Be Merry / The Hanukkah Miracle of the Latke Without Oil

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In antiquity the sweet potato was picked from the wild on the faraway Polynesian islands in the Pacific Ocean, and the inhabitants ate all of it, including its nutritious leaves.It then spread to Peru, apparently brought there by birds. There it was domesticated and became a substantial vegetable in the Peruvian diet. The Spaniard Christopher Columbus is the one who brought the sweet potato seeds to Europe on one of his travels, and from the late 15th century it caught on everywhere. The Chinese fell in love with it and developed a sweeter and starchier variety, similar to what we eat today. They were also the first to realize the tremendous potential of this root, with its tender sweet flesh, which enhances most dishes and sates the diner.

The sweet potato is not botanically related to the plain old potato. There are 400 different sweet potato varieties in the world, with the differences between them so great that sometimes they seem to be from different families. They can be yellow, orange, purple, red, or white; their degree of sweetness ranges from slight to strong; and the starch stored in the root varies in consistency from dry to moist.

Sweet potatoes are available year-round, but right now they are in high season, and therefore at their best. When medium sized, they have a tender flesh that is not fibrous and are moderately sweet. When choosing a sweet potato you should make sure it is relatively heavy and has a smooth skin. Sweet potatoes do not keep well when refrigerated, so store them in a cool and dark place. You can eat them cooked or roasted, and combine them in salads, soups, stews, breads, and cakes.

Sweet potatoes work best in combination with cinnamon, goat's cheese, feta, honey, silan, raw tahini, coconut, and nutmeg.

Sweet potato & chestnut soup

This fragrant soup with a pleasantly smooth texture gets its special flavor from the unique combination of chestnuts and sweet potatoes. The sugared pecans operate as soup nuts. Add only a dash of them because of their dominant taste and sweetness.

Ingredients (6-8 servings )

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, chopped

4 celery stalks, chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 bunch thyme, tried with kitchen twine

2-3 large sweet potatoes (1 kilo after peeling ), peeled and cut into large cubes

200 grams vacuum-packed chestnuts

1.5 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch cinnamon

7-8 cups water

Garnish: chopped sugared pecans and sour cream

Preparation

In a pot, fry the onions and celery in olive oil for 6 minutes. Add thyme and garlic, and fry for 1 minute. Add the sweet potatoes, chestnuts, and seasonings, and steam for 10 minutes. Add boiling water, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes on a gentle simmer. Take out the bunch of thyme and grind the soup well. Re-warm and serve with chopped sugared pecans and a dollop of sour cream.

Baked sweet potato latkes with pumpkin seeds

These make terrific and tender latkes for Hanukkah that are low-cal and not drenched in oil. Baking instead of frying lets you prepare a large amount quickly and simply, and doesn't stink up the house.

Ingredients (15-18 latkes ):

350 grams sweet potatoes, peeled and grated coarsely on a kitchen grater or the grater blade of a food processor

2 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

100 grams soft goat cheese (Gad Dairy 20% ) or 5% cream cheese

2 tablespoons pumpkin or sunflower seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons chopped scallions

2 tablespoons olive oil

Garnish: sour cream and scallions or raw tahini and a little silan

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 220C. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Line a baking dish with baking paper and spoon-drop the mixture on to it at equal intervals. Flatten each spoonful into a round pancake. Bake 10-15 minutes until lightly brown on the bottom.

Flip the latkes over with a spatula, and bake for 5 minutes on the other side. Serve hot with sour cream and scallions on the side, or with raw tahini and a little silan.

Leek & sweet potato quiche with goat cheese

Ingredients:

For the crust:

200 grams flour

100 grams very cold butter, cut into small cubes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pinch of black pepper

1 egg

1-3 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 large leeks (600 grams after slicing )

2 whole garlic cloves

2 thyme branches

1 log of goat cheese (preferably Gad Dairy 20% ), sliced into thin coins

2-3 sweet potatoes (350 grams after peeling ), long and narrow

1 tablespoon olive oil

Pinch of salt

For the royale

2 eggs

250 milliliters heavy cream

Salt

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of ground coriander seeds

Preparation

In a food processor with a steel blade, pulse flour, salt, and butter for about half a minute. Add the egg and immediately after that the water in a slow drizzle, until the dough forms into little balls. Place the dough in a plastic bag and flatten by hand into a round disc. Close the bag tightly and refrigerate for 2 hours (it will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days ).

Slice the leeks into thin semi-circles. Heat oil in a wide and deep frying pan, and fry the leeks, garlic cloves, and thyme on a medium-low fire for 20 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Remove the garlic and thyme. Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the sweet potatoes, slice them thinly into circles, and coat with olive oil and salt.

Using melted butter, grease a 24-centimeter or 26-centimeter quiche plate (with removable bottom ). Flour your work surface and quickly roll out the dough (before it can warm up ) to a thin sheet. Place the crust into the quiche plate and press securely all along the seam where the sides and bottom connect. Cut off any leftover dough around the edges. Pierce the crust with a fork four times and chill in the freezer 30 minutes. Arrange the leeks on the bottom of the crust and then alternate layers of goat cheese and sweet potatoes. Mix the ingredients for the royale and drizzle over the sweet potatoes and goat cheese.

Bake 40 minutes on the second rack from the bottom. Wait about 15 minutes after taking the quiche out of the oven before carefully releasing it from the pan. Serve hot.

Oil-free sweet potato latkes.Credit: Limor Laniado Tiroche

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