Noodles flex their versatility in sweet, savory kugels


During a recent cooking class I was teaching, several students showed an interest in Jewish foods that could be served during Chanukah, aside from the traditional potato latkes.   

Sufganiyot, or jelly doughnuts, are another popular choice at this time of year, but I thought of something else. As far back as I can remember, old-fashioned kugel — one of the basic foods in Jewish cuisine — has been served at our family meals to celebrate the holiday.

In Germany, the name kugel has become synonymous with pudding, and the two words in Europe often are interchangeable. Most kugel recipes are based on noodles, rice or potatoes, and kugel can be served as a side dish, main course or dessert, hot or cold.

While the crisp Classic Potato Kugel is a hearty accompaniment for brisket, pot roast or roasted chicken, my personal favorite is a Noodle Fruit Kugel, accented with apples and raisins. 

Most kugel recipes can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake and serve.

And don’t worry, just because kugel is on the menu this Chanukah doesn’t mean your family has to pass on those old-fashioned potato latkes. It’s easy to convert the potato kugel batter into latkes simply by spooning some of the mixture into a nonstick skillet and frying them until golden brown.    

CLASSIC POTATO KUGEL

This recipe also can be used to make Classic Latkes (see below).

1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
2 cups peeled, grated potatoes, well-drained and tightly packed (preferably russet)
1 small onion, grated
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Brush bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil and set aside. 

Beat eggs in a large bowl until fluffy.  Add grated potatoes, onion, remaining olive oil, flour, baking powder and salt and pepper. Spoon the potato mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 to 45 minutes longer, until golden brown and crisp.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

CLASSIC LATKES

Prepare potato mixture.

Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet.  Drop a tablespoon of the potato mixture into the skillet, then flatten with the back of a spoon for thin latkes. Brown on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how hot the burner under the frying pan is. Drain on paper towels.  

Makes about 24 latkes.

NOODLE FRUIT KUGEL

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup Concord grape wine or apple juice
1 (12-ounce) package flat egg noodles
1/4 pound unsalted butter
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
4 eggs, well beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar or more to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. 

Brush a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with olive oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, soak raisins in wine for 1 hour or overnight, drain before using.  

Boil the noodles until tender, drain into a large bowl. Combine noodles, butter, apples and  raisins and mix well. Add eggs and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if desired. 

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until top is brown and crisp.  Cut into squares. Serve hot or cold. 

Makes about 10 to 12 servings.     

MIDDLE EASTERN RICE KUGEL

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
Grated peel of 1 orange
Grated peel of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
3 cups cooked rice
1/2 cups raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

Brush bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish with olive oil and set aside. 

Beat together sugar, butter, orange and lemon peel, cinnamon and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well-blended. Stir in rice and raisins and mix thoroughly. 

Pour into prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

KUGEL SOUFFLE

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 pound flat egg noodles
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  

Brush an 8- or 9-inch round mold with melted butter. Set aside.

Cook noodles in salted boiling water until tender. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in saucepan. Add flour and whisk until blended. Add warm milk all at once, stirring vigorously with wire whisk. Season to taste, with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Transfer mixture to large bowl and cool slightly. 

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and set aside. Beat yolks in separate bowl until foamy and add to cooled butter mixture. Stir in noodles. Carefully fold in stiffly beaten egg whites, then parsley. Spoon the mixture into prepared mold and place mold in a shallow baking pan partially filled with hot water.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until set. Unmold kugel onto a large platter. 

Makes about 8 servings.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

How I learned to make latkes


 

Chanukah has meant different things to me at different stages of my life. When I was little, it was about nightly presents and making candy dreidels in school, using marshmallows, red vines, Hershey’s Kisses and icing.

As I got older, it was about lighting the chanukiyah with my family and reading the prayers from my father’s prayer book. In college, it was about convening my friends in our dorm to light the Chanukah menorah together, and since then it’s been so meaningful to come home from work, light the chanukiyah in my kitchen and place it in the window of my apartment in view of the street.

This year, though, Chanukah took a different turn. I decided to learn how to cook latkes, the potato pancakes we eat to commemorate how oil, enough for only one day, lasted eight nights following the Maccabee victory.

The best way to learn, I figured, was to visit with Rob Eshman, Journal publisher, editor-in-chief and Foodaism blogger.

Rob is a foodie. He once brought a sugar cane to an editorial meeting and began chopping away at it with a knife so we could all taste fresh sugar. He’s kept goats and chickens in his backyard and grows many of the vegetables, fruits and herbs he cooks with in his garden. He’s genuinely offended when the office orders Domino’s.

Given that I’d never made latkes before, it helped that Rob was prepared. He had all the ingredients ready: the potatoes, an onion, salt, pepper, eggs and oil. There aren’t a lot of ingredients to latkes, Rob explained. The secret to success, he said, is in the technique.

He immediately put me to work peeling potatoes. I cook my own meals most nights, but it turns out there’s plenty left to learn. Like, how to use a potato peeler. Rob’s peels flew off the potato like sparks. Mine took their time. Rob looked over.

“Oh, we’re starting from there,” he said.

After some instruction, I sliced away at the potato skin, then, per his instructions, placed the potato in a bowl of water. Rob explained we keep the potato in water so as to prevent it from turning brown, or oxidizing. That was technique No. 1.

Then came technique No. 2. To make sure the grated potatoes didn’t turn brown, we alternated grating them with an onion. The onion was strong. I cried; Rob did too.

The third technique, Rob said, was crucial. We took handfuls of the potato/onion mixture and squeezed it out into a bowl to remove as much liquid as possible. The more liquid, Rob explained, the soggier the latke — and no one likes a soggy latke.

A white, wet goo settled at the bottom of the drained liquid. This was potato starch, and the basis for technique No. 4. Once the starch settled at the bottom of the bowl, we drained off the liquid, scooped up the starch and mixed it in with the potatoes. That would help bind the latkes and erase the need to add flour or matzo meal, which can make for heavier pancakes.

I cracked a couple of eggs and mixed those in as well, then sprinkled salt and pepper over the batter. Afterward, I poured a generous amount of cooking oil into a pan, spooned the latke batter into the pan and let it fry into latkes.

Latkes frying in oil.

The latkes turned out perfectly. Crisp, light and potato-y. Rob even made a special few using a Middle Eastern strained yogurt called labneh, smoked salmon, and dill fetched from Rob’s garden.

The real test, however, was cooking latkes on my own. A few days later, I went to Ralphs and purchased two potatoes and an onion. I also got a grater and a potato peeler, since I had neither.

At home, I did exactly what I’d learned, following the techniques step by step. Eventually I wound up with about 12 latkes. I ate them with sour cream. They weren’t as good as the ones I’d cooked with Rob, but they were edible. Most importantly, I’d cooked them myself.

Later, my friend Esther came over with applesauce and tried one of my homemade latkes. I explained that the latkes seemed a little dry and didn’t hold together well. Esther asked me if I used eggs. Nope — forgot. Esther made me feel better, pointing out I’d just made vegan, gluten-free latkes.

I plan to cook latkes at my family Chanukah party this year, to put my new skill to use and wow my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law and nephew with my culinary abilities. I just hope I remember all the ingredients.

Sausage hash brown latkes


Sausage Hash Brown Latkes

My favorite breakfast is a combination of eggs served with sausage and hash browns. When combined together and fried to crispy perfection it makes the perfect breakfast latke!

Ingredients:

  • 4 sausages, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 20 oz. shredded hash browns (3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 scallions chopped up
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 

Saute onions until tender. Add diced sausage and cook until lightly browned. Combine with hash bronws, eggs, flour, scallions and season with salt and pepper. Fry up in batches and serve with spicy mayo. (mayo with sriracha combined)

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Waffle latkes with bite sized crispy chicken


Waffle Latkes with Bite Sized Crispy Chicken

These are a personal favorite of mine. I love the sweet salty combo of latkes with maple syrup.

