Latkes and farinata: Something familiar, something new

These days, my family has spread out, but as always, we will all be coming together for Chanukah, because no one wants to miss the Chanukah reunion dinner, our favorite family get-together.

It is a time to catch up on family gossip and enjoy each other’s company, a time to sit around the table and reminisce about the past, light the Chanukah candles, eat and open the holiday presents.

When everyone arrives, we serve my special potato latkes, fried at the last minute and served hot and crispy, topped with applesauce or sugar. In addition, we always include something new. Last year it was corn blinis with salmon caviar. This Chanukah I have a new recipe that is a specialty of Liguria, Italy: Farinata, a thin chickpea pancake usually cooked in a wood-burning oven. Similar to a pizza, it can be served topped with roasted vegetables or soft cheese and can also be eaten plain, right out of the oven. Crisp and golden on the top, soft and moist on the inside, glistening with the fragrant olive oil it is fried in, Farinata is a finger-lickin’ food that nourishes the soul.

The main course will be a family favorite: my mother’s recipe for roast chicken baked in a tomato-wine sauce with lots of fresh vegetables and mushrooms from the farmer’s market. Perfect, because it can be made several days in advance and is easy to reheat and serve. I serve the chicken with green tomato marmalade, a wonderful recipe I discovered while taking a cooking class on one of our previous Italian trips. I make a large quantity of the marmalade using unripe green tomatoes available at this time of the year, fill jars and store them in the refrigerator. If there is leftover sauce from the roast chicken, I use it with pasta the next night.

Several years ago, I asked Michel Richard, when he was the chef at Citrus Restaurant in Los Angeles, if there was a way to serve chocolate ice cream without using dairy products. He said, “Why Judy, of course.” The next day he served me the most delicious bittersweet nondairy chocolate sorbet I have ever tasted. This is a perfect dessert for a nondairy meal. In addition, I have asked each family to bring a tray of their favorite homemade cookies to accompany this delicious chocolate dessert.

Judy’s Crispy Potato Latkes

This latke recipe was chosen as one of the top 10 recipes of 1998 by the Los Angeles Times.

4 baking potatoes, peeled
1 large yellow onion, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil, for frying

Grate the potatoes, using a food processor or fine shredder. Immediately transfer potatoes to a large bowl and add the onion, lemon juice, eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Heat 1/8 inch of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour the batter into the hot oil with a large spoon and flatten with the back of the spoon to make 4-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes; then turn and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes. (Turn once only.) Drain well on paper towels and serve immediately, plain or with topping.

Makes about a dozen latkes, or four servings.

Farinata (Chickpea Pancake)

In Liguria, which flanks Genoa along Italy’s northwest coast, the regional comfort food is Farinata. A deceptively simple street food, Farinata resembles a large, thin crepe or pancake and is traditionally cooked in a wood-burning oven.

Crisp and golden on the top, soft and moist on the inside, Farainata can be stuffed or garnished with any vegetable, cheese, or sauce, or it can be eaten plain. In some places minced onions or rosemary are sprinkled on top before it is baked.

2/3 cup chickpea flour
1/3 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon capers, (optional)
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sift the chickpea flour with the salt into a medium bowl. Slowly add 1⁄4 cup of the water, whisking constantly to form a paste. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Whisk in remaining 1/2 cup of the water and let the batter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then stir in the rosemary.

Preheat the broiler.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet. Stir the batter once, pour it into the skillet and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top. Cook the pancake over moderately high heat until the bottom is golden and crisp and the top is almost set, 2 to 3 minutes. Burst any large air bubbles with the tip of a knife.

Sprinkle the rosemary, tomato, onion, capers (if using), Parmesan and pepper over the top, then place the skillet under the broiler and cook until the pancake is golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Slide onto a wooden board, cut into wedges and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Makes 2 Farinatas.
Note: Chickpea flour is sold in Italian specialty shops and health food stores.

