Some recipes I wrote up as a blogger at my old post, with a focus on delicious local foods from Ontario.
April 24, 2010
Other favourite things of mine: sun-blasted Saturdays, chocolate-covered anything, and cooking dinner with friends. I yearn for girlfriend cooking sessions on days when I’m so tired that boxed food glinting with freezer burn looks appealing. Back in the good ole days of university, it wasn’t uncommon to haphazardly stumble upon a group cooking experiment in my kitchen. It was a sight to behold: a cacophony of ingredients, recipe ideas, clinking pots and giddy laughter, and the results never disappointed. Those days are long gone, but my affection for them remains kindled. A few pals of mine called me up this week to cook dinner; it was a sweet reminder that there’s nothing quite like good food and delicious company to go along with it. Try a gathering yourself: call a friend, gather some Greenbelt ingredients, a bottle of VQA wine, make a meeting spot, and get cookin’!
These days, ratatouille is more likely to evoke images of a stout rat in a chefs’ uniform than a French dish from the hills of Provence. But ratatouille has been around a lot longer than the Pixar film of the same title, a simple stew of vegetables, most often served as an accompaniment to a larger meal. The most basic ingredients here are tomatoes and sweet peppers, and while the general consensus is that eggplant is a more recent addition, you’d be hard-pressed to find ratatouille without it today. To keep things seasonal, you can definitely omit the eggplant here, but we kept it in for texture’s sake. Ratatouille makes a great side dish for meat or fish, or serves as a tasty topper for pasta, potatoes, or rice. Since we like getting creative, we made mashed potato “nests” on which to settle our stew, but it’s even tasty all by its lonesome!
Ratatouille in Potato “Nests”
2 Red Peppers
2 Onions, chopped
2 Cups button mushrooms
¼ Cup cilantro
¼ Cup basil
Salt and Pepper
6 Cloves Garlic, chopped
Olive oil for cooking
1 cup cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp. butter
Salt to taste
1. In a large pot, saute onions and garlic until slightly browned.
2. If you decide to use eggplant, throw eggplant in with onions and garlic, and cook for about 15 minutes.
3. Core and dice tomatoes, chop mushrooms, and slice peppers into long, thin strips. Add the veggies into the pot. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil.
4. Add salt, and let the veggies simmer on medium heat, covered, for approximately 30 minutes. Check back every few minutes to give the stew a bit of a stir. The vegetables will produce their own juices, so don’t worry about adding water. Keep cooking until the vegetables are extremely softened and melded together, but avoid turning the mixture into a puddle of mush. At this point, add herbs.
5. While stew is cooking, chop potatoes into small cubes, and boil them in a separate pot.
6. When potatoes are soft, drain water, add butter and salt, and mash them.
7. Grease a 12-cup muffin holder, and spoon a bit of mashed potatoes into each cup. Use the spoon to make a dent in the center of each cup, and spread the potatoes against the sides of each cup. If you desire, sprinkle some cheddar cheese on top.
8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the mashed potatoes feel a bit hardened and the cheese has melted.
9. Remove muffin pan from the oven, and while still hot, scoop one onto a plate. Spoon a generous dollop of ratatouille on top, and enjoy!
Meat and Potato Roti
April 17, 2010
Easy, greasy, and delicious: my 3 favourite words. I’m not an avid meat-eater, as you can probably tell, but my brother’s meaty mid-week kitchen experiment had me drooling. He was fiddling around with the pride of our Hungarian bloodline – meat and potatoes – giving these classic ingredients an East-Indian twist in the form of roti. Missing out on the breading, all that was left for me was a crispy brown layer of filling at the bottom of the pot. Unperturbed, I single-handedly scraped the pot clean. I wanted more, and fast, and I was promised some with a catch: this roti-round would be a family affair – the boy would make the filling if I would make the shell (last time it was from a box). It’s funny – I had seriously considered converting to a full-fledged vegetarian this week. That is, until I tried the sausage and potato roti, when I decided to postpone my plans indefinitely.
Have you ever been to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair? It was at that enormous event last November that my eyes were pried open to the world of Ontario’s agricultural wonders. In this province we have herds of prize-winning velvet-haired livestock, so it’s no wonder why 44% of Greenbelt farms are livestock farms. If you live in Durham region, meat might be your best friend. That’s because Durham houses that majority of cattle farms in the Greenbelt. So, whether you prefer beef or pork, chicken or goat, you don’t have to stray far to find it. We happened to have beef sausage for this recipe, but you can easily swap your choice of meat in this tasty dish. Or, if you are vegetarian (or decide to be!), simply omit the meat for an equally delicious meal.
