I thought I'd wet my blogging feet again by posting about the Dark Days Challenge that Laura from Urban Hennery has hosted for the last three years. I'm getting a late start because work has been so crazy but for the next three months, I've made a pledge to eat at least one meal a week that is comprised of only local food. My only exceptions to this rule will be spices, oil and flour. Eating a local diet is fairly easy in this part of the country, but winter always presents a bigger challenge. Our farmer's markets close down and our local food co-op carries very little in terms of local produce. To get us through the winter, I can and freeze a lot. I also focus on eating very seasonal meals - we eat a lot more starches and meat during the winter months than we ever do during the rest of the year.
As part of my Dark Days meal, we had homemade latkes, applesauce that I canned this fall and a jar of sauerkraut that I got from a friend made from local cabbage. The applesauce was originally supposed to be apple butter but I tried a new recipe that used cider vinegar and I hated it. I didn't want to waste it so I added more apple to it and turned it into applesauce. I've got a couple of heads of local cabbage in my crisper that I hope to turn into homemade sauerkraut because I've never made it before but a friend of mine had already made some and gave me a jar.
Every year around this time, Marcus and I make a meal that includes latkes as a component. I'm not jewish but I've always loved the story of Hanukkah. Foods that are cooked in large quantities of oil are a very important part of a Hanukkah celebration because of what the oil symbolizes. After the Maccabean Jews liberated the temple in Jerusalem, only one small container of pure olive oil was found to use to light the menorah in the temple. Miraculously, that small container of oil was enough to keep the menorah lit for eight days which was enough time to prepare a fresh supply of oil.
As far as I'm concerned, any recipe that uses a large quantity of oil and potatoes is going to be delicious. I've tried several recipes over the last few years but my favorite is one that we came up with that utilizes a technique that a friend told me about. After grating each potato, add the grated potato to a bowl of water. After all the potatoes (and the onion) have been grated, gather all the shredded vegetables together in a clean dish towel and wring them out, getting as much of the liquid out as possible. This keeps you from having to use a binder like flour and makes better latkes in my opinion.
Makes 12 medium latkes
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
1 medium onion
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
Peel potatoes and shred using the larger holed side of a grater. Add each potato after it's been shredded to a large bowl of water. After all potatoes are shredded and are soaking in the water, grate the onion. Drain potatoes in a colander and add onion to colander. Get a large, clean dishtowel and spread the potato-onion mixture into a thin layer over two thirds of the dish towel. Roll up dish towel like a jelly roll and wring very throughly. In a bowl, combine the potato-onion mixture with the lightly beaten eggs and the salt.
In a 10-12 inch skillet, heat a quarter inch of canola oil over medium to medium high heat. The oil should be hot but not smoking. You can make these latkes as big or as small as you'd like but we usually use about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the mixture. Add to pan, flatten slightly with a spoon and cook until brown on one side. Flip and brown on other side - this works out to roughly five minutes on each side. Drain hot latkes on paper towels. You can keep them warm in an oven set at 250 degrees.
If you have leftovers, re-heat them in a 350 degree oven on a baking pan for 10-12 minutes.