When I lived in Israel (the second time) something wonderful happened- we got cable. Well actually not cable, but satellite TV. Until then, we had suffered with Israel’s two over the air channels. One was government run, the other was worse. Since our kibbutz never had the money to pay for cable (let alone get us wired) we were ecstatic when Yes Television set up shop in the Holy Land.
I promptly discovered my favorite cooking show on BBC. It was called Ready, Steady, Cook. In brief chefs were presented with ten quid worth of random groceries that they had to transform into a multi-course meal. I loved the sheer improvisation of it and it mirrored my own approach to cooking.
Last night I played that game by pulling together a little Ashkenazi casserole from things in my fridge. These things consisted of leeks, smoked salmon (thanks mom), eggs, some cream, cheddar cheese, mushrooms and of course potatoes. You should take the opportunity to see what you can hustle out of your own larder this weekend.
Recipe after the break.
So my contribution to the various latke recipes for an interesting Channukah feast is cheese-infused latkes. These are a more savory dairy infused potato pancakes that turn out crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They come out with a classic latke texture with lots of flavor. I used mozzarella cheese but I definitely will try again with a cheddar. Put in a mild cheese like mozzarella or for extreme cheese lovers use a more distinct cheese like feta or even maybe brie…. but choose wisely because there’s only 8 days of chanukkah!
Some latke making notes… I used the Israeli version of Russet potatoes. I highly recommend these as they have a pretty high starch content which will cut down on the need for flour and keep your pancakes together. Shred the potatoes only when you’re ready to fry them up and immediately squeeze out the water. Or if you wanna ditch the dairy just omit the cheese and they’ll still come out delicious.
Some frying tips: I added garlic to the oil to give it some extra flavor, but you can omit this if you’re not a fan garlic, but I like this because it adds a lot of flavor and lets you know when the oil’s ready. Test the heat of the oil by adding a little of the latke mixture, if it starts to sizzle immediately the oil’s ready. Don’t overcrowd the pan! 3-4 at a time is enough. Let the oil come back to room temperature in between batches. I highly recommend heeding this last tip as it ensures perfect latkes every batch.
Click on to get the recipe…
Pashtida…. the Israeli Frittata. As I recently learned, pashtida is a very simple traditional Jewish dish that’s been used since the Middle Ages. Pashtida, similar to a quiche or frittata, is a baked dish composed of eggs, cheese, veggies, or meat, or any combination of therein you think would be tasty. You can choose to make it without the crust if you want to keep it easy and simple, or add a crust for a little something extra. Cheese-based pashtidas like this one are a staple in most Israeli homes.
I, like Marc, usually don’t mess around with dairy too much but I know for most people it’s a tummy pleaser. As this is so commonly found in Israel I almost felt obliged to come up with a recipe that felt traditional but with a fresh flip to it as I find them typically to be extremely heavy. Not eating dairy somewhat of a trick in this dairy and egg based recipe, but thankfully my parents both cheese lovers were much willing recipe testers. This recipe has three types of cheeses, goat cheese, cottage cheese (to keep it creamer but on the lighter side), and “bulgarit” cheese, which is a hard salty cheese similar to feta but melts really well… I’m not sure what the American equivalent would be.
What I love about the pashtida is that you can really stick anything you want in there, get creative with your veggies, cheeses, and spices. Throw in whatever you think will taste good together. This recipe is a good simple base, very delicious, comforting and familiar flavors, but nothing out of the ordinary.