Ingredients:

                    Baked Chicken Bites:

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of mayo
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 cups corn flake crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

       

       Waffle Latkes:

  • 20 oz. shredded potatoes (3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 T flour

     

       Optional:

  • maple syrup
  • western sauce (recipe below)

 

Directions:

Cut chicken into small pieces. Season corn flake crumbs with salt and pepper. Combine mustard and mayo. Coat chicken with mayo mixture then corn flake crumbs. Place on lightly greased baking sheet, spray with cooking oil and cook in oven on 350′ for 25-30 minutes until chicken is cooked.

While the chicken cooks combine waffle latkes and cook up in batches using a waffle maker (be sure to use a non dairy waffle maker!) Plate cooked waffle latkes with baked chicken bites and hold together with a tooth pick. Drizzle maple syrup on top or serve with western sauce (combine equal parts ketchup, mayo and bbq sauce) or spicy mayo (mayo with sriracha)

This recipe first appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

From savory to sweet, latkes for all


Chanukah, which begins the night of Dec. 6, has always been a joyous holiday celebrated more in the home than in the synagogue. Every year, we invite a minimum of 25 family members and friends to our celebration, and it is always a festive occasion. 

When our guests arrive, we begin with platters of Crispy Potato Latkes that are served with sour cream, applesauce and sugar. Latkes fried in olive oil act as a reminder of the ancient miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the Temple.

With each course during dinner, we serve a different kind of latke. The Romanian Noodle Latkes, similar to a pasta dish, seem to be everyone’s top choice and are always a special request. We’ll see how they stand up to Salmon Latkes, a new addition to our celebration this year. 

After serving dinner, we take a break before dessert to exchange presents, which usually takes at least two hours. In the past, everyone had lots of gifts to open, but this year, the family has rebelled and decided to have a Chanukah grab bag, for which everyone will bring one present. (Of course, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren will receive more!)

For dessert, serve my Sweet Potato Latkes, a family favorite enriched with dates, raisins and nuts. Or make Apple Latkes dusted with cinnamon and sugar — a suitably sweet way to end the evening.

CRISPY POTATO LATKES

  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper to taste

 

Peel potatoes or scrub and use unpeeled. Grate potatoes, using food processor or fine shredder.

In large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, lemon juice, eggs and 1 tablespoon oil. Blend well. Stir in flour. Add salt and pepper. Mix well.

In a heavy skillet or an electric frying pan, heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil. Drop potato mixture by tablespoons into hot oil, flattening with back of spoon. Brown well, on both sides, turning once. Cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Serve latkes crisp and hot with applesauce, sugar, sour cream or preserves if desired.

Makes about 3 dozen latkes.

ROMANIAN NOODLE LATKES

  • 1 (8-ounce) package fine egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain well. Transfer to a large bowl, add margarine and blend well.

In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and sauté onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add onion to noodles. Blend in eggs. Add salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Drop noodle mixture by tablespoons into hot oil, flattening each spoonful with back of spoon to form thin latkes. Fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. (Do not turn latkes until first side is golden and firmly set.)

Makes about 2 dozen latkes. 

SALMON LATKES

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pink salmon
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or matzah meal
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

 

In a mixing bowl, place salmon and its liquid in a bowl. Add onion, eggs and bread crumbs. Add salt and pepper. Mix well. Set aside for 15 minutes.

With wet hands, shape mixture into latkes. In large, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add latkes to skillet and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or cold.

Makes about 12 latkes. 

CARROT AND ZUCCHINI LATKES

  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 eggs
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

 

In a large bowl, combine carrots, zucchini, onion and eggs; blend thoroughly. (This can be done in food processor with metal blade, using a quick on-and-off motion, just enough to blend, then transfer mixture to a large bowl.) 

Add flour, baking powder, salt and pepper; mix well.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Drop carrot-zucchini mixture by large spoonsful into hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 3 dozen latkes.

SWEET POTATO LATKES

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and finely grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Powdered sugar

 

In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggs, granulated sugar and enough ground almonds to make a thick batter. Mix well. Fold in raisins, dates and pecans. Add salt.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Spoon heaping tablespoonsful of potato mixture into oil, flattening with back of a wet spoon. Brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Makes about 12 latkes. 

APPLE LATKES

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup milk or liquid nondairy creamer
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 to 4 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • Powdered sugar 
  • Ground cinnamon

 

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until light. Blend in milk. Stir in flour, granulated sugar, margarine and lemon juice. Add salt and beat until smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold into egg yolk mixture.

In a large skillet, heat oil to about 375 F. Dip each apple slice into batter. Lift out with fork or tongs, drop into hot oil and fry until brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen latkes. 

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

The accidental brussels sprouts latkes


A couple of years ago, just before Chanukah, I heard Akasha Richmond on KCRW describing how her kitchen manager had over-ordered Brussels sprouts (to the tune of 50 pounds). In desperation she decided to add the extra Brussels sprouts to her latkes.  That’s the way great inventions happen.  

Akasha didn’t provide any further details, so I don’t know how similar our two versions are. But mine have been a huge hit at my Chanukah parties and will definitely be making an appearance this year.

I usually make sweet potato latkes to go along with the Brussels sprouts ones, and if you’re offering two or three types of latkes, the quantities in this recipe will serve at least 16. But if you’re serving these on their own (perfectly satisfactory!) I’d plan on this recipe serving eight. Make sure you have a food processor on hand if at all possible. It will make your preparations that much easier.

POTATO AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS LATKES

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 small onion 
  • 5 large eggs 
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup canola oil

 

Peel the potatoes and shred them in a food processor (or grate them by hand).  Put the grated potatoes in a colander perched over a bowl, and let them drain for 15 minutes. Discard the liquid from the bowl, but keep the starch that remains at the bottom of the bowl.

Peel the onion, and grate it in the food processor (or by  hand).

In a large bowl, mix the starch from the potatoes with the grated onion, eggs, flour, salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts, and run them through the fine slicing disc of your food processor (or slice them vertically into thin slices). Add the sliced Brussels sprouts to the bowl with the egg-onion mixture and grated potatoes.  

Heat the canola oil in a large sauté pan, then adjust heat to medium. Drop heaping teaspoonsful of the batter into the pan, and fry until golden brown, turning them over so both sides are done. If they’re getting dark too quickly and seem to be burning, lower the heat.  

Remove latkes from pan, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle a bit of extra salt on top, if desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Hava Volterra is chef and owner of Hava’s Kitchen in Santa Monica

For Chanukah, breakfast latkes two ways


I first tasted latkes for brunch at a trendy eatery on the Lower East  Side about six years ago. Since then, I’ve seen them across the country on brunch menus everywhere from diners to Michelin Star restaurants.

Latkes — or potato pancakes, as they’re known to non-Jews — are comfort food that provide the perfect base to any number of savory toppings, but especially a runny egg or salty, fatty smoked salmon. After all, a latke is very similar to hash browns, a quintessential breakfast food.

It’s traditional to eat fried foods like latkes during Hanukkah, celebrating the miracle of the oil lasting for eight nights. And who doesn’t love a holiday that encourages enjoyment of a little extra oil?

These breakfast latkes take the best of a classic and add a fun, American twist that screams brunch party.

Here I offer two options: one dairy and one meat. If you keep kosher but want to serve both at a single meal, you could leave out the corned beef from the second latke and just top classic latkes with some fried or poached eggs. If you want to be really indulgent, you could whip up some buttery Hollandaise sauce — you’ll have your guests raving for months.

EVERYTHING BAGEL LATKES WITH DILL CREAM CHEESE AND SMOKED SALMON

Yield: 12-15 latkes

These latkes are both creamy and savory. Making latkes bite-size makes the experience a little more fun – guests can easily eat the latkes with their fingers, and also feel like they can indulge a little more since the portions are small.