Grandma Molly’s Roast Chicken With Mushrooms and Whole Garlic Cloves

1⁄2 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 (15-ounce) can peeled tomatoes with juice, diced
1 cup dry white wine
2 (3-pound) chickens, cut into pieces
12 medium mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 tablespoons dried rosemary

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a large roaster, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions, minced garlic, carrots and celery, until tender. Add the tomatoes with juice and wine. Bring to a boil and simmer a few minutes. Arrange the chicken pieces, whole garlic cloves and mushrooms into the sauce and baste to coat the chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste, simmer for 5 minutes.

Place the fresh rosemary sprigs on top, cover and roast for 1 hour or until the chicken is tender.

To serve, spoon the sauce onto individual heated serving plates, place the chicken pieces on top with the mushrooms and vegetables and be sure to put an unpeeled garlic clove on top of each serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Chef Klaus’ Green Tomato Marmalade (Marmellata di Pomodori Verdi)

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
8 cups (2 pounds) green (under-ripe) tomatoes, diced (about 4 large tomatoes)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, heated
Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
10-15 mint leaves, sliced (optional)

In a large, heavy skillet combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, mixing constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar begins to turn golden. Add the tomatoes, orange juice and zest, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 20 minutes. Mix in the mint leaves, if using.


Makes about 3 to 4 cups.

Michel Richard’s Nondairy Chocolate Sorbet

3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
4 cups water
1 1⁄2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
1 cup port or cranberry juice

In a large, heavy saucepan, mix the cocoa and sugar together. Add water a little at a time in thin stream, mixing with wire whisk until well blended and smooth. Bring to boil for 5 to 10 minutes, until thick. (Straining is optional.)
Add chocolate and port, bring to a boil, then simmer until thick. Pour into an 8-cup pitcher or bowl and then place in a larger bowl filled with ice and water, stirring until cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer sorbet to a covered container and freeze at least 2 hours to mellow. If frozen solid, soften in refrigerator or at room temperature until creamy.

Makes 1 1⁄2 to 2 quarts.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988) and “The International Deli Cookbook (Chronicle, 1994). “Judy’s Kitchen” appears on Jewish Life Television. Her Web site is

The secret of potato latkes

Excerpted from “Cooking Jewish: 532 Great Recipes from the Rabinowitz Family” (Workman, 2007).

Chanukah(Hebrew for “dedication”) is all about the oil. In 165 B.C.E., against great odds, Judah Maccabee and his tiny band of soldiers defeated Antiochus and the Syrian-Greek army. Wishing to rededicate the Temple, they found only enough oil to last one day. As every Jewish school child knows, that tiny flask of oil miraculously lasted eight days. But who knew it would set off a frying frenzy that would last for centuries!

Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazim) commemorate the holiday with latkes. But who says potato pancakes are the only fritters fit to fry? Israelis celebrate Chanukah with sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and every Jewish community the world over sets oil to bubbling to fry a traditional pastry.

Another lesser-known Chanukah tradition involves the story from the apocrypha of Judith, a beautiful Jewish widow, who was asked to dine with the enemy general Holofernes. She plied him with cheese to make him thirsty for wine, and when he fell into a drunken stupor, she beheaded him with his own sword. Because her bravery is said to have inspired the Maccabees, some communities remember Judith by eating cheese during this holiday.

Lighting the candles, I am transported to the Chanukahs of my youth. For the Rabinowitz cousins, raised together practically as siblings, our childhood was the New York version of the movie, “Avalon” (without the fire, thankfully). Our parents were so close, we were always together: cousins Carole and Phyllis, Joyce and Marvin, Bonnie and Jackie, my brother, Gary and I, and of course cousin Marilyn, who luxuriated for nine years as the only grandchild before the rest of us appeared. Ellen and Leslie, Ronald and Linda, our Atlanta cousins, made occasional appearances to round out the festivities. Uncle Al, in his gold slippers and yachting cap, would regale us wide-eyed kids about his submarine, and the identical twins, Uncle Morris from Atlanta and Uncle Lou from New York, would exchange their jackets, scaring their daughters, who suddenly saw two daddies. There were so many of us that Papa Harry even put a board in the children's table. The highlight, of course, was our Chanukah party. The pile of latkes! The mountain of presents! The noise! The excitement! The squabbles! Then when we cousins started producing the great-grandchildren, Aunt Sally's basement bulged with four generations of Rabinowitzes, each bringing gifts for all the others.