Meat and Potato Roti
1 Medium red onion, sliced
1 Sweet red pepper, diced
4 Cloves garlic, chopped
4 Beef sausages (spicy or regular)
Oil for cooking
3 Cups water (approximately)
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. sesame oil
Assortment of spices: curry powder, turmeric, chili powder, garam masala, ground coriander, mystery spices
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups flour
1 cup water (approximately)
Salt to taste
Oil for cooking
1. Sift flour into a large bowl. Add salt.
2. Add water slowly, mixing the flour and water to get a dough forming.
3. Keep adding water and kneading the ingredients until you have a nice solid ball of dough, fully mixed.
4. Roll dough into a ball, and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
1. Peel, cube, and boil potatoes until soft. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large pot, saute onion and garlic.
3. Add potato and red pepper to the pot.
4. In a separate pan, fry up you sausage in lots of oil.
5. When sausages are cooked, cut them into small pieces and dump them with the oil into the pot of potatoes
6. Now it’s time to improvise! Add as much or as little spice as you like. We used a method of guesswork more than anything, but the main spices we chose are those listed above. Approximately 1.5 tbsp. garam masala, 1 tbsp. turmeric, etc. Play around with spices to get your preferred level of flavour.
7. Add vinegar and sesame oil.
8. Add about half a cup of water to the pot, and let the ingredients absorb the water slowly. What you are aiming for is a stew-like mixture, so keep adding a bit of water and let it get absorbed by the potatoes. You should repeat this step 3 or 4 times until some of the potato turns to mush. Perfection!
1. Divide your dough into 8 small balls.
2. On a well-floured surface, roll each ball of dough as thin as possible.
3. If you have a special flat pan for roti, use that, but if not, any frying pan should be just fine. Heat up a bit of oil in your pan, and make sure it’s very hot. Carefully lay down a roti shell in the center of the pan, and cook for about 30 seconds – 1 minute on each side. You are aiming for the shell to get browned slightly, and to see some of the characteristic bubbles often seen in roti shells.
4. After you’ve cooked all your shells, scoop a bit of filling into each one, roll up, and dig in!
Mastering the French Macaron
April 3, 2010
I’ve never celebrated Easter, but I could smell its arrival from a mile away. I think it was the goodies on my desk that gave it away, a pile of egg shaped chocolates and pastel rainbows of blue, pink and yellow, which grew larger and larger as the week passed by. By Thursday afternoon, every file on my desk was covered with a light dusting of chocolate, and I knew it was time for me to satisfy my sweet tooth and get in on the fun. And since Easter is all about egg-loving, I had an idea up my sleeve.
They’re not coated in chocolate, but Ontario eggs are definitely something to celebrate. The province produces almost 40% of Canada’s egg supply, with over 200 poultry and egg farmers located directly in the Greenbelt; Hamilton, Niagara and Durham are the big three. Eggs are the quintessential baking ingredient, making an appearance in almost all my favourite dishes, which – if you hadn’t noticed yet – happen to be desserts. I feel lucky to have farm-fresh eggs so close to home, and I thought I’d celebrate the egg with another sweet treat, a cookie made of egg-white meringues and a delicious filling.
French macarons are not to be confused with two O’d macaroons, those little mounds of coconut and chocolate drizzle so synonymous with Passover. The macaron is all about celebrating the egg. In fact, the cookie is mostly egg whites, and without them – well – you wouldn’t have a cookie. If you’re into reading food blogs, then you’re surely aware of the macaron’s reputation as the queen of cookies, a melt-in-your-mouth sugar cloud nearly impossible to perfect, attempted by and sought after by every other chef in the cyber-world. Once again, I’ve chosen one of the most finicky food items to prepare. But when these delights are done right, you’ll be patting yourself on the back and craving to share photos of your successes with all your Facebook friends. In fact, we’d love to see your pictures! Post them on our Facebook page or shoot us a line, anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Easter Egg Macarons
3 egg whites (room-temperature)
1 cup icing sugar
½ cup ground almonds
5 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup filling of choice (jam, buttercream, honey, etc.)
Every macaron recipe is slightly different, which is why it’s so hard to tell how to get the “perfect” cookie. Most suggest leaving the egg whites out of the fridge for approximately 24 hours to “age”.
