I love holidays that are celebrated with lights and food. Around this time of year there are plenty of holidays that fit that bill. There's St. Lucia Day in Sweden, Kwanzaa, Christmas and Chaunkah (or Hanukkah), to name a few. I'm focusing on Chanukah here.
The holiday commemorates the triumph of Judah the Maccabee over the King Antiochus in the 2nd Century BCE. Hooray for the revolutionaries! There was also a little miracle that happened in the Temple. A small amount of oil miraculously burned for 8 days (yes, that's one long lasting flame). To commemorate this surprising event, latkes are served because the oil in which they are fried is symbolic of the aforementioned miracle. Latkes, in modern tradition, are made of grated potatoes, but historically they were made with whatever local ingredients were around-- vegetables, legumes, etc. I decided to try some non-traditional latkes this year, opting for Leek and Cardamom Fritters. I figure that since they are pan fried in olive oil, they are still very much in the spirit of Chanukah. They are shallow little pancakes that contain flour and egg- which is similar to the traditional potato latke. I think these work well for the holiday.
The recipe is a Mark Bittman adaptation of a Yotam Ottolenghi dish. It was printed in The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Special thanks to my friend Richard who sent me the link and to Melissa who sent me the hard copy of this recipe.
Yield: 4 servings (about 8 large fritters)
About 2/3 cup olive oil
3 leeks, thickly sliced
5 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 fresh red chili (like Thai), seeded and sliced
1 cup fresh parsley (leaves and fine stems), finely chopped
2/3 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and fine stems), finely chopped
2 to 3 ounces manouri cheese, broken into large chunks (or drained ricotta cheese or young goat cheese)
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 whole egg
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Lemon wedges for serving.
1. Heat the oven to 200. Put 1⁄3 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the leeks and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, cardamom and cinnamon and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl and add the chili, parsley, cilantro, manouri and salt. Allow to cool, then stir gently.
2. Beat the egg white until soft peaks form, and fold it into the onions. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, whole egg, milk and butter to form a smooth batter. Gently fold it into the onion mixture.
3. Put 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, ladle four spoonfuls (about half of the batter) into the pan to make four large fritters. Fry them until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, then transfer to a platter in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more of the oil as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature, with lemon wedges.