Hanukkah : Eight Days of Latkes

Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday celebrating religious freedom, begins this year at sundown Sunday--families will hardly have time to finish their Thanksgiving leftovers before they being making and eating latkes, the traditional Hanukkah pancakes.

When I was growing up, potato latkes were the only choice at our family Hanukkah celebration, although all sorts of latkes are served in Jewish communities around the world.

These days I never hesitate to improvise or add other ingredients, where they seem appropriate. With the following recipes you have a different latke for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.

Texture in food is very important, and most of these latkes have a unique "crunch" all their own. If you like crisp latkes, you will especially enjoy the apple cornmeal latkes served with Bruna's candied pear slices.

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Many home cooks still grate potatoes or vegetables by hand. However, equipment like the food processor makes it much faster and easier to produce a batch of crisp latkes. Many of the mixtures keep well in the refrigerator, so keep some on hand when family or friends drop in. Non-stick griddles and pans make frying latkes easier and require much less oil.

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These latkes are family favorites. Frying the mixture on medium-low heat gives the sweet potatoes a chance to become almost caramelized. Finish frying on medium-high heat. They freeze well and can be crisped in the oven before serving.

SWEET POTATO-RAISIN LATKES

1 large sweet potato

2 eggs

Dash salt

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup golden raisins, plumped in apple juice

1/4 cup coarsely ground almonds

Oil for frying

Sour cream

Powdered sugar

Peel and rinse potatoes. Place in cold water until ready to grate to keep from discoloring.

Grate sweet potatoes to equal 2 cups. Then transfer to large bowl. Add eggs, salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly. Fold in raisins and almonds.

In large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4-inch of oil over medium heat. Drop potato mixture by tablespoons into hot oil, flattening each spoonful with back of spoon to form thin latke. Fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes on each side.

Watch carefully because latkes brown quickly. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with sour cream and powdered sugar. Makes about 12 latkes.

Each serving contains about:

76 calories; 33 mg sodium; 35 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.37 gram fiber.

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Jewish delis choose challah as their No. 1 choice for making French toast. I discovered challah also makes a delicious dessert latke, especially when topped with orange marmalade or ice cream.

CHALLAH LATKES

8 slices (3/4 to 1-inch thick) challah (egg bread)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

Powdered sugar

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Oil for frying

Orange marmalade

Using 2 1/2- to 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut each slice of bread into round.

In large bowl blend eggs, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, milk and orange zest. Place each slice of bread in egg mixture and let soak on both sides.

In large nonstick skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Using metal spatula, carefully transfer prepared bread rounds into skillet and fry bread until golden brown on both sides and egg mixture is cooked, about 5 minutes. Arrange on heated serving plates, sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with spoonful of orange marmalade. Makes 8 latkes.

Each serving contains about:

52 calories; 35 mg sodium; 81 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0 fiber.

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These latkes are based on traditional ingredients from an old family favorite, noodle kugel. Noodles, eggs, apples and raisins are combined, resulting in a crisp latke that is dipped in cinnamon sugar .

ROMANIAN NOODLE LATKES

1 (8-ounce) package of fine egg noodles

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or margarine

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 small apple, pealed and finely diced

1/2 cup golden raisins, plumped in apple juice

Oil for frying

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cook noodles according to package directions. Then drain well. Transfer to large bowl, add butter and mix well. Cool, slightly. Blend in eggs, salt, apple and raisins.

In large, heavy skillet heat 1/4-inch oil over medium heat. Drop noodle mixture by tablespoon into hot oil, flattening each spoonful with back of spoon to form thin latke. Fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes on each side. Do not turn latkes until first side is golden and top is firmly set.

Drain on paper towels. Combine sugar and cinnamon in shallow bowl and dip latkes in sugar mixture on both sides. Makes about 30 latkes.

Each serving contains about:

74 calories; 25 mg sodium; 23 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.10 gram fiber.

CHEESE LATKES WITH CONCORD GRAPE WINE SAUCE

1 cup hoop cheese or farmer's cheese

3 eggs

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup golden raisins, plumped in apple juice

Oil for frying

Concord Grape Wine Sauce

In large bowl of electric mixer beat hoop cheese until smooth. Add eggs, flour, sugar, milk and salt. Blend well. Fold in raisins.

In large, heavy, skillet heat 1/4 inch oil over medium heat. Spoon hoop cheese mixture by tablespoon into hot oil and fry each latke until golden brown on both sides.

Drain on paper towels. Serve with Concord Grape Wine Sauce. Makes about 24 latkes.

Each serving contains about:

90 calories; 63 mg sodium; 28 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 14 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.08 gram fiber.

