times to break down only slightly. Remove mixture to a large bowl and fold in the beaten eggs, flour and salt.
  2. Heat ¼ inch of oil in a large heavy skillet, and gently spoon batter into the pan (I find that a soupspoon works well), tapping the spoon in the center slightly to form uniform latkes. The flatter you make the latkes, the more crisp they will be. Cook about 2 minutes till golden brown on the first side, then flip and fry about another 30 seconds. Remove to paper towels or cut-up brown paper bags to drain. You can keep them warm in a 200-degree oven while you fry the rest. If the batter becomes watery, just stir in a bit more of the self-rising flour.

Makes about 40 three inch latkes.

Moroccan Beet Latkes

If you don't fancy Moroccan spices, leave them out! These unusual latkes are delicious either savory or sweet. These are great with sour cream and hot sauce!

  • 6 medium beets
  • 6 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
  1. Peel and coarsely grate the beets. Place in a large bowl and press with paper towels to remove as much of the liquid as you can.
  2. In another bowl, whisk flour, salt, cumin, coriander, and pepper. Then mix in the beets and the eggs, folding to combine ingredients.
  3. Pour ¼ inch of oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Working in batches, drop beep mixture by ¼-cupfuls in to skillet, and spread to 3½-inch rounds. Fry until golden, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a baking sheet and rewarm in a 350-degree oven until crisp. 

Guacamole Latkes

This funky take on the potato latke from Kosher by Design Entertains will have people talking-and asking for the recipe!

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 3 avocadoes, peeled, pit removed
  • ½ large red onion, minced
  • 2 small jalapeno peppers, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • peanut oil for frying
  • salsa
  1. Using the coarse grating disk of a food processor, grate the unpeeled potatoes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the salt into the eggs.
  3. In another bowl, mash the avocado with the back of a fork. Add the onions, jalapeno peppers, and the beans. Mix to combine, then add the egg mixture and the avocado mixture into the grated potatoes. Gingerly toss to combine.
  4. In a large skillet, heat the peanut oil until very hot but not smoking. If you are using a thermometer, bring the oil to 375 degrees F.
  5. Add the potato/avocado mixture ¼ cup at a time. Fry until golden, flip and fry until golden on the other side. Drain on paper towels or brown paper. Serve with a dollop of salsa.

Makes about 14-18 latkes. 

Pineapple Cottage Cheese Latkes

These delicious dairy latkes are so easy-you just whip up the batter in the blender-and they can be made with any plain or flavored cottage cheese, as well as ricotta or farmer cheese. The batter will appear too thin, but it will cook into light tasty little pancakes.

  • 1 12-ounce container of pineapple cottage cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil and butter for frying

Mix first seven ingredients on high speed for one minute in a blender, or in the bowl of an electric mixer. Drop by tablespoonfuls into a heated mixture of melted butter and oil (the butter adds a delicious flavor to these dairy pancakes, and the oil keeps the butter from burning). Fry until golden brown on both sides. Serve with sour cream and jam.

Steven Raichlen's "Amazing Low-Fat" Sweet Potato Latkes

I was impressed by Raichlen's technique of bake-frying latkes in the oven. Below is a variation on this traditionally high-calorie treat, adapted from Healthy Jewish Cooking.

  • 1½ pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/3 cup egg substitute or 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup matzo meal or flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil or cooking spray
  1. Place a large nonstick baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
  2. Coarsely grate the sweet potatoes and onion into a mixing bowl, using a food processor or box grater using the largest holes. Stir in the egg substitute, parsley, matzo meal or flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg (if using), and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour the oil on the hot baking sheet, spreading it around with the back of a metal spatula, or spray cookie sheet well with cooking spray. 
  4. Spoon small mounds of sweet potato mixture onto the baking sheet to form 2-inch pancakes, leaving an inch or so between them.
  5. Bake the latkes until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning once with a spatula. When you turn them, be sure to flip them onto spots on the baking sheet that still have the oil. Do not overcook or the latkes will become too soft or too dark. Transfer to a serving platter and serve at once.

Makes about 24 2-inch latkes. 

Previously on the Kosher Table