The first latkes were made with cheese, not potato. Long after the Maccabees defeated the Syrian Greeks in the second century BCE it was traditional to celebrate Hanukkah by eating dairy and foods fried in oil. So the Italians invented the ricotta cheese pancake. To the ricotta they added green onions, lemon zest, eggs and flour, and eccola! the first latke was created. Potatoes came into play in the 1800’s when Eastern European Jews didn’t have a lot of ingredient options in the winter when Hanukkah rolled around. Here I used seasonal spaghetti squash because, once you open it and fluff it up, the squash is pre-grated for you. Grate some cheese and apple, mix, fry and tuck into this scrumptious breakfast latke.
2 ample cups spaghetti squash (about one whole small spaghetti squash or a half of a large one) 1 medium to large egg
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
½ cup white all-purpose, whole wheat or chickpea (gluten-free) flour
½ cup Granny smith or yellow apple, grated
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
½ cup grape seed or safflower oil for frying 8-10 pea shoots for garnish
Process Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the whole spaghetti squash on a baking sheet and use a fork to pierce the outer shell, making prick marks all over the squash.
Place it into the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, until you can easily slice the squash in half. Let cool, about 10 to 15 minutes. Note: you can roast the squash ahead of time, in the morning or the night before you are making the latkes. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Use a fork to rake the interior, creating noodle-like strands.
Place the strands in your hands or a towel and then squeeze to remove the excess liquid. You can also transfer them to a mesh strainer and press to drain the liquid.
Place the strands of squash in a medium to large mixing bowl. Separate the strands carefully and well so they don’t clump. You may even chop them up to better disperse them. Crack the egg in a separate bowl; whisk it and add it to the bowl with the squash. Use the medium grade on a box grater to grate the cheese and the apples.
Add them to the bowl. Add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until well-integrated.
Heat 2-3 Tablespoons of grape seed or safflower oil in a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet. Once the oil is hot (you can test by adding a strand of squash — if it sizzles, you’re good to go), use an ice cream scoop or a soup spoon to scoop a generous amount of the squash mixture into the skillet and lightly flatten. Depending on the pan size, you should be able to fry about 4 to 5 latkes at a time. Fry for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Flip each of the latkes and fry for another 2 minutes on the other side.
Transfer the cooked latkes onto a brown paper bag to dredge.
Repeat with the rest of the mixture and additional oil. Serve the latkes hot with sour cream or apple sauce, perhaps garnished with a pea shoot as shown here.
© Nancy Wolfson-Moche 2016