I have noticed through the years that there is a tendency among latke illuminati to view with disdain those who blend. “Oh, no,” they tsk-tsk when they see my recipe, just a touch of feigned sympathy in their eyes. “I use a food processor. I like texture.” Texture? You want texture? I'll give you texture. Use my splat! method and you'll get all the texture you want with these crunchy babies.

They're all crispy outsides, with practically no insides. My family hovers over the pan to fight over the thinnest ones, which are so full of holes you can practically see through them. Cathy Thomas, food editor of The Orange County Register, called them “crunchy wonders” and “crispy-brown snowflakes” … but I don't like to brag.

Judy Bart Kancigor's Crispy, Crunchy Latkes

2 pounds baking potatoes
2 large eggs
1/2 medium-size onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium-size firm apple, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher (coarse) salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder (see Notes)
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or matzah meal
Peanut or canola oil, for frying
Applesauce and/or sour cream, for serving

1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. To keep them white and release some of the starch, submerge them in a bowl of water while you're preparing the remaining ingredients.

2. Place the eggs in a blender. Add the onion, apple, salt, white pepper and baking powder. Drain the potatoes and squeeze them dry in paper towels. Add enough of the potatoes to fill the blender (all 2 pounds may not fit). Turn on the blender, and pushing down on the sides with a rubber spatula (careful you don't blend the spatula — there is no rubber in this recipe), blend until the potatoes just move around. Add the remaining potatoes as you're blending, but do not overprocess or make it too smooth. The texture should resemble applesauce. (This takes about 6 seconds in my Osterizer.)

3. Transfer the batter to a large bowl and add the flour. The batter should be flowing, but not too thin.

4. Now for the real secret of my very crisp latkes: Pour enough oil into a large skillet to coat the bottom. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is quite hot but not smoking. Use a serving spoon to scoop up the batter (about 2 tablespoons per scoop), hold the spoon about 8 inches above the pan, and spill it all at once. Splat! Remove your hand quickly so you don't burn yourself.

(Like tennis, it's all in the wrist.) The batter will splatter, forming holes … the better to hold the sour cream or applesauce. Repeat with as many as will fit in the skillet without crowding. Cook until browned, about 1 minute. Then flip them over and cook the other side for 1 minute.

5. Drain the latkes well on paper towels, and keep them warm while you cook the remainder, adding more oil as needed.

6. Serve immediately, with applesauce and/or sour cream.

Notes: If you want to make the batter ahead, to cook later or the next day, prepare it through Step 2 (do not add the flour), and pour the mixture into a tight-fitting glass jar (do not use plastic ware). Tap the jar on the counter to release any air bubbles, cover the batter well with a thick layer of flour, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to use it, remove and discard the flour with the black layer that has formed beneath it. Transfer the batter to a large bowl, stir in the flour, and proceed with Step 4 using fresh flour.

Makes about 3 dozen latkes.

Chanukah menu dishes up a travelogue of treats

Just back from Italy, I was inspired by the foods served at our favorite restaurants. My Chanukah menu this year is a travelogue of those culinary experiences.

We devote Chanukah to our children and grandchildren, and many of the dishes are easy to prepare and perfect for the whole family. In addition to the traditional potato latkes, I have included two special treats to begin our Chanukah celebration.

We discovered baked homemade potato chips at Restaurante dal Pescatore, a three-star Michelin restaurant in the Po Valley. Created by chef Nadia Santini, she calls them Tuiles of Potatoes and Rosemary. After dinner, when the guests had left and I complemented her on the paper-thin delicacies, she gave me a lesson on how to prepare them.

Along with the potato latkes and Nadia’s Tuiles, another fried treat sure to become part of our Chanukah tradition is Gnoccho Fritto, small squares of pizza dough deep fried in olive oil.

