Friday, December 4, 2009

Latke Lust


I may not be Jewish, but I have an insatiable lust for latkes. Last year, our good friends David and Ilana hosted a delicious Hanukkah celebration with what seemed to be endless supply of latkes and sour cream - I must have devoured 20 of them.

My affinity for latkes is directly linked to my own heritage. My grandmother, of Swedish descent, married my grandfather, whose family had emigrated from Germany in the early years of the 20th century. I don't remember much Swedish food, but every Sunday, our family table was filled to the hilt with German dishes. While I'm loath to admit it, I was a picky eater until I hit high school, so my grandmother's vast culinary skill was lost on me with one epic exception: potato pancakes. I loved them, slathered with sour cream and, in the summer, dusted with sprinkles of chive from her garden.

I think of my grandma, who died several years ago, each time I stop by the Polish stand at our neighborhood street festival, who makes enormous potato pancakes lobbed with thick sour cream, and again when I make my annual trek to the Christkindlmarket where several stands serve steaming hot potato pancakes in the stark Chicago cold. And thus, I don't need to explain why my grandma was the inspiration for the following recipe.

I was contacted not too long ago by an author who's writing a children's cookbook based upon the fruits and vegetables grown in a very famous, and recently planted, garden. She had a list of ingredients for which she still needed recipes and one was kohlrabi.

Truth be told, kohlrabi isn't a vegetable that's used very often in my kitchen, so I didn't have anything in my existing file. I stopped over at our friend, Farmer Vicki's Green City Market stand, where she had the most beautiful purple kohlrabi (I do love purple vegetables). On the way home, I remembered a lone Yukon gold potato that I had in my cabinet. Hmm. A kohlrabi cake might be kinda cabbage-y, but how about one mixed with the mellow yellow Yukon? I grated the two together with a 1/2 an onion leftover from last night's dinner in my food processor (far easier than on a hand grater). Using a lint free cloth, I wrung the liquid out from the vegetable chards. Mixing these with eggs, flour, and salt in a large bowl, the mixture looked a bit beige. I remembered the last bit of chives I had in my garden, a transplant from my grandmother's garden and couldn't imagine anything better to enliven the appearance. I fried these up in a bit of clarified butter until brown and topped with a modern touch, avocado cream - half of a leftover avocado mixed with sour cream, pureed together in a food processor. It was a big hit with my son who unfortuately never met my wonderful grandmother. But we now share a certain food memory about her.

Potato-Kohlrabi Pancakes with Avocado Cream
Serves 4

1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled
1 kohlrabi bulb, peeled
1/2 yellow onion, peeled
2 teaspoons chopped chives
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
vegetable oil or clarified butter

Coarsely grate the potato, kohlrabi, and onion in a food processor. Wring out any excess liquid from the vegetables by wrapping them in a clean, lint-free dish towel and squeezing it out. Dump the drained vegetables into a medium bowl. Add the eggs, flour, and salt and mix until combined. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil or clarified butter. When hot, drop 1/4 cup sized dollops of the batter into the pan. Press down on the cakes with a spatula to flatten. Cook until browned, a few minutes. Flip and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from the ban to a plate or a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining batter. The pancakes can be reheated in a 350º F oven. Serve warm, garnished with avocado cream.

Avocado Cream

1/2 avocado
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon lime juice
salt to taste

Puree together the avocado, sour cream, and lime juice. Salt to taste.

Kids Cooking Tips
Kids can peel and help grate the veggies. They'll love squeezing the liquid out of them. And of course, they can mix them together with the rest of the ingredients.

Potato, onion, and kohlrabi from Genesis Growers (IL)
Eggs from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm (IL)
Sour cream from Organic Valley (WI)

If you'd like to visit me while I'm demonstrating this recipe, please stop by the Green Family Holiday Fair at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at 2:30pm. For more information about the fair, click here

1 comment:

  1. You're claim to love all things purple is your attempt to steal my dream of an all-purple dinner -- rare venison, purple cauliflower, purple brussel sprouts, purple carrots and purple pasta. For your thievery, you need to make my purple dinner.


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