For the latkes:

  • 4 Idaho (Russet) potatoes
  • 1 small-medium onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, left at room temperature
  • vegetable oil for frying

 

For the cream cheese:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, left at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

For the everything bagel topping:

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion
  • 2 teaspoons thick sea salt
  • Thinly sliced smoked salmon

 

Before getting started on the latkes, I advise making the everything bagel topping and the dill cream cheese.

Add softened cream cheese to a bowl and combine with fresh dill, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Place back in the fridge until ready to serve.

To make the everything bagel topping, mix together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic, dried onion and thick sea salt. Set aside.

Peel and cut potatoes and onions in half. Peel garlic cloves. Place potatoes, onion and garlic through food processor for a coarse grate (you can also grate coarsely by hand).

Place potato mixture to a large bowl. Add eggs, flour, salt, goat cheese and 2 tablespoons everything bagel topping mix.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Form bite-sized mounds of latkes, taking care not to squeeze too much liquid out of the latkes. Fry until golden brown on each side, then place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet to cool. Immediately sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

When ready to serve, spread thin layer of dill cream cheese on top of each latke. Add smoked salmon on each latke and top with sprinkle of everything bagel topping. Serve while still warm.

CORNED BEEF HASH LATKES WITH FRIED EGGS

Yield: 12-15 latkes

These corned beef hash-inspired latkes work best with thinly shredded corned beef. If you can purchase a hunk of corned beef, as opposed to sliced, that would be ideal. If not, make sure to heat up the corned beef before shredding it or dicing into very, very tiny cubes.

But don’t skimp on the salt in these latkes just because you think the meat will be salty – the potatoes still need salt to make these latkes most flavorful.

  • 4 Idaho (Russet) potatoes
  • 1 small-medium onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Shredded corned beef
  • Additional salt
  • Additional eggs
  • Fresh parsley
  • Vegetable oil for frying

 

Peel and cut potatoes and onions in half. Peel garlic cloves. Place potatoes, onion and garlic through food processor for a coarse grate (you can also grate coarsely by hand).

Place potato mixture to a large bowl. Add eggs, flour, salt and shredded (or diced) corned beef.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Form large, fist-sized mounds of latkes, taking care not to squeeze too much liquid out of the latkes. Fry until golden brown on each side, then place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet to cool. Immediately sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Fry or poach eggs to your liking. When ready to serve, place latkes on platter and top with fried or poached eggs. Top with chopped fresh parsley.

Schultz’s ‘lower guilt’ latkes


Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — South Florida congresswoman, chair of the Democratic National Committee, mother of three school-age children — is also, apparently, something of maven in the kitchen. Wasserman Schultz (aka @cleancookingcongresswoman) maintains an Instagram account devoted to her culinary adventures, and was tweeting over the weekend about, what else, latkes.

“Was flipping through old recipes and came across this — only 3 days to Hanukkah and more of these!” she tweeted, along with a photo of golden brown potato pancakes.

Getting latkes just right can present something of a challenge: forget to squeeze the water out of the potatoes and you’re likely to get a patty that’s heavier than it is crispy; fail to flip at precisely the right time, and the product may be more burnt than golden.

So we decided to ask Wasserman Schultz for her formula for the perfect latke. Explaining her decision to include grated sweet potato and parsnip, in addition to traditional baking potatoes, she told JTA via email:

My New Year’s resolution last year was to eat healthier without giving up my favorite “Jewish soul foods”! So, throughout the year, I set out to adapt our favorite traditional Jewish recipes to a “clean cooking,” healthier version. During Passover I made pizza with a matzo farfel crust and I didn’t want to give up latkes at Hanukkah, so I found this root vegetable recipe, which I adapted a bit for my family’s tastes.

But because latkes are a favorite in the Wasserman Schultz household, she’ll be serving up traditional ones in addition to the “lower guilt” option.

“Less guilt in a Jewish household, who knew it was possible!” the congresswoman told us.

It is possible — and here’s the recipe, which Wasserman Schultz adapted from MyRecipes.com.

Debbie’s (aka @CleanCookingCongresswoman‘s) Healthy Root Vegetable Latke Recipe

  • 2 cups grated peeled sweet potato
  • 2 cups grated peeled baking potato
  • 1 cup grated peeled parsnip
  • 3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Place first 3 ingredients on paper towels; squeeze until barely moist. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, eggs, and onion in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add potato mixture; beat with a mixer at low speed until combined.

 

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil; swirl. Heap 3 tablespoons potato mixture into pan to form a patty; flatten slightly. Repeat procedure 5 times to form 6 patties. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 6 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place latkes on a baking sheet; keep warm in oven. Repeat procedure twice with remaining oil and potato mixture to yield 18 latkes total. Sprinkle latkes with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Garnish with dill, if desired.

Recipe: Poutine Latkes


This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch.

Ingredients:

Potato Latkes

  • 1 lb shredded potatoes (4 cups) -> Frozen works great! Just defrost the bag first
  • 1 small onion, shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 2 T flour
  • Optional: 3 T chopped green onions

 

Gravy

  • 2 T earth balance
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 1 T soy sauce (add more if you want a darker gravy)

 

additional

  •  1 large ball of Fresh Mozzarella, cut into small pieces (or shredded mozzarella)

 

Directions:

Combine latke ingredients. Fry up in batches using a tablespoon measuring spoon until both sides are golden brown. Once latkes are cooked set aside. Melt earth balance in a pot over low heat. Add flour and whisk until combined. Slowly add broth. Whisk until combined. Continue whisking over medium heat until mixture thickens. Season with pepper. Add soy sauce and combine. Place two latkes on a small plate or bowl then top with mozzarella . Layer hot gravy over cheese and serve immediately.

Make your Chanukah party one for the ages with these recipes


Chanukah is not just for children, but usually they have most of the fun. They open presents, light candles during the eight days of the holiday and get more than their share of cookies and potato latkes. Our Chanukah party will be shared by four generations this year because our two great-granddaughters will be joining us. 

In planning a Chanukah dinner for the entire family, I always try to remember who likes, or doesn’t like, certain foods and to make sure that there are always enough vegetables for those who don’t eat meat. It’s usually a good idea to keep the menu simple, with an emphasis on food that can be prepared in advance and won’t be ruined if some of the guests are a little late.

Fried foods are always eaten during Chanukah, which begins the evening of Dec. 16 and commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the Temple. Our appetizers will consist of foods fried in olive oil, like Mini Potato Latkes served with bowls of Tomato Salsa, salmon caviar and our family’s traditional Glazed Apple Slices.

We’ll feature a special Olive Oil Cake for dessert, a recipe from Dario Cecchini, one of Italy’s best-known food personalities. He features this cake at his restaurant Solociccia in Tuscany.

There will be plates of fresh and dried fruits, and — because everyone in our family loves chocolate — my delicious Chocolate-Cinnamon Snaps. It is a tradition in our home to wrap some of these cookies in silver foil, representing the Chanukah gelt (money) given to the children during the holiday — just another reason for them to smile.

MINI POTATO LATKES

  • 4 large potatoes, grated
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, eggs and 1 tablespoon oil. Add flour, baking powder and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large heavy skillet or nonstick frying pan, heat 1/4 inch of oil. With a teaspoon, carefully spoon batter into hot oil; flatten each spoonful to make small, thin latkes. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, turning only once, until golden brown, and adding more oil if necessary. Drain well on paper towels. Serve with Tomato Salsa, salmon caviar or Glazed Apple Slices.

Makes about 6 dozen mini latkes.

TOMATO SALSA 

  • 4 ripe, firm tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 serrano chili, stems and  seeds removed, finely minced (optional)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt to taste

 

In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and chill. 

Makes 2 to 3 cups.

