I enjoy cooking.  I don’t enjoy following recipes (although I read them often enough).  Instead I like to start with a basic recipe and experiment.

My Food Philosophy 101:

  • Wash your hands, then be willing to get ’em dirty.
  • Be willing to make mistakes.
  • Follow your own palette.
  • Alter Recipes: Make what you cook your own.
  • Whenever possible, include foods of different colors.

Potato Vegetable Pancakes

Today I took a well known basic recipe for potato pancakes, and added some colorful and flavorful vegetables.  My changes suited me because I had what I wanted on hand, and I knew I liked the flavors these veggies would add.  It turned out to be wonderful, not just because the cakes tasted great but because it was fun from start to finish.  I love the open-hearted expectation I feel when I open up the fridge and look at what I have inside; I love the vision that follows of how I’ll put these things together, and I love the satisfaction of tasting a new creation.  For me, this manner of cooking requires me to be creatively engaged in the moment, responsive to the nuance of texture, aroma, and consistency, and alert to new learning in every moment. I highly recommend it.  These pancakes were full of flavor, and provided plenty of healthy oil to lubricate our crackly winter joints.  Everyone needs healthy oils.  My personal preference for oil is no meat, lots of olive oil, some nuts and avocado and sesame tahini.  It works for me.

So the basic recipe for latkes (not just for Hanukkah!) is

  • 5 medium potatoes, grated
  • 1 small-medium onion, grated

You put this grated mash into a colander and push out as much liquid as you can get.  You can put a clean cotton cloth on the top of the mash, and just push, push, push.  It’s not childbirth, “just use a little elbow grease,” as my Grandmother used to say.

Now add:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS flour (I use non-gluten flours)
  • 2 beaten eggs (or egg substitute)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)

Now for the fun part; Add some more grated veggies, for instance:

  •  1 large carrot
  • 2 medium parsnips
  • a handful of fresh cilantro

All you have to do is adjust the wet/dry ratio, and maybe add a bit more salt and pepper.

How do you cook it?

Some traditional latke cooks will tell you not to use olive oil.

“What?” I say.  “Olive Oil?  What’s not to like?”

Put a generous amount of olive oil in your cast iron skillet, warm the oil on medium heat, and drop this yummy veggie mix by the 1/4 cup into a very hot pan, and cook your patties until each side is golden brown.  Avoid frequent flipping.  Wait for it, flip once, and remove when the second side is just right.  You can cook them all before hand, then put them on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven to reheat before eating.

We had these tonight as part of a celebration dinner to honor my mother on her 77th birthday.  We love you, Alice!

Notes on Variations: If you’re not serving these cakes to your spice-averse mother, add hot peppers, or curry.  If you want them to be a meal in themselves, add some protein, such as beans or ground cashews, or even a can of tuna fish or salmon.  If you’re in doubt about how it will fry up, try one on the skillet.  You can always make adjustments: Is it too wet?  Add more flour.  Too dry?  Add more eggs (or egg substitute).

P.S. These vegetable fritters are so flavorful they won’t need traditional latke sides of apple sauce and/or sour cream.