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Home » GFF (Gluten-free friendly), Holiday eats

Latkes for Non-Literalists

Submitted by on November 29, 2009 – 4:54 pm3 Comments

dreamstime_4508683No sooner do I have one holiday calorie-fest under my belt that I find myself preparing for the next one: the first night of Hannukah is Friday, Dec 11, and operation: plan menu is officially underway.

Which got me to thinking: In a country where french fries are the most popular “vegetable” consumed by Americans, are fried potato pancakes really such a special holiday treat for Hannukah anymore?  Besides, most latke recipes contain wheat flour or matzoh meal as a binding agent, rendering them off limits to me and my fellow celiac members of the tribe.

Maybe it’s time to branch out a little this year? While family tradition would lead us to believe that eating fried potato pancakes is some sort of divine creed, in fact, any food fried in oil fits the bill when it comes to commemorating the Hannukah miracle. (Pardon me while I go explain to my husband why deep fried Snickers bars are still somehow unholy.)  So why not try a fried something different for Hannukah this year?  After all, this holiday marks the one time per year that your favorite Jewish nutritionist (that’s me) will be plugging the fried foods, so make the most of it!  Here are some globally-inspired, naturally-gluten-free fritters that will add a little oomph to your family’s festivities. Of course, if you just can’t imagine a Hannukah without some sort of fried potato representation, I’ve included some globally-inspired, flour-free versions of the potato pancake as well.  Just do me a favor, bubbaleh, and blot them with paper towels before serving.

Latkes for Non-Literalists

A potato-less latke for the South Beach dieters at your Hannukah party

A potato-less latke for the South Beach dieters at your Hannukah party

South Asian latkes: Indian Pumpkin Fritters

If my grandparents had emigrated to Mumbai instead of the Bronx, perhaps my Hannukahs growing up would have featured these delicious chickpea flour-based pumpkin fritters instead of the garden variety potato kind. (And if you have leftover chickpea flour from making this recipe, here are some other ideas of things you can make with them.) The recipe below is from Michael Krondl’s The Great Little Pumpkin Cookbook, and is re-printed here with permission from its gracious author.  It makes about 30 fritters.

1 lb pumpkin*, peeled, seeded and coarsely grated (about 1 3/4 cups)

1/2 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour

1 small onion, peeled and grated (~ 1/4 cup)

2 TBSP fresh chopped cilantro

1 small jalapeno chile, stem removed, finely chopped (or to taste)

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black onion seeds (you can find these in Indian groceries; if you can’t find them, use dried thyme or cumin powder instead)

1/4 tsp baking powder

Vegetable oil for frying

** for tips on selecting a good pumpkin for cooking purposes, consult my previous post, “The Great Pumpkin

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin, chickpea flour, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, coriander, paprika, salt, onion seeds (or substitute) and baking powder
  2. Cover bottom of a deep, heavy saucepan with oil and heat.
  3. With a spoon, form the pumpkin mixture into small balls no larger than 1 inch and drop into the oil.  Cook several fritters at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan.
  4. Fry 4-5 minutes until well browned, stirring occasionally.  Drain on paper towels.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Serve hot.
  5. Note: you can keep fritters hot up to 30 minutes in a 200 degree oven or reheat cold fritters in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes

Venzuelan Latkes: Arepas
I made this delicious and fabulous recipe for Arepas– the traditional South American corn fritter– the same day it was featured in Mark Bittman’s column. I served it alongside bowls of Cuban black bean soup for a delicious vegetarian dinner. I suppose it wouldn’t have killed me to offer some mixed greens to lighten things up a bit, too. Hindsight is always 20-20.

Latkes for Literalists

Peruvian Purple Potatoes add some festive flair in Chef Lindsay's recipe for Purple Potato Latkes with Caramelized Onions
Peruvian Purple Potatoes produce latkes with a festive purplish-blue tint to match  grandma’s hairdye

German-Peruvian-fusion latkes: Purple Potato Pancakes

OK, so you’re not ready to completely abandon potato pancake tradition, but you’re looking to shake things up a little this year.  Might I suggest my fellow dietitian, chef Lindsay DeJongh’s naturally gluten-free recipe for Purple Potato Pancakes with Caramelized Onions?

Swiss Latkes: Rösti

Rösti, a Swiss potato pancake, is a local specialty of Zurich. It’s like a giant, buttery hash-brown potato pancake.  Unlike latkes, rösti does not generally use egg or flour as a binder, which makes it a perfect gluten-free substitute. Among the recipes out there in webland, this classic recipe from Gourmet magazine (may it rest in peace) uses the least oil and butter.

Lazy Latkes: Hannukah in a box!

I reviewed a bunch of ingredient lists and found the packaged potato pancake mixes and frozen potato pancake products listed below to be gluten-free.  They can be used if you find yourself in a pinch (and by pinch, I mean you have too much TV to catch up on to be bothered grating pounds of potatoes for a houseful of ungrateful relatives). I can’t vouch for their tastiness, just the gluten-freeness of their ingredient lists.  Note that if you veer from this list, some brands of potato pancake mixes contain flour or Matzoh meal, so be sure to read those ingredient labels if you’re looking for a gluten-free product.

Gluten-free packaged latke products

  1. Hero Roschti
  2. Manischewitz Homestyle Potato Latke Mix and Sweet Potato Pancake Mix (they also come in reduced-sodium varieties)
  3. Panni Bavarian Potato Pancake Mix (Knorr foods)
  4. Kineret Latke Mix
  5. Gefen Potato Panacake Mix
  6. Dr. Praeger’s Sweet Potato Pancakes (frozen)   (note that the regular Dr. Praeger’s Potato Pancakes contain oat bran, so they may not be 100% gluten free)

Disclosure statement: I have not received any compensation or freebies of any kind in exchange for mentioning any of the products in this posting.  Nor have I ever accepted or received any such compensation or freebies in the past, nor will I in the future.  My reputation for providing honest, evidence-based nutrition information is worth more than all of the gluten-free swag in the world, thank you very much.

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  • Leah says:

    I’m so frustrated – none of your links seem to work. And I really want to see some of those recipes!

  • Tamara says:

    Hi, Leah,
    I just tested all of the links and they worked fine for me… so I’m not sure what the trouble is. Let me know which recipes you’re having difficulty with and I’ll send you the URLs.

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