GLAZED APPLE SLICES

This versatile recipe offers an elegant change from old-fashioned applesauce for Chanukah. It makes a great light dessert for informal meals or a special treat for family breakfasts. The translucent slices can be used as a pie filling, or in open-faced tarts. Or just drain the slices, add nuts and raisins and voila! instant strudel filling.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 6 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

 

In a large, heavy skillet, combine sugar, marmalade and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar and marmalade have dissolved. Bring this syrup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, just until it begins to thicken.

In a large bowl, toss apple slices with lemon juice and zest (this will prevent apple from turning dark). Then add apple slices, lemon juice and zest to syrup in skillet; toss gently to coat apples. Simmer, covered, 10 to 15 minutes, until apple slices are soft. Transfer to a glass bowl; cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. 

Makes 3 to 4 cups.

DARIO’S OLIVE OIL CAKE

From “Italy Cooks,”by Judy Zeidler. 

  • 1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds 
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 oranges, finely chopped (use pulp and peel)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in Vin Santo wine to cover (and slightly drained)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

 

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Brush a 10- or 12-inch springform pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil; dust pan with ground almonds.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar. Add orange peel and pulp; blend well. Slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil alternately with flour and baking powder; mix until smooth. 

Let rest 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. The oil is light but tends to separate from the batter; mix well. Stir in raisins.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, level it, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and pine nuts. Bake in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes. 

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE-CINNAMON SNAPS

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together margarine and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in egg. Add melted chocolate and corn syrup; blend well. Blend in flour mixture. Refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

Using 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, shape into balls. Roll balls in remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on foiled-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on racks. 

Makes 3 dozen cookies.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Unexpected Israeli cuisine


I'm not sure what I expected. Hummus, certainly, but what else? Stuffed derma? Latkes? Matzah ball soup? As a native New Yorker with Ashkenazi roots, the foods I associated with being Jewish were the foods I associated with my grandparents. By extension, I suppose, I also associated these same foods with Israel, though those connections were more subconscious than explicit. 

Early last fall, I received a call. Israel’s Ministry of Tourism was organizing a small culinary trip, and it invited me to come along as a guest. I’d never been to Israel, and I suddenly had the opportunity, through my work as a food writer, to tour a country incredibly important to my religious and cultural heritage. I said yes. Six weeks later, I checked my preconceived notions of Israeli food along with my luggage and embarked on an unparalleled culinary journey. 

With me were Hugh Acheson, Ottawa native and current owner of three Georgia-based restaurants (as well as an author and television personality); Ben Ford, proprietor of popular Culver City gastropub Ford’s Filling Station and two new soon-to-open restaurants; Viet Pham, one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2011 and co-owner of the Salt Lake City restaurant Forage; and Maury Rubin, pastry chef, author and owner of six New York City bakery-cafes, including the flagship City Bakery in Union Square. Because I was traveling with four chefs, our itinerary was designed specifically to introduce us to Israel’s rising culinary stars and evolving cuisine, a cuisine steeped in the traditions of the Middle East but with notable European influences.  

It quickly became clear that today’s Israeli chefs take the region’s best-loved ingredients — the fresh fruits and vegetables, the tahini, the fish, the labne — and morph many of them into dishes with modern flair. In addition, the culinary phrases we Americans now bandy about so often are becoming a part of the Israeli food lexicon as well: “artisanal” oils, “farm-to-table” restaurants, “sustainable” aquaculture and viticulture practices, “foraged” herbs and plants. These efforts reflect both practices already in place (and, in some cases, in place for ages) as well as a concerted appeal to the sophisticated modern traveler.

Take foraging. We learned from Abbie Rosner, who has written widely about foodways in the Galilee (she has lived there since the 1980s), that Arabs have been foraging wild foods in that region since biblical times. This clearly touched a chord with chefs Ford and Pham, who forage regularly to procure produce, herbs and edible weeds for their respective restaurants. During our journey across Israel, they would constantly stop to pluck berries from branches or even gnaw on bits of the branches themselves, tasting as they went. Israel was a forager’s dreamland, and these old practices connected the country to two modern American chefs in a very special way.

Then there were the bakeries.


Croissants at the Port of Jaffa. Photo by Cheryl Sternman Rule

I personally loved our visits to Israeli bakeries, from tiny Ugata in Kibbutz Kinneret, to Dallal and Bakery 29 in Tel Aviv, to the most casual outdoor bakery cart in the Port of Jaffa, piled high with two-toned croissants. For Rubin, the baker in our group, these bakery visits were especially exciting. At Bakery 29, owner Netta Korin glowed visibly when Rubin introduced himself. A former investment banker at Lehman Brothers in New York, Korin (who was born in Israel but raised in the United States and Europe) was a devoted customer at Rubin’s City Bakery before she moved back to the country of her birth. In early 2011, she opened her small, quaint Tel Aviv bakeshop, specializing in cinnamon rolls and scones. Korin, remarkably, donates 100 percent of her profits to the IMPACT! scholarship program, which supports Israel Defense Forces soldiers who could not otherwise afford to pursue higher education. 

As for the restaurants, they spanned a wide spectrum. We enjoyed our first dinner high in the hills above Jerusalem at Rama’s Kitchen in Nataf. Run by Rama Ben Zvi (an Israeli Jew and former dancer with a doctorate from the Sorbonne), the rustic outdoor eatery gave us our first taste of Israeli-style communal dining, with each of us sweeping bits of pita through plates of pureed baked potato, garlic confit and olive oil; creamy labne; and chicken liver pate with roasted beets. Dishes of white balsamic aubergine (eggplant), rare filet mignon with green tahini sauce, and Jerusalem artichoke and sweet potato followed.  

We soon tasted the ebullient and colorful cuisine of Jerusalem chef Uri Navon at Machneyuda, his popular restaurant adjacent to the famous Mahane Yehuda Market; enjoyed a multicourse Lebanese- and Jordanian-inflected lunch at Ktze HaNachal restaurant in the Galilee; and experienced the handiwork of chef Moshe Segev, chef of El Al airlines, at his eponymous restaurant Segev in Herzliya. At one point, servers brought out a salad in a glass wine bottle that had been sawed in half and opened flat like a book; this was, by far, the strangest serving vessel I’ve ever seen.

Was every dish a home run, every meal worth raving about? Of course not. But many high-end chefs are pushing boundaries, taking risks and infusing old-fashioned dishes with modernist touches. Some succeed, and some fail — and to pretend otherwise, or to see the failures as disappointments — would be to miss the point entirely.

For me, the point is this: The cuisine of Israel is on the precipice of change, and much of it is not only fresh, but exciting. It’s like art, with hits and misses, highs and lows. Perhaps most telling was my favorite dish of the trip, at once both humble and almost absurdly transgressive in its simplicity. It was a whole head of charred cauliflower plopped, plateless, in the center of a paper-lined table at the cheeky Tel Aviv restaurant Abraxas North. Any country whose chefs have the chutzpah to serve diners a head of blackened cauliflower and expect them to pick off florets with their fingers is a country I’m glad I visited, and to which I hope soon to return.


Cheryl Sternman Rule is the author of “Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables” (Running Press: 2012) and the voice behind 5 Second Rule, named best food blog of 2012 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Learn more at cherylsternmanrule.com.

Making ‘old country’ latkes on this side of the Atlantic


My grandparents really knew how to cook. It seems to me that everyone born in the “old country”—in this case Transylvania—was born with built-in cooking intuition. Somehow they could create the most scrumptious meals using no fancy equipment, or even measuring spoons.

They hosted every holiday humbly, I recall, turning out the expected delicacies with what seemed like the simplest, most relaxed effort. No exotic flavor profiles nor food combos or wine pairings; no attempts at reinventing the wheel, because when the food is that good—make that superb—there’s no need to find a “twist” on the recipe.