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees farenheit.
2. In a bowl, sift the icing sugar and ground almond together.
3. In a separate bowl, use an electric beater on high power, to beat the egg whites. As you beat, slowly add in the granulated sugar. Keep beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks, add then gently mix in the vanilla, and a couple of drops of food colouring in your preferred colour.
4. Using a rubber spatula, mix in dry ingredients. TIP: Be extremely gentle in mixing your batter – if you over-mix the egg whites, the cookies won’t turn out right!
5. Spoon your mixture into a piping bag with a plain tip.
6. On a piece of parchment paper (or a silicon baking mat), pipe an even number of circles of batter, about 1 inch diameter. Make sure to leave some space between the circles, as they will spread a bit.
7. Let the wet circles dry on the baking sheet for approximately 15 minutes. TIP: Some recipes omit this step, while others insist that this is necessary in order to get the “feet” on the cookies, the little frills of egg white that roll out the bottom of each perfect half (note: mine in the picture aren’t the best example of this!).
8. Place the cookies on a center rack of the oven, and bake for approximately 15 minutes, checking back frequently to ensure they don’t burn or crack.
9. Remove from oven, allow them to completely cool.
10. Using your filling (I chose a nice strawberry jam I had), smear a bit on the flat side of one macaron half, then sandwich it with another flat-sided macaron half. Repeat this step until you have a whole tray full of macaron sandwiches!
All Fudged Up – Maple Walnut Fudge
March 26, 2010
It’s maple syrup season, and everyone’s talking about it. Cars were packed with kiddies heading out on March Break sugar shack excursions. Bloggers are writing up syrup tastings and maple-themed events around the Greenbelt. Even my friends from south of the border jealously pine for some of our liquid gold, dark sugary streams that flow out of maple trees, year after year, right on time. It’s a uniquely sweet treat, pretty much leading the pack of “things that define Canada”. For me, the best part of maple syrup is its god-like omnipresence – If you live in Southern Ontario, it’s everywhere.
Ah, the maple tree, a symbol so Canadian we decided to stamp it onto our flag. Native Canadians have been tapping maple sap for hundreds of years, developing a technique of boiling the sap to evaporate the water and concentrate the sugar. European settlers later discovered this sweet treat, and maple sugar became the first sugar product produced in eastern North America. Now the maple industry is worth approximately $15,000,000 annually to the Ontario economy, probably because my family buys it by the gallon whenever we can get our hands on it.
I jumped on the maple syrup bandwagon with a little experiment in fudge making. I’ve tried making fudge before, so I know that it can be a bit temperamental. Cook too long? Sugar burns. Stir too much? Fudge thickens too quickly. It might take a few tries, but the finished product is pure heavenly decadence. The time is ripe to hit up a sugar shack near you for some festive maple syrup events! Check out this nifty site for some ideas on where to look for a sweet weekend adventure.
Maple Walnut Fudge
2 cups sugar (I opted for 1 cup white, 1 cup brown)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. corn syrup
1. In a large pot, mix sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, and evaporated milk
2. Turn stove to medium heat, and mix the ingredients until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil
3. When the sugar mixture begins to boil, do NOT mix the ingredients. Things will start to bubble and froth, but trust me – leave them be.
4. If you have a candy thermometer (You should! They’re fantastic), you’re aiming for the boiling sugar mixture to reach 240 degrees farenheit.
• TIP: Patience is in fact a virtue. As tempting as it may be to turn up the temperature and speed up the cooking process, please don’t. I did. My mixture burned. My suggestion is to walk away, letting your mixture boil, and to come back and check on the temperature every 5-10 minutes. If you don’t own a candy thermometer, you’re looking for the “soft-ball stage”, which is the point where if you drop a bit of the mixture in cold water and it forms a ball on its own.
5. When your mixture reaches the temperature after about 15-20 minutes, remove the pot from the heat. Drop in your butter, and stir gently until the butter dissolves.
6. Leave the pot to sit and cool. This might take a while, so I advise you to kick back and relax. Your fudge should cool to approximately 110 degrees farenheit (about 30 minutes). If you’re really impatient, you can pop it into the fridge to speed up the cooling process.
7. Once the fudge has cooled, drop your walnuts in. Now, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously. You’re sure to get a great workout at this stage, as the fudge hardens and each stir becomes an uphill battle.
