2 days ago
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Dark Latkes for the Festival of Lights
From a theological standpoint, Hanukkah is not a significant holiday. From a cultural standpoint, Hanukkah is great! The date varies but it usually takes place some time in December, that is, some time when we could all use as many lights and social gatherings as we can get, and Hanukkah offers 8 days of festivities. 8 days is enough for me to catch up. The first day of Hanukkah was last Friday. I made my latkes - traditional potato pancakes - last night
I miss a lot of things about Canada and multiculturalism tops the list. Needless to say, there is not a huge Jewish community here in Heidelberg, although there is a synagogue and a Jewish University. While they are very open at both institutes (I visited the one and took a class at the other), I never found the same sort of integration that I felt is so natural in Canada. I felt really sad when someone at the synagogue said, "we haven't had any troubles, but on the high holy days, it's still nice to have a police car patrolling the area". I know there is a huge amount of baggage that I am not willing to discuss, nor am I willing to judge one side or the other. I'm selfish & I just want a good latke.
Potato pancakes exist in Germany. They are called "Kartoffelpuffer", "Reibekuchen" or an assortment of other names. They are common for the area that was once the Holy German Empire (Germany, Bohemia, Poland, parts of Austria). These foods that were so common for the area seem to be the dishes that Jews from Eastern Europe (Ashkenazic Jews) took with them to North America. These "Kartoffelpuffer" are present at every Christmas market, indicating that the dish is of local significance, not religious significance. What I don't like around here is that they are only available with applesauce, not sour cream. In Düsseldorf, I had some with herbed Quark (a kind of cream cheese). I was all over it. To top my latkes (or Kartoffelpuffer, or potato pancakes), I used skim quark with a pinch of herbes de provence (my secret ingredient) as well as chives and parsley.
The potatoes are Vitelotte, a dark potato that retains its colour when cooked. They were, honestly, this dark. I added beets and carrots to make me feel less guilty about eating fried food. But let's be honest, the festival of lights is only possible because there was enough oil to light the lamps for 8 days. Oil is an essential part of the holiday. If I only celebrate one of the 8 days, my arteries aren't doing too badly.
Happy Hanukkah to everyone! Enjoy the lights and the fried food!
300g Vitelotte potatoes (or another purple variety)
oil to fry
Grate potatoes. Place in bowl of water to allow starch & liquid to escape. Squeeze all liquid out of potatoes and, if possible, retain starch. Add to a large bowl. Grate beets and carrots, squeezing out liquid. Add egg and salt and mix.
Heat oil in a skillet and when hot (a toothpick should bubble) place 2Tbsp lumps of latke batter into oil. Do not overcrowd the skillet.
Cook until solid, turn & continue cooking. Place on a plate with lots of paper towels, and keep warm in the oven.
Serve with apple sauce and skim cream.
1 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp chopped parsley
salt to taste
Mix all ingredients. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.