On Chanukah we were treated to their potato pancakes, latkes that were classic and simple. My grandfather, a professional chef, wore a manly white waist apron that suited him perfectly. His latkes were made of eggs, onions, potatoes, oil, salt, pepper and a little matzah meal to make them crunchy.

“Corn meal, that’s also good, if you don’t have any matzah meal,” he would say reassuringly, though you knew that he secretly wondered what kind of kitchen would not have a handful of matzah meal somewhere.

The potatoes were hand-grated so fine—almost to a pudding-like consistency—then lightly fried in a pan that looked as though it, too, had just come over from the old country. Applesauce and sour cream traditionally accompany latkes, but who needed them? Crispy on the edges, with a fluffy, buttery smooth center, Grandpa’s version of this Chanukah delicacy could stand alone.

Born on this side of the Atlantic—Philly, to be exact—I lack the natural cooking instincts of my forebears. It’s a long way from Transylvania to Pennsylvania, and somewhere en route centuries of culinary know-how evaporated. When I married, I was “the bride who knew nothing” about cooking, and I do mean nothing. I had a kitchen twice the size of Grandpa’s boyhood cottage, fully loaded with waffle makers, woks, crepe pans, panini presses, espresso brewers, food processors and two ovens—and no idea what to do with any of them.

The first Chanukah after my wedding, I called my grandfather for his latkes recipe. He gave it to me with “measurements” like “a sprinkle of salt, a few spoons of matzah meal, some oil …” All the while, I wished I had watched him in action when he was in his prime. I could have taken notes, measured out the amounts he used, studied his grating technique.

But I was on my own. Tasked with re-creating Grandpa’s latkes, I tried and failed, tried and failed—until I finally produced something that is reminiscent of his glorious, crunchy potato perfection. The recipe went into my first published cookbook, “Quick & Kosher: Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing.” It’s reprinted here, in loving memory of my grandfather.

My husband and kids say these latkes are the best in the world. They are very good—but they’re not Grandpa’s. Maybe it’s my food processor and that fancy-shmancy skillet.

LATKES (POTATO PANCAKES)

Prep: 12 minutes  
Cook: 18 to 24 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
4 medium Idaho potatoes
6 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons matzah meal
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
Applesauce or sour cream (optional)

Preparation:
1. Prepare a large bowl filled with cold water
2. Peel potatoes, and as you finish each, place in cold water to prevent browning.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
4. Cut potatoes lengthwise into halves or quarters so they fit into food processor feed tube. Process potatoes using the blade that creates thin, shoestring-like strips and transfer to a large bowl.
5. Add eggs, matzah meal, salt and pepper; mix well.
6. Drop 6 to 8 spoonfuls of mixture into hot oil. Using the back of a spoon, pat down each latke to flatten it. Put as many as you can in the skillet without crowding. Putting them too close together will make them soggy.
7. Fry 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp around the edges; repeat procedure until finished with all the batter.
8. Blot excess oil with paper towels.
9. Serve warm with applesauce or sour cream, if desired

Tip:
Corn meal is a great substitute for matzah meal and also will make your latkes nice and crispy.

About the recipe:
Just like they used to do it in the old country! These latkes are not loaded with potato starch, flour, baking powder or other non-essential ingredients. My grandfather shared this recipe with me when I told him that I thought his were the crunchiest, lightest and most perfect potato latkes I’ve ever eaten.

Jamie Geller is the author of the best-selling “Quick & Kosher” cookbook series and creator of the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine. Follow more of Geller’s Quick & Kosher cooking adventures on Twitter @JoyofKosher and on facebook.com/joyofkosher.

Chanukah Gift Guide


Jonathan Adler Dachshund Menorah   Calling all dog lovers! The Dachshund Menorah designed by Jonathan Adler is not your standard chanukiyah. Made in Peru, this fair-trade sculpted menorah is made of high-fired stoneware and features a white matte glaze. The Dachshund Menorah is pottery at its finest and makes the ideal gift for the Festival of Lights. $120. jonathanadler.com.


Growbottles  Winner of the Eco Choice Award, Potting Shed Creations’ Growbottles add a touch of spring during any season — rain or shine. Basil, chives, mint, oregano or parsley easily grow when potted in these recycled and repurposed wine bottles. And, they create a unique display of freshness in any household or office. The Growbottles kit includes everything you need to make your plants flourish: seeds, pebbles, grow bottle and cork coaster. Replant kits available. $35. pottingshedcreations.com.


Matisyahu’s “Miracle” EP  Matisyahu has done it again with the release of his Chanukah anthem “Miracle.” The EP includes a track with his band Dub Trio, guest vocals by rapper Shyne, a remix by University of Colorado at Boulder freshman Miniweapon as well as a beatboxing and acoustic version. $7. matisyahuworld.com.


Laura Cowan’s Smart Dreidel  Forgot what the letters on your dreidel stand for? Have no fear because the Smart Dreidel by Laura Cowan teaches you how to play the dreidel game. The text on the dreidel is uniquely designed in acrylic and anodized aluminum, incorporating Cowan’s signature use of discs and cones. $80. lauracowan.com.


Cookie Monster Nosh Bib  Let your child indulge in a snack with his or her favorite monster — Cookie Monster! Designed by Rabbi’s Daughters for a Shalom Sesame collection, the cotton bib features yellow trim with a Velcro closure and an adorable picture of Cookie Monster snacking on rugelach. $18. store.sesamestreet.org, rabbisdaughters.com.


“I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River” by Henry Winkler  Actor Henry Winkler, best-known as the Fonz on “Happy Days,” shares all he’s learned while fly-fishing, which is more than just catching fish. Compiling humorous anecdotes and heartfelt observations from his annual trips to Montana and Idaho, Winkler recounts how his experiences on the river have shaped his perspective on life. $21.95. insighteditions.com.


Modern Bite Chanukkah Gift Boxes  Chef Daniel Shapiro taps his passion for baking to come up with the Modern Bite Chanukkah Gift Boxes. Baked to order, the boxed gift set includes natural sugar cookies with colorful icing that are pleasing to both the eye and stomach. Packed with a keepsake stationery box made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials, the cookies are ideal for satisfying a sweet tooth. $30. modernbite.com.


Marla Studio’s Beauty, Kindness, Compassion Necklace  What do beauty, kindness and compassion all have in common? Not only are they three of the many things Jews thank God for, but they are the three words that are engraved in Hebrew on designer Marla Studio’s brass pendant. An English translation is featured on the back, so even non-Hebrew readers can enjoy the striking message. $88. moderntribe.com.


“The Brisket Book:  A Love Story With Recipes”  There’s no longer a need for frantically searching for the best brisket recipes. Stephanie Pierson, author, food writer and brisket lover, has written a cookbook filled with only the best brisket recipes, accompanied by illustrations, poems, cartoons and musings. “The Brisket Book” has a recipe for everyone, and it’ll turn you into the star of any potluck. $30. thebrisketbook.com.


Chewish Treats  Who says dogs can’t get gifts on the holidays? Chewish Treats come straight from the doggy deli to your home. Allow your dog to indulge in these pooch-pleasing cookies that are topped with a yogurt-based icing. Made with only the highest-quality ingredients, these treats are sure to satisfy any kosher canine. $8. moderntribe.com.


