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Spice up Hanukkah with new latke toppings

Plain old potato latkes. Chef Mollie Katzen suggests spicing them up with some new toppings. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Plain old potato latkes. Chef Mollie Katzen suggests spicing them up with some new toppings. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Mollie Katzen—an award-winning illustrator and designer, as well as best-selling cookbook author and popular public speaker—is back with a new round of recipes for Hanukkah. With over 6 million books in print, Katzen is listed by the New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time and has been named by Health Magazine as one of “The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat.”

Below are some of her ideas for how to freshen up your Hanukkah table, without intruding on your latke loyalties. How about switching the toppings? You can always have the usual applesauce and sour cream on hand, but consider adding some intrigue and savory twists—in addition to sneaking in vegetables, herbs, nuts, and olive oil—to the options on the menu. Add some lentil soup and a green salad, and your Hanukkah celebration will be colorful and compelling.


Chimichurri is the “national sauce” of Argentina, and is also common in Honduras and other Latin American countries. It’s a complex green paste, similar to a pesto, but containing a greater variety of herbs, and a tart taste from the presence of vinegar. Chimichurri is normally served with roasted or grilled meat or fish, but it’s also delicious on cooked potatoes and vegetables, pasta, grains, and sandwiches. It’s also a terrific dab of flavor for latkes—either directly on top, or as a green dollop on the sour cream.

* This keeps for a week or two if stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator.  Just use as needed, as you would any condiment.

1 cup (packed) minced cilantro

1/4 cup (packed) minced parsley

1/4 cup minced scallions

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)

1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic

Big pinch of cayenne

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Place the cilantro, parsley, scallions, and oregano in a food processor, and mince very finely. Add the garlic, cayenne, vinegar, salt, and process to a paste, with the food processor running until everything is fully incorporated. Drizzle in the oil at the very end. Transfer to a tightly lidded container and refrigerate until use.

Yield:  About 2/3 cup

Preparation time:  10 minutes

Chipotle Cream

Chipotle chilies are smoked dried jalapenos. They most commonly come in cans, packed in a vinegar preparation called adobo sauce. A little bit of canned chipotles-in-adobo goes a very long way, both in terms of its heat and its powerful smoky essence. In this sauce, sour cream and/or yogurt create a soothing, luxurious vehicle for the chipotle flavor.

* Serve this wherever it seems appropriate—on any egg dish, with beans, rice, cornmeal preparations, or drizzled onto soups—or on latkes.

1 cup sour cream or yogurt (or a combination)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon canned chipotle chilies, finely minced

Place the sour cream and/or yogurt in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon minced chipotles, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, so the flavor can develop. Taste to see if it needs more chipotle paste, and adjust, as desired. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Yield: 1 cup

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Red Pepper-Walnut Paste

Based on the Middle Eastern sauce called muhammar, this delicious paste is simultaneously pungent, slightly hot and sweet. I make it often and keep it around for many uses: as a topping for pilafs and other cooked grains, for spreading on pizza, toast, crackers, and sandwiches, and as a dip for cooked or raw vegetables.

I also love it on latkes.

This keeps well for at least a week if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  In fact, the flavors deepen over time.

For a California twist, you can use almonds in place of the walnuts.

2 heaping cups lightly toasted walnuts

2 to 3 medium cloves garlic

One 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained

1 tablespsoon cider vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Black pepper and cayenne to taste

Place the walnuts and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse until they are finely ground, but not yet a paste. Cut the peppers into chunks, and add them to the food processor, along with the vinegar, lemon juice, cumin, and honey. Process to a fairly smooth paste, then transfer to a bowl, and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 3 to 4 cups

Preparation time: 10 minutes (after the peppers are roasted)


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