• TIP: This is one of the most important stages in the fudge-making process. If you stir too much (As I did), the fudge solidifies rapidly, and you’ll have a difficult time transferring it to the pan. If you stir too little, you might not get the right consistency. Practice makes perfect!
8. Pour your fudge into a non-stick or buttered pan. At this point, the fudge should cool very quickly, and solidify into form all by itself! There is no need to refrigerate the fudge, unless you plan on keeping it for a few days.
Purple or Green Pierogies
March 16, 2010
The sun may be shining, but I’m feeling the winter blahs. Maybe it’s the slim Greenbelt pickings in the produce aisle. Perhaps I’m just squashed out. But is there a silver lining, you ask? Well, as Irish poet Alfred Percival Graves reminded me, there is: “When after the Winter alarmin’, the Spring steps in so charmin’, so fresh and arch, in the middle of March, wid her hand St. Patrick’s arm on.” St. Patrick’s Day is coming! So last Wednesday, I put on my thinking cap and phoned up a wicked friend of mine to try something crazy: St. Patty’s Green and Purple Pierogies. Were we nuts? Maybe. But with a bit of Irish luck, our pierogies were given a surprisingly delightful jolt, just in time for my favourite holiday.
I have to warn you, making pierogies from scratch is definitely a time investment. From start to finish, including making dough, creating tri-coloured filling, and stuffing the pierogies, it took us almost three hours! But the warm and fuzzy feeling associated with making something so tasty from scratch was well worth my time. This recipe can be sourced almost entirely locally. There is also flexibility if you would like to mix the potato filling with one of your own favourite Greenbelt ingredients. Tip: Try freezing some of your favourite Greenbelt greens when they’re in season, for use in off seasons (e.g. spinach).
Green and Purple Pierogies
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup water
A dash of nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1.5 lb potatoes
2 red onions, sliced
Salt to taste
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 small beets
1 cup greens (spinach, collard greens, etc.)
1/2 cup goat cheese
1. Pour flour into a large mixing bowl.
2. Make a dent in the middle of the flour with your finger.
3. In the dent, add egg, water, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then stir.
4. Once stirring gets tough, use your hands to form a medium-sized ball of dough.
5. Set aside.
1. Peel and slice potatoes into small squares (so that they cook faster), then place them in boiling hot water. Slice the beets and cook them in boiling water in a separate pot. Do the same with your greens.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, slice 1 onion and sauté it until browned
3. When the potatoes are soft and cooked, drain water from the pot. Return the pot to stove, and mash the potatoes with a masher. While mashing, add salt, pepper, olive oil, and sautéed onion.
4. In the food processer, process beets. Clean out processor, then process your greens.
5. Use two bowls: put half potato mix in one bowl, and half in another. In one bowl mix in beets. In the second bowl mix in greens. If you would like, you can set aside some of the potatoes as plain stuffing.
Filling your pierogies
1. To make your life easier, cut your dough in half so that you are working with less dough at one time.
2. Roll out the dough onto a well-floured surface.
3. Use a round cup to cut small dough circles.
4. Hold a dough circle in the palm of your hand, and use a spoon to add a small amount of filling to the center of the circle. If you would like, add a sprinkle of cheese on top of the filling. Fold the dough in half, and pinch the edges together to form a crescent shape. You can use a fork to push the dough together to create a tighter seal and a nice looking ridge around the edge of the pierogi.
Cooking your pierogies
1. Drop pierogies into a large pot full of salted, boiling water, and cook for about 5 minutes.
2. While the pierogies are boiling, slice your second onion and sauté it in a separate pan.
3. When pierogies rise to the surface, they are ready! Drain the water from the pot.
4. In batches, add the pierogies to the pan with onions, and cook them until they are slightly browned on the side.
It’s all Leek to me: a lesson on quiche for busy-bees!
March 11, 2010
Exhausted from a long week of work, I stood with my hands clutching onto the fridge doors, grasping for something to eat on the barren shelves. I wanted something simple, something satisfying and delicious, but all I could scrounge up was a single leek, a handful of mushrooms, some eggs and a bit of cream. Now, I’ve learned a thing or two from mom. She’s no Master Chef. And, she doesn’t often take the prize for her cooking. But mom does 3 things and she does them right: lasagna, curry, and quiche. Quiche for dinner, quiche for potlucks, quiche for birthdays, quiche for holidays – A lifetime of quiche and it seemed only natural to pass me the torch for this egg-centric dish.