Jewish Blessing Flags  If you’re looking for a decorative piece that has some Jewish value, these Jewish Blessing Flags are a must. Based on Tibetan prayer flags, each design is distinct in color and represents one of seven values in Jewish tradition: love, compassion, lovingkindness, peace, healing, respect and justice. The flags are suitable for the home, synagogue, classroom or sukkah. $20. fairtradejudaica.org

 

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks Dec. 6 – 12: Poetry of La Norte, love and latkes


SAT | DECEMBER 6

(BOOKS)
Whether or not you’re a firm believer in life after death, screenwriter and playwright Dan Gordon has a message for you: People in heaven might be sending you postcards. In his new book, “Postcards From Heaven: Messages of Love From the Other Side,” Gordon explains how a “whisper, a familiar smell in the air, or just the feeling of a presence” can indicate a message from above. This weekend, Gordon is part of Temple Menorah’s second annual “Authors, Books, and Conversations” event. Ariel Sabar, author of “My Father’s Paradise,” will speak about the search for his Kurdish Jewish roots. And on Sunday, children’s book author Kathy Kacer, an expert on writing about the Holocaust for children, will be featured. Sat. 5 p.m. $25-$36 (includes dinner). Through Dec. 7. Temple Menorah, 1101 Camino Real, Redondo Beach. (310) 316-8444. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.sijcc.net.

(MUSICAL)
“Fiddler on the Roof.” Enough said. You know the story, you know the songs, you know you’re going to enjoy the performance. The Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities presents their production of “Fiddler,” starring Thomas Fiscella as the endearing Tevye and Richard Israel as Motel. Sat. 8 p.m. Tue.-Sun. Through Dec. 21. $40-$65. Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach. (310) 372-4477. marciar@jccoc.org. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>raise $400,000 for the nonprofit Jewish Home — the largest single-source provider of senior housing in Los Angeles. But it’s not all just physical activity. The fun-filled day comes complete with music, food and clowns! The event is open to all ages and will begin and end at the Jewish Home’s Eisenberg Village Campus. Sun. 7 a.m. (registration); 8:30 a.m. (opening ceremony). Eisenberg Village Campus, 18855 Victory Blvd., Reseda. (818) 774-3324. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.nbn.org.il.

(KIDS)
Rabbi Mordechai Dubin’s upbeat songs have 3-year-olds quoting from Genesis and Maimonides. The fourth-grade teacher at Maimonides Academy received a $10,000 grant from the Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educators Awards for his excellence in teaching and used it to produce a children’s CD that has become the buzz of day schools across the country. Bring your tots to see Rabbi Dubin live, singing holy hits from his CD, “I Made This World For You,” at the Jewish Community Library. Sun. 3-4 p.m. Free. JCLLA, 6505 Wilshire Blvd. #300, Los Angeles. (323) 761-8648. resource@jclla.org. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.pjtc.net.

MON | DECEMBER 8

(POETRY)
Transit prose queen and performance artist Marisela Norte will not only read selections from her poetry collection, “Peeping Tom Tom Girl,” at ALOUD, she will perform them with longtime friend and talented collaborator Maria Elena Gaitan. “An Evening of Spoken Word and Cello” features two unique female artists ” target=”_blank”>http://www.libraryfoundationla.org/aloud.

WED | DECEMBER 10

(DIALOGUE)
Esther Jungreis once trembled, starving and terrified in Bergen-Belsen. Many years later, she flew over Germany on the president of the United States’ plane. The world-renowned spiritual leader and speaker, who comes from a rabbinical dynasty tracing back to King David, has come a long way from the death camps of dgreenbaum@sinaitemple.org. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.wisela.org.

(DOCUMENTARY)
Imagine growing up knowing that your father was brutal Nazi leader Amon Goeth. Monika Hertwig learned at a young age of her father’s history and his eventual hanging as a war criminal. But Hertwig didn’t simply try to forget the past; she went on to search for one of her father’s victims and found Helen Jonas, a woman rescued by Oskar Schindler. Directed by Academy Award-winner James Moll, the meeting of the two women captured in the film, “Inheritance,” “unearths terrible truths and lingering questions about how the actions of our parents can continue to ripple through generations.” Wed. Airs nationally on PBS’ series, “Point of View.” Check local listings at ” target=”_blank”>http://www.jewsforjudaism.org.

THU | DECEMBER 11

(ISRAEL)
In its brief 60-year history, Israel has undergone enormous changes and even greater threats. What will the Holy Land look like at 100 years? None of us can say for certain. But that doesn’t stop Israel experts from pondering the question. Rabbi Daniel Gordis tackled the issue on Nov. 13 in part one of Temple Beth Am’s Israel 2048 Master Teacher Series, “Envisioning the State of Israel on the occasion of its 100th Anniversary.” Tonight, another brilliant scholar shares his insights on the future of the Jewish state. David Myers, director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, has published numerous books and is the co-editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review. Thu. 7:45 p.m. $15 (Temple Beth Am members), $25 (nonmembers). Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P. required, (310) 652-7354, ext. 215. ” target=”_blank”>http://www.ecogift.com.

Spectator – Once Upon a Menorah


A three-foot dancing dreidel and a visiting Holocaust survivor recall the ageless tales from a fresh perspective, when PBS station KCET airs “Chanukah Stories” on Dec. 24 and 25.

The heroes of the animated film, “Moishe’s Miracle,” is 8-year-old Zackary Maccabee, known as Zak Mak to his friends and television viewers, and a 50th generation descendent of Judah Maccabeus.

As Zak impatiently awaits the first night of the Festival of Lights, his trusty dreidel transports him to a snowy Jewish shtetl of the 1800s.

There, Moishe the Milkman ekes out a meager living and, to the frustration of his wife, Baile, gives out free milk to neighbors who have fallen on hard times.

Comes Chanukah time and Moishe sadly realizes that he doesn’t have enough money to buy all the ingredients for latkes. But just in time appears a magic pan, which self-produces limitless amounts of the savory dish. The one provision that comes with the gift is that no one but Moishe can ever use the pan.

As the latkes pop off the pan, Moishe invites the whole shtetl for a feast. But while he is away, Baile can’t resist trying out the pan and the heaven-sent latkes disappear forever.

Narrated by Bob Saget, “Moishe’s Miracle” is followed by “The Tie Man’s Miracle,” during which Zak Mac, now back in the 1960s, is waiting for his father’s return to celebrate the last night of Chanukah.

Suddenly, an elderly man, Mr. Hoffman, appears at the door, selling neckties. He resists the invitations of the mother and children to spend the evening with them, but finally gives in to the entreaties of the father.

Asked by Zak why he doesn’t spend Chanukah with his family, Mr. Hoffman haltingly relates the story of his wife and children, who were killed during the Holocaust.

Before taking an abrupt leave, Mr. Hoffman tells Zak that if on the last night of Chanukah all nine candles go out at exactly the same time, his wish will come true.

Deeply affected by the sad visitor, Zak closely watches the menorah on future Chanukahs, hoping that the tie salesman might return one more time. Jami Gertz, star of the CBS comedy, “Still Standing,” narrates the story.

“Chanukah Stories” is the latest in the series of children-oriented cultural and religious programs by JTN Productions of the Jewish Television Network, headed by Jay Sanderson.

KCET airs “Chanukah Stories” on Dec. 24 at 10:30 a.m. and Dec. 25 at 8 a.m. Check listings for other PBS stations in Southern California for air dates and times.

 

Latkes Without End, Amen


 

It’s 1991, and I am in the basement kitchen of Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice. I don’t know what it looks like now, but back then, many years ago, the place had an Army hospital feel about it: beige cupboards that didn’t sit quite flush on their hinges; floor-level shelves stuffed with mismatched sheet pans, clouded plastic bowls and skillets the size of UFOs; dull counters scratched and scrubbed and scoured by generations of helpful women; and a giant industrial stove — I want to say a Wolf — six or eight sensationally powerful commercial grade burners girded by iron and stainless steel, its pilot lights burning like eternal flames.

My wife, Naomi Levy, was the synagogue’s rabbi at the time. She ruled the upstairs sanctuary and classroom. But I was most comfortable down below, by that inferno of a stove.

