Tag Archive for hanukkah

Just Some Photos from the Latke Shin Dig

Like I said, I know latkes are not the height of healthy eating, but my coaching is about healthy living, not just eating. And getting loved ones together to enjoy 6 versions of latkes, 4 toppings, and wildly wonderful conversation is EXACTLY the kind of healthy emotional living I like. With about 40-50 people coming through, over 200 latkes taken care of, and as wide a variety of food issues, we humans: the vegans and the gluten free, the Paleos and the plant-strong, the lovers and the fighters, all lit menorah candles together, caught up, laughed our heads off, and enjoyed our meal.

Come on in:

Traditional version with my new Swedish apron

Cast Iron skillet, best man for the job

Vegan, gluten-free, fixings for the sweet potato version.

Leslie’s photo of the table.

Latke Compendium: The Finish Line

I sometimes feel like the condiments are the best part of the show. My friend Elizabeth is a fantastic cook and when we make brunch together, the table is a veritable solar system of dips, sauces, sides, and toppings. Our bunches have eggs to order and yogurt to anchor everything, and even though the eggs will sport deep yellow yolks of happy hens who possibly roost on hand quilted thrones and the yogurt comes from cows so happy that we actually spy them all getting mani/pedi/udder massages (this is a lie), the real stars always lay in the orbiting mismatched bowls. Elizabeth brings her homemade caraway kraut, local honey from a friend’s bees in the Mission, dark and caramel. She makes jam and homemade salsa. Ginger will throw down with perfect southern biscuits and even started making some gluten-free ones for me, and we’ll put her cinnamon vanilla sunflower seed butter on them and close our eyes when we chew. I tote in a chutney of spiced fruits and pomegranate pear champagne vinaigrette for the massaged shaved kale salad with hazelnuts and fennel. We eat and pass bowls. We laugh and top each bite with different crowns. We brunch like champions, lazy and happy as the great world spins and we sip tea like there’s no work to do or bad phone calls to get. It’s condiment brunch and it’s one of my favorite days.

I also want to say that one of the best things about gathering people these days is the fact that everyone has different food needs. I live in San Francisco where you can’t spit without hitting someone who is going gluten free or paleo or vegan. Myself included. I do cleanses each season and I want people to just like food and feel good. So all these different desires that used to cause eye rolling and panic are now just an invitation for me to learn new things to make, find ways to bring together all kinds of new foods and make it No Big Deal. Because really, it’s not. It’s totally a blast. Send me your food needs and sensitivities, people. I AM NOT AFRAID.

Here’s some lemon creme fraiche on top of a beluga lentil soup drizzled with olive oil

CREME FRAICHE: So your latke gathering is now prepared with applesauce from yesterday. Today I bring you the creamy stuff to plop on your latkes. You won’t believe how friggin’ EASY it is to impress people with things like homemade creme fraiche. Making anything with the implication of a French accent really bowls your American pals over. But really all you have to do is this: The night before your party, put 2 tablespoons of buttermilk in a cup of heavy cream in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a pretty towel you like so in the morning it’ll be like being greeted by a chorus of angels. Not to get too Christmassy at Hanukkah, but whatever. I live in a mixed house. Let the bowl sit for like 12 hours or more if you like. Maybe up to 16. Then mix the creme and put it in the fridge until you want to serve it.

Is that it?
YES, MARY !!!!
Creme fraiche for the people.

This condiment is incredibly fun to modify for a good time. Meyer lemons are in season right now and you can zest one and squeeze a tiny bit in for a good tangy version. You can add harissa and about 3 finely diced olives for a Moroccan flavor or you can have a Greek kind of number with cucumbers and cilantro. This is a topping that just keeps giving. Tis the season after all.

VEGAN CASHEW CREAM Again, Mary, this is so easy, girl. Here’s what you need:

1c raw cashews
1/2 c filtered water

Soak your cashews for about 6 hours. They don’t need to soak as long as almonds do. They’ll plump up and turn white, which is appetizing for a cream situation. Pour off the water. Don’t use the soaking water in the next step. Ew. Now put your soaked cashews in a blender and cover them with new filtered water. I cover mine just barely. The less water, the creamier the sauce. Puree for several minutes. You want the nuts completely blended with no chunks or anything.

Is that it?
YES, MARY !!!!
Vegan creme for the people.

NOW, if you want vegan SOUR cream, just add in 1 t apple cider vinegar and the juice of one small lemon.