The delicious sister to onion and garlic, the leek is bursting with Vitamin C, Iron, and Fiber. Experiencing nosebleeds? According to legend, Hippocrates (father of medicine) prescribed leeks to cure them. Pining for some Welsh friends? The Welsh love their leeks, wearing them as their national “flower” on St. David’s day to celebrate the legend of Welsh warriors wearing leeks to war (now that’s a mouthful!). Leeks are available now in Ontario, but won’t be in March, so go out and get them…before they’re gone!
Leek, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quiche
1 pie crust
3 large eggs
1 cup of half and half cream
1 large leek
1 cup of sliced white mushrooms
½ cup of goat cheese
2 tbsp mozzarella/parmesan/cheddar cheese
1-2 tsp. each of salt and pepper
2-4 tbsp. olive oil for cooking
Create your own pastry shell using a basic pie crust recipe, or buy a ready-made pie crust from your local grocery store. OK, I admit it! I cheated here and used a boxed crust (sh…don’t tell mom). Either way, prepare your crust, and set it aside until you are ready to fill it with delicious Greenbelt goodies.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Pour out some olive oil onto your frying pan until you get a nice sizzle going. Make sure you wash your leeks really well – dirt tends to hide amongst the leaves and crevices of the stalky green vegetable. Slice up your mushrooms and throw them into the pan with your leeks. Saute the combination until they are nice, tender, and golden, and add some salt to taste.
Beat your 3 eggs together, adding salt and pepper as you go. Combine eggs with cream.
Spread your leek mushroom mixture across the bottom of your prepared crust, then crumble goat cheese all around the vegetables. Pour your wet mixture overtop the vegetables and cheese, and grate some hard cheese onto the surface of the quiche.
Carefully, slide the quiche onto the middle rack of your oven, and let it cook about 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and you can test the middle of the quiche with a fork and it comes out clean.
Short and Sweet – Maple Nut Granola
March 8, 2010
New years’ resolutions aside, I love maple syrup. Indulging in pure maple syrup brings back memories of my younger days, sitting with a gaggle of classmates on a sleigh in the snow of Ontario’s wilderness, eager to taste the sugar tapped from the trees. These days, I source my maple syrup from my local farmers’ market at the Wychwood Barns, selecting my favourite winter-time treat from a row of syrup bottles in rich shades of brown.
Granola is a wonderfully versatile breakfast food, though if you’ve searched your local grocery store, you’ll find this cereal product can carry a hefty price tag. But granola is so incredibly easy and cheap to make, you’ll be asking yourself why you never tried sooner. Maple walnut granola is delicious with yogurt, milk, or on its own, and makes a great gift for friends and neighbours. This recipe is incredibly flexible, and allows you to toss in pretty much anything you choose, so go nuts (any kind you like)!
Maple Walnut Granola
4 cups of old-fashioned whole oats
¾ cup pure maple syrup
5 teaspoons of oil (or a couple of spritzes of Pam cooking spray)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup dried fruits (e.g. dates, figs)
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees farenheit.
Step 2: Oil up a rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet in the oven to warm as it preheats.
Step 3: Mix oats, nuts, cinnamon, vanilla, and dried fruits in a large bowl.
Step 4: Remove your baking sheet from the oven, and spread granola mix evenly on the sheet. Lightly coat the mixture with oil from the sheet and any remaining oil you have.
Step 5: Warm your maple syrup on the stove top or in the microwave for about 1 minute, then pour it over your mixture. Mix up the syrup and granola mixture so that the syrup is evenly distributed.
Step 6: Place your baking sheet back in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, making sure to mix the granola every 15 minutes to avoid burning. Let the granola cool and store the mix in a sealed jar. In theory this supply should last you through winter’s harshest mornings. But, it’s delicious, so this hasn’t been the case in my house.
Flour Power – Cooking w/ Ontario Flour
December 18, 2009
Did you know that Ontario produces five types of wheat? That’s right! Meandering through the Greenbelt’s fields, you’ll find a variety of wheats, including my all-time favourite, soft red winter wheat. The seed, which is planted in the fall, spends the winter nestled under the snow, then begins to spread its wings and grow in March. Soft red winter wheat and I go way back. In fact, you might know this wheat yourself. Soft red is the largest class of wheat grown in Ontario, and more importantly, is the type of wheat used in cakes and pastries. So what’s a girl to do with a bunch of wheat (i.e. flour), a pile of farm fresh eggs, and some irresistible Ontario butter? With a predicament like that, festive cookies are in order!