Out of college, I had supported a writing habit by cooking and catering. Nothing edible was strange to me. So I prided myself on being able to command any kitchen, from that of the A-list half-Jewish actress in whose Palisades home I’d catered a Christmas dinner of ham and brisket, to Mishkon, where I liked to slip out of services early and help Jesus set up for Kiddush. (At Mishkon, the janitor was a Mexican immigrant named Jesus, the security guard was an Arab immigrant named, no kidding, Mohammed.)

If some congregants were perturbed by a female rabbi who couldn’t cook an egg and a male rebbetzin who hung out in the kitchen, they didn’t let on. They took a sow’s ear and turned it into a kosher meal. Soon I was teaching Passover cooking classes for the synagogue’s adult-ed department, and very soon after Naomi and I started dating, someone asked me to take charge of cooking the latkes for the annual Chanukah party.

Most synagogues have Chanukah parties, and all Chanukah parties have latkes. Not dozens, but hundreds, or thousands. Somehow I suspected that if Rabbi Levy and I were to become an item, I would find myself volunteering or volunteered for such duties. After all, at a homey 200-family shul like Mishkon, everyone has to pitch in, and it wasn’t as if I could teach Mishna. I was no Torah expert, but I did know latkes.

What did I know, and how did I know it?

First of all, anybody who has ever considered a career in food has given serious thought to the potato. When I applied to be a sous chef at a San Francisco restaurant several years earlier, the chef asked me to make an omelet. Then he asked me how I would make a tomato sauce. Then he asked me to peel and cut potatoes. I set out a bowl of cold water, found a good peeler, and proceeded to make short work of it. Every kitchen job I ever had involved pounds and pounds of potatoes, and I grew to understand and respect them so much — this homely, earth-bound lump, transformed into something light and soft or crisp and delectable — that I have never been able to bring myself to calling them “spuds.” I hate that word.

Latkes are a simple form of potato preparation, as potato dishes go. But simplicity in cooking, as the food writer Richard Olney wrote, is a complex thing. I have had rubbery latkes, starchy latkes, undercooked latkes and latkes so greasy that two of them could run a diesel engine for a week.

I learned the basics from my mother, and Joan Nathan. My mother makes superb latkes, but evidently this is not unusual. When I told people I was writing this essay, they all had the same response: that their mother made the perfect latke.

The varieties of latke experience varied among these people’s mothers. The ingredients hardly change: potatoes, eggs, salt, pepper and a binder, either flour or potato starch or matzah meal. But some people mash the potatoes, some grate them finely, some coarsely. Some use onion. Some use more eggs, some less.

Some fry their latkes in a lot of oil, turning them into little rafts on a roiling sea of grease. Others sauté them in nonstick skillets with a tablespoon of canola. The skinless breast meat/egg white crowd, acolytes of la cuisine Lipitor, go one step further, waving a can of PAM over a cookie sheet and baking their pancakes in a hot oven. If your mother does that, and you think she makes the best latkes in Jewish history, good for you, and good for your arteries.

Most of us consider the recipe we were raised on as the best, be it for brisket, fesenjan, kubaneh or latkes. Your search for the perfect latke, then, was over before it began, unless you are like me and have a restless hunger, a belief that with a slight change, a different oil, a coarser grate, maybe a hotter flame, the ideal can be made even better.

Anyway, your mother’s going to die one day. So unless she has taken you to her side and shown you her technique — and latkes are 90 percent technique — you will have to discover the perfect latke for yourself.

This is a bigger problem than the high priests of Jewish continuity care to admit. While they wring their hands over whether the next generation will know Torah and Jewish history and carry Israel close to its heart, who is worried whether young Jews will learn how to skim the fat off a chicken soup or shape a perfect Moroccan cigar? Our food ways do not define us — they are neither the point of being Jewish nor even close to the richest part of our culture. Foodaism is no substitute for Judaism. But the recipes of our foremothers are, if not our operating system, then some critical software. They provide a sense memory of tradition, a source of potent symbolism, a connection to the past and a link to the future. And they taste good, too.

Most Jewish women I know can’t cook like their grandmothers. The men can’t cook like their grandmothers, either. In some cases their own mothers can cook, but didn’t pass the skills along. That’s not to say these people don’t let their marble countertops and DCS ranges lay fallow. Their menus read like the sides of a shampoo bottle: Grill chicken breasts. Broil salmon. Rinse. Repeat. They can empty a bag of mesclun into a bowl, and given time, a pricey measuring beaker and a recipe, they may make a vinaigrette to dress it. If Emeril makes a Yorkshire pudding, they may soil their Sur la Table-ware doing one of those, too. But do they know gribenes? Can they make kreplach? If grandma was Persian, how’s the crust on their chelou? And if the answers are, no, no and soft, what about their children? I suppose there are warm and wonderful Jewish homes that have never known a pot of homemade chicken soup simmering on the stove, but they’d be even warmer and more wonderful with it.

I’m not an out-and-out alarmist about these things. Even a dish like latkes is not an immutable part of Jewish culture. As with so many traditional Jewish foods, its origins can be found in a blend of cultures. Bagels, challah, falafel, hummus, lox — we can say we popularized them, but we cannot with a straight face say we invented them.

Chanukah tradition dictates that foods be cooked in oil, to symbolize the one-day supply of oil that burned for a miraculous eight days in the rededicated Temple. Italian Jews cooked fried chicken on Chanukah and Iraqi Jews zalabia, or fried dough.

Potato pancakes, being cheap and easy and delicious, fit into the concept, and became a staple of Ashkenizic tradition. As for the latke, Yiddish for “potato pancake,” it is common in Eastern European and Germanic cuisine, a Christmas staple served with goose at Ukrainian tables where Jews no doubt adapted the tradition to their own needs. Potatoes didn’t arrive in Europe from their native Peru until the 1500s, so for more than a millennia we managed to keep the holiday alive without them. According to cookbook writer Joan Nathan, before latkes, fried buckwheat cakes were the European Chanukah staple. Yum.

These days, Chanukah flirts with the temptation of capitalist excess that has turned Christmas into a retail orgy. But as long as it features the latke it will retain an obdurate hominess. Designer latkes — made with yams or zucchini or taro or hand-pulled Korean noodles — are invariably a disappointment. Put your great-aunt in a miniskirt and call her a supermodel, it changes nothing. Gussy the holiday up with presents, fuse it with Christmas and Kwanzaa, give it its own feature film and TV special, there’s no getting around the fact that we’re not talking Handel’s Messiah and gingerbread houses. We’re talking three-note songs and fried potatoes. Christmas perfumes the house, Chanukah clings to the drapes: live with it.

Which brings me back to Mishkon Tephilo, circa 1991. We are a crew of men dedicated to providing enough latkes to the synagogue’s annual party. A couple of hours before the congregants arrive, we gather around the dirty tubers. We set up buckets of cool water and start peeling, plopping the potatoes into their bath. I’ve bought eggs by the flatload from Smart & Final, and crack them into a bathtub-sized stainless steel bowl, beat them with salt and pepper, then grate the potatoes, give them a squeeze, and toss them into the eggs. Finally I throw in some grated onion and matzah meal or flour — I don’t remember which and it doesn’t matter. I make latkes like Tommy plays pinball, by feel, and you should, too.

If the batter doesn’t remind you of the sand and seawater you turned into drip castles as a child, it’s not right.

We press every skillet in that overused, under-refurbished kitchen into service, and fill each one with a quarter inch of peanut oil. Then we fire them up.

Rule No. 1 of latke preparation is you can never make enough latkes. If they are good, they will disappear. Everybody has room for one more. Make as many as you can and when they run out they run out (But plan on three per person).

Rule No. 2 is kids are not allowed. Hot oil and children don’t mix. Hot oil and most adults isn’t even a great match, but what can you do?

Rule No. 3 is you may get burned. It happens, and most times it’s not serious.

Rule No. 4 is water is the enemy. Joan Nathan told me to always press as much moisture as possible out of the shredded potatoes. Let the water settle, collect the starch at the bottom and ladle it back into the potato mixture.

