Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Very Vegan Hanukkah: Sweet Potato Latkes and Cauliflower Latkes

Last week was a bit of a challenge on the eating front - husband and I got hit with a particularly nasty bout of stomach flu, so we subsisted on ginger ale, pretzels, dry toast and gatorade for the beginning of the week.  Vegan?  Technically, yes.  Nourishing. Not at all. So, of course, with our early observed  celebration of Hanukkah taking place this Saturday, I was going to have a chance to get back to some actual fruits and vegetables appearing on my plate.

For those of you not familiar with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, it is the celebration of a miracle that occurred after the destruction of the temple and it's rescue by the Maccabees.  There was only enough oil to light the Ner Tamid, the eternal light, for one day.  But, the light lasted for eight days.  To celebrate Hanukkah, Jewish families light a menorah, a candleholder with nine branches - eight branches to hold candlesto recognize each day the Ner Tamid remained lit, and the ninth, the shamash, holds the candle that lights the other eight.  On the first night, you light one candle, the second two, and on and on through the eighth night, when the entire menorah is lit.   In my family, on the first night, we also say the shehechyanu, which is a prayer said on holidays or other occasions you with to note the significance of.

What, you may ask, does all this have to do with vegan food?  Well, Jews like to eat fried things on Hanukkah.  It's said to be eating anything fried in oil is a tie back to the miracle of the Ner Tamid.  Some people (aka not me, who can't tolerate the soy) celebrate by eating, I kid you not, jelly donuts.  But, I think the fried food most folks think of most when it comes to Hanukkah is latkes.

Latkes are potato pancakes that are fried in oil until they're crispy.  Traditionally, latkes are made with grated white potato, flour and egg, perhaps with a little onion for seasoning.  My versions were veganized, and also quickly pan-seared and baked to cut the grease factor.

The first recipe, the sweet potato latkes, was made was a riff on a recipe that came from what I call my mother's Jewish recipe envelope collection.  When my mother saw a Jewish holiday recipe (or any recipe) she liked, she would cut it out and stick it in an envelope.  Somehow, I ended up with the envelope full of Jewish recipes, so I can't credit the source of this recipe other than to tell you it was cut out of a pamphlet, judging by the condition of the paper, sometime between 1982-1995.

Look at all this parsley.  Nanny Sadie would be proud!
The sweet potato latke recipe called for one sweet potato, two yukon gold potatoes, one onion, four eggs a quarter cup of matzo meal and salt and pepper to taste.  I actually added a third potato and, in honor of my great-grandmother, who wouldn't dream of making a dish without parsley, a healthy handful of chopped fresh parsley.  To replace the eggs, I used Ener-G egg replacer, which, as I mentioned before, binds these types of patties more firmly than eggs in my opinion.  I also used a cup of whole wheat panko in place of the matzo meal.

To shred the potatoes, I used the shredding disc on my food processor.  I took out the sweet potato, the three yukon gold potatoes and the onion in approximately thirty seconds.  If that's not a Hanukkah miracle, I don't know what else might qualify.  After browning the latkes on both sides in some cooking spray, we decided they weren't quite crispy enough, so we threw them in a 375 oven for 20 minutes. 

I have made the cauliflower latkes before as part of my vegetarian Rosh Hashanah, but my husband's grandmother enjoyed them so much that I decided to make them again.  The last time I made them, I made them with eggs, but I used the Ener-G this time, and I also finished them in the oven.

We used our largest platter (two feet long!) to serve the latkes, and it was completely filled.  After all seven of us ate, there were three latkes left.  Three!  Lack of leftovers = recipe success. 

My personal Hanukkah miracle!
While our guests also enjoyed bagels and lox and other spreads, I was quite content with my light dinner of latkes, whole grain bread with earth balance (my husband's grandmother also opted for the bread) and a big pile of fresh fruit.

What yummy vegan treats will you be cooking up for the holidays?

1 comment:

  1. You may want to check out Jewish Vegetarians of North America's recipe list at, and maybe follow them at