I could never really get that excited about latkes, which I’d mostly experienced as patties of fried mashed potatoes. After all, I wouldn’t eat oily, soggy potatoes on other days of the year, so what made Hanukkah any different? But this year, I decided it didn’t have to be like that. Why not make latkes with other vegetables, seasoned like I season most anything else that comes out of my kitchen?
So I brainstormed a list of interesting taste combinations. In the end, I was limited by the amount of latkes we could possibly expect to make (and eat) in one night, and managed to make only four of the ideas I’d thought up: mushroom ginger latkes , pear sage latkes , eggplant shallot latkes  and zucchini dill latkes .
The following recipes all have the same base — potato, which I grated in my food processor with the grating attachment. Likewise, they’re all prepared the same way — drain all the liquids out of the grated vegetables, and mix them with the other ingredients. Scoop up heaping tablespoonfuls, press the batter into the spoon to drain out extra liquid, slip the patty into a frying pan filled with a few centimeters of oil, and flip when the bottom is browned. When the latkes are done, let them rest on paper napkins to drain out the extra oil. Add more oil to the pan as needed. I fried some of my latkes in low-grade olive oil and the rest in soy oil, but couldn’t really taste a difference between the two.
Also, they all tasted good alongside yogurt (we used our organic buffalo yogurt) mixed with chopped chives.
Altogether, the quantities below made 60 or so latkes, and would have served eight people comfortably. The quantities listed for the zucchini and pear latkes will give you about 20 patties, the mushroom latkes will make about 15 and the eggplant, around 10. So here goes. Happy frying.
These were definitely my favorite of the batch. The ginger gives a spicy kick, while the mushrooms are nice and chewy.
250 grams potatoes
80 grams mushrooms
3/4 inch ginger root
2 big garlic cloves
1/4 t salt
1/4 c flour
Grate the potato in a food processor (or by hand, if you’re feeling energetic). Chop the mushrooms into small chunks. Peel the ginger and chop it and the garlic into small chunks, or puree them in a press. Mix with the egg, salt and flour. Fry into patties.
These were sweet, almost dessert-like, and reminded me of country fairs.
250 grams apple
250 grams pears
250 grams potato
8 branches sage (a big handful of leaves)
1 t salt
1/2 c flour
Grate the apple, potato and pears in a food processor (I didn’t peel any of them, but I cored the apple and the pears). Finely chop the sage leaves — this is a pretty mild herb, so you shouldn’t be afraid of using a lot. Mix with the egg, salt and flour. Fry.
The eggplant adds a very mild flavor, and a smooth creamy texture. I felt most of the taste came from the shallots, which also added an interesting crunch. These quantities will make a little less than the other recipes (This was the last kind of latkes I made, and I was running out of grated potato at this point).
Wrap the eggplant in foil and roast in an oven at maximum temperature, or even better, on a grill, until the eggplant is soft and collapsing. This could take up to an hour; you can feel the eggplant getting soft through the foil, if you poke it. Open the foil, let the eggplant cool, split it open and scoop the flesh out of the skin.
Meanwhile, grate the potato in a food processor, and finely dice the shallot. Mix with the eggplant, stirring to break the long strings of eggplant flesh. Mix with the flour and salt; this held together nicely even without egg (Eitan points out that this makes it vegan). Fry.
This savory latke is probably the closest to the traditional potato pancake, but I thought the dill made a nice, appropriate addition, as befits a savory dish.
300 grams zucchini
200 grams potatoes
150 grams onion
1.5 T chopped dill
1/2 c flour
1 t salt
Grate the vegetables, making sure to drain off any liquids (note — the weights above are after I drained the vegetables. I used one onion, one zucchini and a few potatoes). Finely chop the dill. Mix with the egg, flour and salt. Fry.