Furthermore, while frying latkes, or anything for that matter, if a drop of water lands in the boiling oil, stand way back. It will hiss violently then explode like a bottle rocket, and someone will get hurt.

Rule No. 5 is enjoy yourself. Latkes are among the more forgiving of Jewish foods. Even bad ones are usually edible, especially when heaped with the traditional toppings of applesauce or sour cream.

That’s what I did cooking those latkes in the synagogue basement — I enjoyed myself. I remember the next few hours of my life as a happy moment in time. I insisted that hot latkes just out of the oil were better than frozen and reheated latkes or latkes kept warm in the oven, and they are. So we worked furiously to turn out latkes as people began arriving, and we worked even harder to keep up with demand as the temple basement filled with hungry children, seniors and parents. I didn’t hear a word as my wife led the congregation in blessing the candles or singing “Rock of Ages.” She was in her element, I in mine.

As fast as we loaded the platters with pancakes they disappeared. Sweat soaked our shirts and slicked our faces. If we slacked off for a moment, we faced an impatient mob. We used every last potato, every last bit of batter. There are famous photos of the men who stoke the wood-fired bread ovens of Paris stripped to their waists, torsos glistening as they wrestled with fire to create their perfect loaves, and I think if someone had been there with a camera we were a kind of Ashkenazic variation on the ovens of Poilane. But we kept our shirts on.

Then it was over. Many people said the latkes were perfect. Many more said they were good, but not as good as the ones their mother made. The latkes were as they should be — crispy around the edges, a bit soft in the center, not greasy, 99 percent potato, 1 percent egg. But the experience of making them in the basement of my wife’s synagogue, that was perfect.

And to cap it off, someone — I suspect Danny Brookman — brought the cold beers that appeared in the fridge once we were finished.

Talk about the miracle of Chanukah.

 

Delicious Link to the Past


Year after year I would walk up the pathway to Grandma
Gussie’s apartment, passing her kitchen window on the way to the door. I would
hear the clanging of spoons, chopping of potatoes and vegetables or the tea
kettle whistling on her tiny stove. My senses filled with the aromas of cooking
delights as I entered the door and announced myself. Grandma would come from
the kitchen, always wiping her hands on her apron. She would motion for me to
sit down on her plastic-covered couch as she took a seat in her orange
recliner. (It was a horrible sitting experience: the plastic-covered couches
made a squeaky noise when you moved, and if it was a hot day, your legs would
stick.)

On this particular day the aromas that filled Grandma’s home
were especially strong — it was cold outside, and the windows were closed.

“What are you cooking for me today?” I asked.

“Potato latkes” she announced. “Come, today I show you how.”
(English, was of course, Grandma’s second language. She did learn to read and
write in English, but it was still sometimes hard for her to think of certain
words.)

Other families might only eat latkes during Chanukah. But
Grandma made latkes whenever someone asked. Her latkes were always golden brown
on the outside, and served with applesauce, sour cream, a sprinkle of sugar —
or whatever your tastebuds called for.

This recipe had been in her family for many generations. And
now it was my turn to learn how to make this dish, so that I could become an
expert just like her and one day pass it on to my children or grandchildren.

As I followed Grandma into the kitchen, she held out an
apron for me, and with loving hands she tied the strings in a perfect bow. We
stood in her kitchen — only big enough for two people — and I learned that she
had not written the recipe down exactly. A spoonful of this, a couple of
pinches of that — and then we would taste. If it wasn’t to her liking she would
purse her lips together and concentrate as she added a few more pinches of one
ingredient or another. Finally, when the batter was to her liking, she prepared
to teach me the proper way of frying.

Grandma Gussie was a woman of opinion. When I asked her how
she was feeling, she didn’t say, “Fine, darling, and how are you today?”
Instead, Grandma told me exactly how she was feeling. I received a rundown of
how her legs and feet were today, and questions of why I didn’t come and visit
more often. (When I grow old I hope I remember that a young person cannot
relate to the tales of arthritis or the swelling of feet from eating too much
salt the day before.)

Grandma also had no problem reporting her opinions or
political advice. This was a woman who had lived through religious persecution
in Europe, seen the Statue of Liberty coming through Ellis Island, two World
Wars, the Great Depression and life as an immigrant in the United States.
Somehow through all this, Grandma and my Grandpa Abe put their three children
through school and always had a warm and inviting home for family, friends and
any person or animal in need.

In the tiny kitchen my Grandma and I giggled and laughed out
loud as she told me stories about her life. Grandma Gussie was the youngest of
19 children — five of these were adopted. In the city of Vilna, which was then
part of Poland, my family owned the largest grocery store, and if there was a
child that had no place to go my Great-Grandma Ethel (whom I am named after)
would take them in.

My grandparents barely made a living. Grandpa sold shirts
with slight defects from a pushcart in the streets of Manhattan. It was honest
work and a specific corner served as his storefront. Of course his corner also
belonged to one of the Mafia families and he paid them a nice fee for
“protection from others that might want his corner.”

As a boy, my father was always getting into mischief. One
story that sticks out in my head is the time their refrigerator was making a
loud noise. Dad was a teenager, and as teens go they always know more than
their parents. Hiring a repairman was too expensive, so dad said he could fix
it. Dad and his friends, George and Max, spent an entire day taking the fridge
apart. When Grandma came to check on him she found the fridge turned around,
every part in its glory on her kitchen floor. Yiddish and English spewed from
her mouth as she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

“I’ll fix it, I’ll fix it Ma, you’ll see,” he said.

Dad fixed it all right. By the end of the evening the fridge
was put back together with a few “unneeded” extra parts on the floor, the loud
noise had finally stopped as did the refrigerator, and yes, the repairman did
indeed come over the next day to reassemble the “Icebox.”

My dad also loved to torment his little sister, Marion. His
favorite was putting on my Grandpa’s suit jacket that was worn for Shabbat. Dad
put the jacket on backward and hid in the closet. When my Aunt Marion came home
from school, Dad would appear from the closet, arms straight out walking and
talking like Frankenstein’s monster. To this day, my Aunt doesn’t like watching
“Frankenstein.”

Through these stories the day flew by. We laughed; we cried
as we finished preparing our meal and sat down to eat. A few short minutes was
all it took to consume the potato pancakes, but the memories that were made on
that day have endured through the years. Learning to make latkes was more than
learning to cook a dish. I discovered the woman behind the apron and a link to
my past.

Ellen Press is a storyteller and writer who lives with her husband and two children in Thousand Oaks. She can be reached at storyellen@adelphia.net.

Latkes That Last


Finally! You can now say goodbye to those weird frozen triangles of premasticated potatoes that pass for latkes after Chanukah has ended and the frying pan and grater have been packed up. Scientists at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have come up with an alternative way to preserve food, which promises to keep latkes frying-pan fresh — even months later — without extreme heat, chemicals or freezing. Instead, they zap the food with pulsed shockwaves — a process that takes a second, but kills microbes, harmful enzymes and bacteria. Since no chemicals are used, the flavor of the food remains the same, but its shelf life is increased exponentially.

"There is really a great need for alternative preservation methods in order to get safety and shelf life," said Dr. Hadassa Zuckerman, a lecturer in food engineering and biotechnology at the Technion, who helped develop this system. "There are many materials that cannot be preserved by heat or other methods because then they lose their functional properties."

Latke eaters are not the only ones who are going to be able to welcome this procedure. Shockwaves are also being used to preserve biological materials such as blood and plasma. "Without this system, it takes approximately one week to preserve plasma," Zuckerman told The Journal. "Our method takes a few seconds."

Zuckerman called this preservation method "revolutionary" and said that they are still testing its uses.

"We were convinced that latkes were only worth eating fresh out of the oven," she said. "Now we may all have to reconsider that notion."

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