I am not done with latkes yet, Beautiful People! In 1989, the Supreme Court ruling upheld displaying Chanukkah menorahs in public places as a symbol of “universal religious freedom.” Last night, on the last night of Chanukkah, our Rabbi invited the entire community to light the menorah outside, at Miami Beach Marina, with festive music, latkes, and sufganiyot (doughnuts).
On the foreground of this photo, right in front of Rabbi Mann, stands his oldest son, Mendele, a very special boy, a miracle child, as he is known in the community. Without disclosing the diagnosis, I can tell you, Beautiful People, that the doctors’ opinion was that Mendele would never walk, never talk, and never look like “normal people.” It’s only through the heroic efforts of his parents and siblings, as well as support of the entire community, that he has proven the doctors wrong! Mendele not only walks – he runs! He is a veritable social butterfly who welcomes every newcomer to services, circulates among crowds, and never forgets to invite guests to the table – yes, he talks, and quite legibly! Mazal Tov! – Mendele has just been Bar Mitzvah, and as you see, he stands upright and looks like any other boy his age. He is still very special in our hearts, as is Chabad in South Beach, under the leadership of Rabbi Shraga and Mrs Devorah Mann, whose message is clearly expressed on the shirt of their son Chanan, known as Honey: BE HAPPY, BE KIND!
Before we get to the recipe, here is a story about both latkes and sufganiyot.
Hershel from Ostropol, the famous prankster, was traveling during Chanukkah. He stopped at an inn and asked for some traditional Chanukkah food.
“Sure, -said the innkeeper, – We have three kinds of latkes (pancakes), and sufganiyot (doughnuts) with four different fillings! What’s your pleasure?”
“Bring me the latkes first,” requested Hershel.
A plate of hot, golden brown latkes, accompanied by sour cream and apple sauce, appeared in front of him in no time.
“Well, I changed my mind. Takes these back and bring me some sufganiyot.”
What could the innkeeper do? The customer is always right, so latkes were taken away, and sufganiyot brought in, two with jelly and two with jam. They looked and smell heavenly, and Hershel quickly emptied the plate, got up, and headed for the door.
“Wait, Reb Yid, – the shocked owner ran after him, – you have to pay for the doughnuts!”
“I gave you latkes for them, didn’t I? – replied Hershel and kept walking.”
“But… but… you didn’t pay for latkes either!”
“My good man, but did I eat them?”
Let’s assume, for the sake of Hershel’s good character, that it was all a joke, and eventually he did pay!
When my son was little, he loved zucchini latkes. So did his puppy, Benny. I would always make a double portion, and Benny would sit on the chair by the table, next to Alex, and eat from his own plate. The only thing that bothered both of them was that vegetables were seasonable, and zucchini was a summer vegetable, so we could never have these soft, delicate latkes on Chanukkah. Until we came to the U.S., that is, where all fruit and vegetables were available in stores all year round. Unfortunately, Benny had to be left behind, with friends, as we couldn’t take him with us.
Before you start on those zucchini, you have to soak a handful of raisins in sweet red wine. Don’t worry about the alcohol content; it will cook out! Soaking raisins will plump them up, and wine will enhance the taste. While your raisins are soaking, you can grate zucchini without peeling it.
I use my standard set of ingredients: soy flour, agave, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper, an egg (to make your latkes vegan, use egg substitute of your choice), and the key ingredient – prostokvasha, or clabbered milk (my prostokvasha is dairy free, please see instructions here). Add all this stuff to grated zucchini and mix well.
Add your drunken raisins – by this time, they should be nice and plump! – and mix even better. Heat a frying pan on medium, mist it with oil – I know, I know, but this is Chanukkah, and we have to fry! – and start frying. While your latkes are frying, you can entertain the kids by watching Hershel and the Chanukkah Goblins:
Meanwhile, your latkes are frying and looking good!
Fry them for about five minutes on each side. Flip them when they grow plump and start turning golden at the edges. Remove ready latkes to a plate lined with paper towels, to blot out excess oil.
I serve them with sugar free blueberry jam, but sour cream or apple sauce are also good friends. My husband and my younger son, as usual, smother them in chocolate syrup. Either way, soft, delicate, and delicious, here they are, zucchini latkes in December – what a country!
- 1 large or 2 medium firm zucchini, grated unpeeled
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon sweet red wine
- 1/2 cup prostokvasha (clabbered milk) or any kefir, youghurt, or buttermilk of your choice
- 1 egg or substitute
- 1/2 cup soy flour (alternatively, chick pea flour)
- 1 tablespoon or more agave
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- A pinch of cinnamon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak raisins in wine for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Wash and grate zucchini. Add the rest of ingredients, including raisins. Mix thoroughly.
- Ladle onto preheated frying pan lightly misted with oil.
- Fry in medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to blot out excess grease.
- Serve hot, accompanied by a jam or sweet sauce of your choice, or sour cream.
Happy Chanukkah – enjoy!