We were first introduced to them at our favorite seafood restaurant located in Varigoti. We have been known to travel several hours just to eat at Muraglia Conca Di Oro on the coast just north of Genova. It has been their custom, when diners arrive, to serve them hot Gnoccho Fritto, along with a glass of sparkling wine.

This incredible restaurant is strictly a family affair. As dad Enzo is in the dining room grilling fish, one of his daughters greets guests and waits tables with his sister, while his wife, Emma, and his other daughter are cooking in the kitchen.

Our family loves chopped chicken liver, but my new presentation will be a surprise. We visited Modena during the annual festival celebrating balsamic vinegar, Balsamico Gusto.

That evening we were guests at a special dinner in Villa Cavazza, where every dish served included balsamic vinegar. The dinner was prepared by French chef Michel Troisgros and Italian chef Massimo Bottura, chef-owner of Ristorante Francescana in Modena.

Bottura, one of the cutting-edge chefs in Italy, served a dish that was fun, as well as delicious. It consisted of chopped liver coated with roasted hazelnuts, served on a stick in the shape of an ice cream bar and garnished with balsamic vinegar. I am sure my family is going to enjoy this dish, especially the grandchildren, because it is picked up by hand and eaten off the stick.

In Naples, we returned to another of our favorite restaurants, L’Europeo di Mattozzi. A traditional Neapolitan restaurant, the owner, Enzo Mattozzi, knows all his customers by name. His pizza is the best in Italy, but the dish that won us over was Baked Eggplant in a rich Onion-Tomato Sauce.

Most of the dishes are served family-style, so when we finished the first large platter of eggplant, we couldn’t help but order another. We had to try it again just to see if it was as delicious as we thought — and it was. When preparing a dairy menu, add fresh mozzarella cheese for an added taste adventure.

Dessert features a traditional pastry made in the Puglia region, called Cartellate (Italian Wine Cookies). Since fried foods are eaten during Chanukah, commemorating the miracle of the one day’s supply of oil that burned for eight days, these pastries are perfect. The dough is rolled out like pasta, cut into thin strips, then each strip is twisted into a lacy round, deep fried in olive oil and drizzled with a wine-honey syrup and nuts. It is crunchy and delicious.

Nadia’s Tuiles of Potatoes and Rosemary
1 small Idaho potato
1 tablespoon nondairy margarine
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Peel and dice potato, place in water to cover, bring to a boil and simmer until soft. Transfer to a shallow bowl and mash until smooth. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat margarine and saute onions and mix with a wooden spoon until soft. Add rosemary and continue cooking for two minutes. Add three tablespoons of mashed potato and mix well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, add the flour, water, salt, olive oil and mix to combine. Add the potato mixture and mix well. Mixture should have an elastic consistency.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat pad or aluminum foil and brush with olive oil. Using a tablespoon, place a small amount of the potato mixture on the prepared baking sheet and spread into a paper-thin oval shape. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. They crisp up as they cool. Continue with remaining potato mixture.

Makes about three or four dozen.

Gnocco Fritto (Fried Dumplings)
2 packages active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil for frying
Salt for dusting

Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup of a cup of water. Set aside until foamy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining three-quarters of a cup water, the olive oil and yeast mixture. Stir in the flour and salt and stir in one cup at a time, until the dough begins to come together into a rough ball.

Spoon onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, brush top of the dough with oil, cover and set in a warm place to rise for about one hour, until doubled in bulk (or can be used immediately).

In a deep pot, heat four inches of olive oil to 350 degrees. Divide dough into four parts, and with a rolling pin, roll out one part to a rectangle about one-eighth-inch thick. With a pizza wheel, cut the dough into one-inch squares. Repeat with remaining dough.

Blintzes, Cupcakes and Pasta — Oh My!


Back in the day, Passover meant meat, matzah and potatoes for eight days of the Passover. But in the last decade, the market for special kosher for Passover food has exploded, and manufacturers and supermarkets are providing a variety of products to almost make you forget it’s even Passover. (Unless otherwise stated, all products listed have been certified by the Orthodox Union [OU].)