Concord Grape Wine Sauce

1 1/2 cups Concord Grape Wine

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

In heavy saucepan bring wine and sugar to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add zest and simmer until sauce is reduced by third. Makes about 1 1/3 cups. Serve hot or cold.

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This is a potato latke like grandma never made, with beaten egg whites folded in for a lighter texture. These latkes are more delicate than traditional potato latkes and make a wonderful dessert served with Bruna's candied pear slices.

POTATO SOUFFLE LATKES

1 large russet potato, peeled and grated

1 small apple, peeled, cored and grated

2 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Oil for frying

Bruna's Candied Pear Slices

In large bowl combine potatoes, apple and egg yolks. Add sugar, flour and salt. Mix well.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold into potato mixture.

In large, heavy skillet heat 1/4 inch oil over medium heat. Spoon potato mixture by tablespoon into hot oil and fry on both sides until golden brown.

Drain on paper towels. Serve with Bruna's Candied Pear Slices. Makes about 24 latkes.

Each serving contains about:

151 calories; 31 mg sodium; 18 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 35 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.49 gram fiber.

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On a recent trip to Italy, we visited the Santini family at their Ristorante Dal Pescatore. I watched Bruna Santini prepare these candied pears. It looked so easy, and they were so delicious, I could hardly wait to try them at home. A perfect accompaniment with any of the latkes recipes.

Bruna's Candied

Pear Slices

3 pounds firm pears, preferably Bartlett

Juice 1 lemon

3 cups sugar

Peel pears, core and cut into thick slices to equal about 12 slices per pear.

Place in large bowl and toss in lemon juice. Pour sugar over pears and toss to coat completely. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 8 hours or overnight, until sugar liquifies. Remove pears, reserving sugar syrup.

Heat large, heavy skillet and add drained, sliced pears. Saute pears, tossing constantly with wooden spoon, until brown, glazed and tender. In another large saucepan, bring sugar syrup to boil and simmer until thick. Transfer pears to large bowl and pour syrup over. Makes about 3 cups.

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The intensity of flavor of these latkes will vary with the variety of apple used--the sweeter, the better. Cornmeal adds a special crunch.

APPLE-CORNMEAL LATKES

2 large apples, peeled, cored and grated

Juice 1/2 lemon

2 eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

Dash salt

1/4 cup matzo meal

1/4 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

Oil for frying

Sour cream

Cranberry sauce

In large bowl combine apples, lemon juice, eggs, sugar, salt, matzo meal, almonds and cornmeal. Mix well.

In large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch oil over medium heat. Spoon apple-cornmeal mixture by tablespoons into hot oil and fry on both sides until golden brown.

Drain on paper towels. Serve with sour cream and cranberry sauce. Makes about 14 latkes.

Each serving contains about:

80 calories; 26 mg sodium; 30 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.31 gram fiber.

POTATO LATKES WITH CHOPPED OLIVES

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and shredded

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 egg

5 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for sprinkling

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 cups Chopped Olive Spread

Place shredded potatoes in large bowl and add lemon juice, egg, 1 tablespoon olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well. Drain liquid that accumulates at bottom.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in 6-inch non-stick skillet. Spoon 1/2 of potato mixture into hot oil. Gently flatten with fork or spatula, spreading evenly. Cook over medium heat until brown on 1 side, about 10 minutes. Turn pancake carefully and brown on other side. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and remaining 1/2 of potato mixture.

Arrange pancakes on serving platter. Spread 1 cup Chopped Olive Spread over each. Sprinkle to taste with additional olive oil. Cut each latke into 4 wedges. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

151 calories; 497 mg sodium; 27 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.34 gram fiber.

Chopped Olive Spread

1 cup pitted black olives

1 cup pitted green olives

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Coarsely chop olives and place in bowl. Add olive oil and parsley. Toss well. Makes about 2 cups.

MICHEL RICHARD'S OVEN-FRIED POTATO LATKES

2 large russet potatoes, peeled

Salt, pepper

2 tablespoons oil

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup diced cucumbers

Cut potatoes into long thin julienne strips. Do not rinse or soak in water. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Saute layer of julienned potatoes until tender. Cool and place on large sheet of plastic wrap and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten with bottom of heavy pot until about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick.

Remove top sheet and cut potatoes with 3-inch round cookie cutter to make about 16 latkes. Carefully place each potato round on oiled baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with 1 tablespoon sour cream and about 1 teaspoon diced cucumbers. Makes about 16 latkes.

Each latke contains about:

52 calories; 27 mg sodium; 6 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.12 gram fiber.

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