Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sweet Potato & Leek Latkes

gluten-free sweet potato latkes

Everyone in my family's been trying to eat a lower-glycemic, more nutritionally sound diet for a plethora of health reasons, so I thought we could do with a little change of pace this Chanukah. Breaking with tradition is always hard, but it can also be a good opportunity to try new recipes and create new relationships with ingredients. Tonight's experiment was one of those times when pushing the boundaries of "Jewish food" was well worth it. You may have noticed I am a big fan of the fried leek. In these latkes, the warm, mellow onion flavor of leeks compliment the sweetness of the sweet potatoes.

In addition to being healthier than traditional potato latkes, these sweet potato pancakes have a few other differences. They are less messy and easier to make. Because they don't have the potato starch that is so plentiful in white potatoes, they need a lot more help binding - Additional eggs and potato starch will do the trick (if you don't have potato starch, try tapioca or sweet rice flour - But stay away from grainier gluten-free flours such as regular white rice flour). Even with extra binder added, they have a looser and less sticky consistency so they need to be formed and placed in the oil and flipped with extra TLC. They take a bit longer to cook than regular white potato pancakes, so make sure to keep the oil turned down just a little below the heat you'd use for white potato latkes which will give them longer for the insides to cook before they become crispy around brown around the outer edges.

I recommend serving these tasty vegetable pancakes with sour cream or non-dairy cashew sour cream, but applesauce also works as a condiment. Chag sameach!

gluten-free sweet potato latkes


[ Gluten-Free / Dairy-Free / Pareve /
Vegetarian / Soy-Free ]

3 extra large sweet potatoes
3 large leeks
5 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Refined vegetable oil (preferably canola or corn oil)

Preheat oven to 200F (if you will need to keep the latkes warm).

Cut sweet potatoes lengthwise so that they are narrow enough to fit through the shoot of a food processor. Using the grater attachment of a food processor, shred the sweet potatoes. Alternately, use the largest holes on a box grater to grate the potatoes by hand.

Rinse the leeks well. Cut the dark green tops off of the leeks, as well as removing the roots from the very bottom. Cut in half lengthwise, and then slice widthwise in very thin slices. Combine the leeks with the grated potato in a large mixing bowl. Add salt, egg, and a generous amount of black pepper. Gently sprinkle potato starch across the top, then stir to combine thoroughly.

Heat 1/3 inch of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, until just below the smoking point.

Use your hands to pat a small handful of batter into a small, thin (no more than 1/3" thick) pancake. Gently lower each pancake into the hot oil. Press each latke with the back of a slotted spatula so that it becomes flatter and thinner. Fry until completely golden-brown on the bottom and crispy around the outside corners. Flip and brown on the second side. If the outside is getting browned and crispy before the inside has a chance to cook sufficiently, turn the burner down just slightly.

Transfer latkes to a plate lined with paper towels or several layers of brown paper (I use grocery bags). Allow paper to absorb excess oil, then transfer latkes to a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet in the preheated oven, where they will stay warm until ready to serve. Serve hot.

Extra latkes can be frozen on a baking sheet in the refrigerator, with parchment paper or freezer paper between the layers. When frozen, transfer to ziploc bags. Reheat in oven on 400 degrees F.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Gluten-Free Chanukah

Photo: First night of Chanukah at my parents' house

How did Chanukah creep up on us so fast? It's only the first week of December! Oh that whacky Jewish calendar (or a whacky Gregorian calendar, really). I didn't really have time in between Thanksgiving and now to cook up some new Chanukah recipes, so I'm going to have to regurgitate (metaphorically) some oldies but goodies. To save folks the trouble of digging through the archives, here's a roundup of my Chanukah recipes from last year, as well as a few recipes that aren't Chanukah specific but would be appropriate for this week's festive meals. It is a custom for this holiday to eat foods that are fried in oil, in honor of the miracle of one night's worth of oil lasting for eight nights in the Chanukah story. The oil burned for eight nights, we light eight candles, we gain at least eight pounds and spell the holiday's name at least eight ways.

Happy Chanukah / Hanukkah / Hanukah everyone!