Play around with these. toppings are so fun and it’s easy to find your signature taste. People will be all up in your grill to bring the fantastic blah blah to the next neighborhood mixer. And you’ll be happy to because it’s fun to be the big hero in literally 5 minutes. Oh look, my inner Leo is showing.

Latke Compendium Part 2: The Fixins

Of course you can buy applesauce, sour cream and all manner of foodie upgrades to these, but fuck it.

Let’s make stuff.

It’s super easy, it inspires your pals to make their stuff too, it gives money to small farmers instead of lining the pockets of corporations, and it tastes better. Plus you don’t have to read any labels. You know just what’s in all of this. Really. After all, this is a celebration of miracles. Let us honor that with some time spent, some intention and love into our food, and a gathering of friends to go to town.

APPLESAUCE: A note on apples: Some people like to mix it up. Some people like a sweeter apple like a fuji, a Gravenstein or a honey crisp. I find that for applesauce what’s most important to me is that the apples are crisp and sturdy. This means they have a lot of juice in them, and even though I make my sauce with cider or apple juice, I still want the most robust taste. I like mine a little tart, but I take care of that with some lemon. In the photographs I made my sauce with pink pearl apples because at the time I just wanted applesauce that looked like an extra dish at a tea party for Rainbow Brite. Pink, yo. 

This recipe is enough for the whole latke party, plus left overs for breakfast yogurt or over your pecan pie or just as dessert.

8 medium apples, peeled and cored
1 quart apple cider
Juice of one lemon
1t cinnamon

Place all your apple slices in a pot and cover with apple cider. Add cinnamon and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Turn down the flame to a simmer and cook the apples down until they soften, about 30 minutes. Use a large whisk until the apples simply fall apart from the heat and become the best applesauce you’ve ever tasted. So easy. So good.

For variations: you can also throw pears in for sweetness or just something different. The zest of a satsuma is a pleasure in this applesauce. You can also add cloves. One time just to haul off and get fancy, I cooked a few sprigs of rosemary in some coconut oil at the beginning, then after about ten minutes, I fished out the twigs and made the sauce in the infused coconut oil. Delicious, but not the most traditional thing going.

Stay tuned because tomorrow we make all the creams. YES.

A Latke Compendium – Part 1

A LATKE PRIMER:

FROM OLD SCHOOL HEART ATTACK STYLE TO A HEALTHY HANUKKAH AND A FEW FANCY FOODIE VERSIONS AS WELL.

I decided a few years ago that I wanted to thank my body for sticking it out with me through all the years I asked it to do a bunch of stupid shit. I traded my bong and my glass pipe in for running shoes. Daily probiotics have replaced uncharted pounds of gummi bears, and I generally choose to seek solace in meditation rather than unavailable women with great style. And maybe one of my favorite skills I’ve developed in being healthy is the flexibility of not trying to do everything so perfectly that it all ends up going to hell when I can’t swing the Impossible Dream. Which I rarely can. That’s why they call it Impossible. I just try do my best to fit in things that bring my life to a path that features serenity, with room for pit-stops at Mediocrity, The Best I Could Manage, and I Just Didn’t Feel Like It.

To that end, I’ve prepared a Latke compendium here that covers all kinds of versions of one of my favorite dishes that can accompany you on this same journey. Your traditional latke which offers, let’s face it, very little in nutritional fortitude, but then, so many other things! The traditional latke, for me, conjures up a steadfast feeling of comfort like almost nothing else. When I was a kid, I lived a suburban Jew existence in assimilationist tract neighborhoods. We seemed to ride a line between a pride of heritage and a scorn for any kind of militant indentityism that would bring a person into the harsh light of scrutiny. Each holiday season, a diligent Jewish Mom would tote a fryer into our public school classroom with a big bottle of Crisco “Vegetable” oil and a plate of pre-created latkes to fry up for the Christmas-celebrating majority of the school. My classrooms generally had 2 or 3 Jews apiece, and we always knew each other from Hebrew school or simply from this observation: Seinberg. Cohen. Goldstein. And everybody else knew too. Like most “otherings” in life, it is difficult to say just how the texture of being Jewish makes a girl know she’s different. For me it was something about minor chords from music featuring accordions, dark shul head coverings, and an undercurrent of always being in the process of study, our lives a series of Why renderings that brought more questions.