The Pasta/Pizza Craving

Many people like to at least simulate foods that contain chametz (leavened goods that contain either wheat, oats, barley, rye or spelt), even if they’re not allowed to eat the real thing on Passover. So for those with a hankering for noodles, Passover noodles made from matzah-meal cake are available from Kedem with the Savion label, while Gefen and Flaum Appetizing also have noodles, but made from potato starch.

Frankel’s has produced frozen potato starch noodles but has also branched out this year with a whole array of kosher for Passover frozen foods including blintzes, waffles and the all-important pizza.

Also selling frozen pizza for the first time this year is Maccabee Pizza, whose product is made from potato starch. Dayenu is also jumping on the frozen food bandwagon with pierogies, pizza ravioli and pizzaroggies made with matzah meal.

In the blintz department, Kineret blintzes made from potato starch will be available, and King Kold of Chicago will be selling blintzes, matzah balls and potato pancakes under the Ratner’s label. All are matzah-meal based. In addition, King Kold has also introduced frozen potato kugel batter, potato pancake batter and matzah ball batter. And Dr. Praeger’s is producing both frozen potato and vegetable pancakes.

Matzah, Matzah, Matzah

While the standard Manischewitz matzah has always been available, the Orthodox Union (OU) this year has certified Aviv, Osem, Yehuda and Rishon matzahs from Israel as long as the OU-P symbol appears on them. Yanovsky matzah, which is baked in Argentina, is also being made available this year.

In addition to its traditional egg matzah, Manischewitz will also make available matzah ashira made from flour and grape juice — for those Ashkenazim who are not permitted to eat regular matzah, and for Sephardim who are allowed to eat kitniyot (legumes).

New on the shmura matzah list (handmade matzah) are those from Gefen, Rokeach and Mishpacha.

Kedem is introducing a new matzah product called Matzah Sticks under the Savion label.

And because Passover begins this year when Shabbat ends, for the first timeHadar manufacturers will be producing an egg matzah under the Star-K label, so that people will be able to eat them with their Shabbat meal, as challah will not be able to be eaten.

For the Munchies

Savion is introducing cupcakes and cookies made with matzah meal. VIP will have macaroons and cookies available as bulk items that contain no matzah meal. Manischewitz is introducing a new sugar-free biscotti and sugar-free macaroons, as well as sugar-free cookies made from matzah meal. Mishpacha is introducing macaroons and kichel made without matzah meal. And Yehuda Passover marble cake, honey cake and chocolate cake made from potato starch will be available from Israel with an OU-P. Gefen will have a line of cake mixes all made without matzah meal. Similarly, the Le Tova OU-P line of baking mixes made from potato starch will be available. Savion will be selling cake mixes and muffin mixes made with matzah meal. And this year Manischewitz is expanding its potato chip line to potato sticks and sweet potato chips.

Dairy Cravings

This year the OU-P will appear on various Cholov Yisroel dairy products. These include milk from Ahava with the Best Moo label as well as yogurt from Ahava with the Slim U label. A new OU company, Dairy Delight, will be selling sour cream and yogurt under the Norman’s label. In addition, Norman’s will also sell Cholov Yisroel ready to eat puddings with the OU-P label. Cholov Yisroel OU-P hard cheese will appear for the first time this year under both the Norman’s label and the Kirkeby label. The Kirkeby cheeses are imported from Europe and also carry the London Beth Din hechsher.

Something Fishy

Manischewitz’s Season line has introduced a number of new sardine items in various sauces for Pesach. Bumble Bee has made a large OU-P production of tuna under its own label. Aside from this, tuna is available with an OU-P from Rokeach, Gefen and Mishpacha. And Dr. Praeger’s has breaded fish fillets and fish sticks made without matzah meal.

The Real Thing

Coca-Cola will again be available with an OU-P for Pesach. Look for the distinctive yellow cap in addition to the OU-P symbol to ensure that the regular corn syrup has been replaced with sugar. The secret Coke recipe, however, has still not been disclosed.