Stained Glass Cookies
• 2 cups flour (all-purpose)
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ½ cup unsalted butter
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• A bag of assorted clear colored hard candies (e.g. Jolly Rancher, Life Savers)
Preheat your oven to 325 F degrees, and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix your dry ingredients in a bowl, and set them aside.
In another bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, to a fluffy consistency. Add egg, and beat the mixture until smooth.
Mix wet and dry ingredients. I started this step with a mixer, but soon discovered it was much easier and more fun to use my hands to finish mixing up the dough. Stir in your vanilla, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 45 minutes [TIP: if you’re in a rush, pop that baby into the freezer for 10-15 minutes].
Take your cool dough from the fridge, and roll it out on a well-floured work surface. Here’s the fun part: Use cookie cutters (or your imagination and a knife) to cut out cookie shapes. We used two different sized glasses to create a donut shape. Whatever shape you decide on, make sure you leave a hole in the center of your cookie to plop in your “glass”. [TIP: use a straw to punch tiny holes at the top of your cookies, so that you can later string ribbon through, and turn them into ornaments!]. Place your cookies on the baking sheets.
Crush your candy using a bag and your weapon of choice. Sprinkle your candy crumbs into the holes in the center of your cookie dough, and bake the two sheets for 10-12 minutes, or until the candy is melted and your cookies are (very) lightly browned. Let cool, then hold them up to light, remark at how beautiful they are, show them off to your friends, hang them on your tree, and marvel at the fact that most of the ingredients can be sourced right from your backyard!
Now, you might be asking yourself, why on earth have those photographed cookies slithered into the formation of a giant number 5. Well, 2010 marks the 5th anniversary of the Greenbelt, provider of the basic cookie ingredients and so many more tasty treats. So stay tuned and check back for exciting news and events as we usher in the new-year and celebrate the Greenbelt in 2010! Have a happy holiday season, and a wonderful new year!
Eight Crazy Nights – Potato Latkes
December 11, 2009
As a kid in mid-December, I would sit in the kitchen, absorbing the wafting scent of onions sizzling in a pan of oil, mouth watering in anticipation of crispy, golden potato fried treats on my plate. It’s permissible on Hanukah, almost a blessing according to most Bubbies, to partake in the guilty pleasure of fried potato latkes (pancakes) for the eight long nights of this Jewish holiday. Do you have to celebrate Hanukah to eat latkes, you ask? Nuh-uh! You definitely don’t have to be Jewish to impress your friends and enjoy the potato latke, a simple, sumptuous, crispy treat that can be prepared all year round, in a variety of shapes and forms.
The straight potato (yields 24 latkes…or more. I lost count.):
* 2 lb. russet potatoes
* 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
* 2 large eggs
* 1 tsp. salt
* 1/2 cup flour (or matzo meal)
* Pure olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)
* Secret ingredient: a dash of cinnamon
Peel your potatoes and then grate them using a box grater (to get those nice, long, fine shreds of potato). Place the shreds in a bowl of cold water for approximately five minutes, then drain the water, place the shreds on a kitchen towel, and twist out the juices.
Combine potato shreds, eggs, onions, salt, and flour, and mix them well. Use your hands if you want a “sensual experience”, according to my mother.
Heat a ½ cup olive oil in a skillet, and use a spoon to drop your goopy mixture in small circles around the pan [hint: if your mixture is TOO goopy, add a bit more flour]. It’s probably safe to fry 5-6 latkes at a time. Cook them until they are brown on the bottom side, then flip them and cook the other side brown. Remove latke from pan and place on paper towel to drain.
Eat with caution. They are hot and irresistible.
My plans to share them with coworkers were dashed when I woke up this morning and discovered an empty plate on the kitchen counter. Sigh.
My friends will tell you that I am a potato’s biggest fan; I would eat a strict diet of potatoes all day every day if my hips could keep it a secret. But my love for potatoes doesn’t mean I won’t invite some of its earthy siblings to this year’s latke party. Eight nights offer eight opportunities to shake things up this holiday season. Try a variation on this basic potato latke recipe, by tossing in some grated carrot and squash to the mix, or adding a dash of sweet Ontario apples. A little bit of imagination goes a long way with these little wonders. Plop a bit of homemade applesauce and sour cream on top, and you’ll be counting down the days until Hanukah 2010. Make sure you share with all of your friends, and have a happy holiday season!