Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Latkes
When I first heard that cookbook author Amelia Saltsman had a seasonal Jewish cookbook in the works, I was excited.
For my Jewish friends.
Amelia is such a talented writer with such a unique spin on things, I thought. They’re going to love her book.
It hit me soon after how limited my thinking was. I’m embarrassed, frankly, as I scan my cookbook shelves groaning under the weight of titles from cultures the world over. I’ve got a book on Basque tapas, one on Vietnamese sandwiches, and an encyclopedic volume of Mexican recipes.
Do my Irish Catholic roots relegate me to a lifetime of corned beef and boiled potatoes? I certainly hope not. I’ll take brisket and latkes any day of the week, thank you very much.
When I finally got my hands on The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen, published earlier this fall, I really saw the error of my ways. It’s smart and stunning to look at. Indeed, choosing a recipe to share from its pages felt nearly impossible:
Blood Orange and Olive Oil Polenta Upside Down Cake
My Mother’s Chicken Soup with Special Noodles
Marinated Chickpea Salad with Tahini and Lemon Sauce
Golden Borscht with Buttermilk and Ginger
Aunt Sarah’s Honey and Apple Cake
Braised Lamb Shanks with Crisped Artichokes and Gremolata
Just to name a few.
But, since we’re smack dab in the midst of Hanukkah, I thought I’d pass along a not-quite-quintessentially Jewish recipe: latkes. The “not quite” part is because these aren’t garden variety latkes with applesauce. Instead, they’re butternut squash and sweet potato latkes, topped with labneh and harissa. They’re also pint sized, which means a perfect little taste for any holiday gathering, Hanukkah or otherwise.
I hope you make these latkes…either because you’re Jewish and it’s Hanukkah. Or because you’re not Jewish, but you are hungry and they are plainly, completely, ridiculously delicious.
Likewise, buy this book because you’re Jewish. Or buy it because you appreciate wonderful food and wonderful writing and digging deep into food cultures, be it Jewish, Gentile, Japanese, or otherwise.
Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Mini Latkes
- 1/2 pound sweet potatoes, peeled or scrubbed
- 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled
- 1 small onion
- 2 eggs, beaten to blend
- 2 heaping tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour or potato starch
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- A few drops Tabasco
- Mild oil with a medium-high smoke point, such as grapeseed, sunflower, or avocado, for pan-frying
- Labneh (or Greek yogurt or creme fraiche)
- Harissa (see notes)
- Smoked salt, fleur de sel, or other finishing salt
Using the large holes of a box grater or a food processor fitted with a grating disk, grate the potatoes and squash into a large bowl. You should have about 4 cups (400 g) total. Grate the onion into the bowl the same way. Mince or discard any large onion pieces. Stir in the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, and Tabasco.
Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with paper towels. Have the prepared pans, the latke batter, a large spoon, and a spatula near the stove. Heat 1 or 2 large skillets over medium heat. Generously film the pan(s) with vegetable oil (not more than ¼ inch/6 mm deep). When the oil is shimmering in the pan (a tiny bit of batter dropped into it should sizzle on contact), start spooning in the latke batter by the level tablespoon, making sure to add both solids and liquid. Flatten each spoonful with the back of the spoon into a circle 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) in diameter. Do not crowd the latkes in the pan. You’ll get 6 to 8 mini-latkes in a 12-inch (30.5-cm) skillet. If making large latkes, use twice as much batter for each latke and cook only 4 or 5 latkes in the pan(s) at a time.
Cook the latkes, flipping them once, until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the latkes to a prepared baking sheet. Cook the remaining batter in the same way, always stirring the batter before adding more to the pan and adding oil as needed to the edge of the pan. The latkes can be made a few hours ahead and reheated in a single layer on baking sheets in a 350°F (180°C) oven.
To serve, arrange latkes in a single layer on a platter and top each latke with a dollop of labneh, a dab of harissa, and a little finishing salt. Or, pile latkes on a platter and accompany with bowls of self-serve condiments.
Harissa is a North African condiment sold in specialty markets, such as Whole Foods, and some supermarkets. If you can't find it, use another favorite spicy condiment or sauce, or leave it out.
Recipe by Amelia Saltsman. Reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen (Sterling Epicure, 2015)