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Sweet Potato Latkes for the Season of Light

When we were children, my brother and I looked forward to Hanukkah with great anticipation. The excitement was all about opening gifts, because Hanukkah had become the gift-giving time of year for modern Jewish families—likely because, falling as it did sometime in December, this Jewish holiday always had proximity on the calendar to Christmas. Rick recalls sneaking into the den closet to examine the wrapped presents hidden there. I fondly remember the Hanukkah when I was given my first plug-in radio so I could listen to all the pop music I wanted in my room with the door closed (which was probably as much a gift for my parents as for me!)

 

The story of Hanukkah took on greater meaning for me as an adult. This holiday marks an event of valor and grace, the victory of good over evil, and the celebration of a light that fills the darkness. In 168 BC, the Syrian conqueror of Judea (now Israel) massacred thousands of Jews, desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem, and forbade Jews to practice their religion. For two years, a group of rebel fighters, led by Judah Maccabee, hid in nearby mountains, attacked with guerilla warfare, and—finally—drove their oppressors out of Jerusalem.

 

Maccabee and his followers cleaned and restored the Temple as a sacred place for Jewish worship. When they lit the menorah to rededicate the Temple, the story goes that there was only enough oil for the lamp to burn for one night. As an act of faith, they lit it anyway, and the sacred flame burned for eight nights—which was seen as a miracle. To this day, in celebration, iconic songs are sung, proclaiming “A great miracle happened there!”

 

The Hebrew word hanukkah means “dedication.” During this holiday, Jews are called to rededicate ourselves to freedom for all people everywhere.

 

As for how latkes became a holiday tradition… well, that’s a story for another Hanukkah!

 

Wishing you a joyful and safe holiday season!

 

 

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SWEET POTATO LATKES

 

Gluten-Free, Vegan/Vegetarian
Preparation: 20 minutes plus cooking time
Makes 12 quarter-cup pancakes

 

This is a moderate-sized batter, perfect for two to four people, which seems to be the norm for 2020 pandemic meals. It’s just as easy to make a double batch, if you’re serving a larger crowd. If you want to make them two days in a row, you will need to strain the batter again after it’s refrigerated. I love to eat them plain, but it’s traditional to serve them with sour cream or applesauce. Pictured here are latkes topped with plain coconut yogurt.

 

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 extra-large or 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 pound)
1 small onion or 2 shallots
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
¼ cup oat flour
2 to 4 tablespoons King Arthur Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon mineral salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
Coconut oil or ghee for cooking

 

Cook’s Tip: If you prefer to use eggs as a binder, omit the flaxseed meal and water, and add 2 large eggs in step 4. If King Arthur Flour is not available, try tapioca starch.

 

1. Combine the flaxseed meal with 6 tablespoons of water in a small dish and set aside.

 

2. Using a food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the potato and onion (or shallots). Add the grated ginger and pulse again to mix. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the vegetables with a box grater.) Transfer the mixture to a salad spinner, if you have one, and twirl it to release the excess moisture. Otherwise, put the mixture into a strainer, and let it sit over a bowl for 10 minutes or so.

 

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the oat flour, 2 tablespoons of King Arthur Flour, baking powder, cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper.

 

4. Preheat a nonstick griddle or large skillet on medium-high. While the pan is heating, transfer the sweet potato mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add the flour mixture and flaxseed “eggs” (or actual eggs, if you prefer) to the sweet potato mixture, and stir vigorously. Note: If your batter is too wet, the latkes will fall apart when you flip them, so look to see if the ingredients appear to be congealing. You may need to add another tablespoon or two of King Arthur Flour now or after the first test pancake, if it does not flip easily.

 

5. If you haven’t had experience cooking latkes, you may want to test just one pancake once the griddle or pan is hot. Add ghee or oil to your pan. If the pan is stainless steel, you’ll need plenty of oil or ghee. Less oil is required for non-stick pan, but the fat is what helps the latkes become crispy. To cook, drop a ¼-cup of batter into the heated pan and flatten with the back of the measuring cup. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the edges are crispy. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes, until the second side turns golden brown. If the latkes are getting too brown for your taste, lower the heat to medium or medium-low, depending on how your stove cooks. (The more they brown, the more the onions caramelize, which is the way I like them.) Transfer the latkes to a plate lined with paper towels before serving. Repeat with the remaining batter.

 

 

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