And there were the latkes. At school it’s one thing in open rooms, but at home, the smell would cling to the walls for all 8 nights of candles. And for me, that scent of fried potatoes was separate from all other fried potatoes. French fries don’t smell like latkes. Puffy potato pancakes from diners don’t smell like latkes. Only my mom’s latkes had that smell. I loved it. This was where difference felt triumphant and regal. This was where being baffled by reindeer and a massive cultural lie about a rotund laughing white man felt like a total WIN. I could put down my decoration envy and my longing for a needle, thread and a gargantuan bowl of popcorn in front of a black and white flickering Jimmy Stewart. It is a Wonderful Life, and this week it’s run by a march of beautiful lights, spinning tops, and potatoes. Who doesn’t love a goddang LATKE?!?!?

Since then, I have left my mother’s kitchen and my kitchen has a few other concerns aside from tradition. I have had a serious transformation around food and health, plus many of my loved ones have discovered food sensitivities, allergies and also adventurous spirits in the kitchen. And so I present to you, not just my mom’s latkes, but some gluten-free cakes, vegan options, and just plain exciting ways to get busy with a pancake this season.

Some things will always be true: Make more than you think you need because mere mortals will eat more latkes than you ever thought possible. Make your own applesauce because it’s apple season, it’s more delicious, and it’s easy as hell. You can even make your own crème fresh if sour cream isn’t really hitting the mark anymore. Plus bring in a cream option for your vegan pals as well. They will be the nicest ones to your dog at the party.

May you all gather. And may you all be warm in the joy of this festival.

The Latkes

As luck and a kind fate would have it, latkes are easy to make, if not kind of a pain in the ass. The cooking directions for the first recipe can be used for all the recipes. Basically, you grate, slice, mix, squeeze, and fry. BAM.

TRADITIONAL LATKES
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
1 medium onion, grated
1 c. matzo meal
3 chopped scallions
4 eggs, large
1T celery salt or sea salt
1t black pepper, freshly ground, coarse.
Safflower, Sunflower, coconut or grapeseed oil to pan fry with. (Coconut has a definite taste.)

Most people go ahead and get russet potatoes for latkes. My mom did. But me? I like a Yukon gold. They are starchier and sturdier, therefor holding the juices in a little better. That being said, I grew up on russets and something about those is comforting to me as well.

Preheat your oven to 200.
Put on an apron for crying out loud.
A cute one if possible.

Grate all your potatoes into a big ass mixing bowl. If you have a food processor, you will never be happier for it than at this moment. If not, maybe a friend or two would help for grating potatoes. Dice your onion small but you don’t have to get all perfectionist about it and throw that in the bowl too. Follow with scallion which I slice as thinly as possible. My mom didn’t use them at all, but I like the color. You could use chives to or omit if you like. Mix everything together after that and form your little pancakes.

Meanwhile heat your oil up in a fryer or a cast iron skillet. I make sure the bottom of the pan is shiny with oil and a little extra for the crisp, but not so much oil that folks is gonna keel ovah. Squeeze the excess moisture from the pancakes and lay them gently in the skillet/fryer. Brown on each side and then place them on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil you don’t need then transfer to an oven safe plate to keep warm while you the fry up the rest.

SWEET POTATO LATKES       *These are both Vegan and Gluten Free
2 lbs grated sweet potatoes
¾ c chopped onion
2T coconut oil
1t salt
½ c olive oil
¼ c diced fresh sage

BUTTERNUT SQUASH LATKES (adapted from the Mile End Cookbook. This is a gluten free AND vegan version using Bob’s Red Mill GF all purpose flour mix)
3 lb butternutnut squash, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ c Bob’s Red Mill GF all-purpose flour
2 ripe, mashed bananas
1 t sea salt
½ t freshly grated black pepper
Canola oil for frying.

LEEK LATKES (adapted from the Smitten Kitchen recipe for Leek fritters)
1 lbs. leeks, dark green hacked off
1 lb. zucchini, grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
½ c matzoh meal
½ t fresh ground black pepper
½ t smoked hot paprika
1 egg
Safflower, Sunflower, coconut or grapeseed oil for frying.

On these you have to clean your leeks first. Often there is dirt and grit inside the pretty rings so slice them in half the long way after removing the dark green parts and soak them to get alla that grime business taken care of. Now cook your leeks in salted boiling water for about 3 minutes to soften. Set them aside to dry or wring them dry in a towel. Add them to the scallions in a big bowl. Then add in all your other ingredients and stir everything until the incorporation is even and looks fantastic.  Continue with your frying directions and enjoy!

Tune in for Part 2 to make fixins!!!