Latke Festival Offers New Takes on Holiday Favorite

Latke Festival organizer Roger Mummert with a plate of latkes.

Latke Festival organizer Roger Mummert with a plate of latkes. Courtesy Roger Mummert hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Roger Mummert
Scott Saunders' pesto latkes, up-close and delicious.

Scott Saunders' pesto latkes, up-close and delicious. Courtesy Roger Mummert hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Roger Mummert

At this year's multicultural Latke Festival on Long Island, the offerings included Mexi-latkes, pesto latkes and Thai latkes with lemongrass, among other gourmet treats. Amateur cook Roger Mummert has been running the festival and cooking contest for 20 years. NPR's Robert Smith reports.

Recipes from the Latke Festival

Perfect-Every-Time Latkes

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes, peeled and grated

2 eggs

1 onion finely chopped

2 tablespoons matzoh meal or white flour

salt & pepper

2 cups safflower or canola oil for frying

Makes about 15-20 latkes.

1) Wash and peel the potatoes and hand grate or food process them. Over a sink or bowl, squeeze the excess moisture out. Mix well with beaten eggs and chopped onion and add salt and pepper as desired. Sprinkle in matzoh meal or flour if too wet.

2) In a high-sided frying pan, heat oil until very hot. Test with drop of batter; it should immediately spatter. With hand, form 2- to 3-inch patties and slide into the hot oil. When they rise to the top, wait a moment longer, then flip them over.

3) When fully cooked, remove with slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels. Serve immediately with sour cream or applesauce. (Sprinkle with additional salt, if desired.)

Cooking Tips:

1) Make sure oil is hot enough.

2) Don't overcrowd pan.

3) Clean or carefully discard dirty oil.

4) Drain latkes well on paper towels.

5) To keep potatoes from turning brown before cooking, soak in cold water before grating; adding lemon juice or vinegar to water also helps.

Safety Tips:

1) Clean up oil spills on stove immediately.

2) Use a spatter guard and have oven mitts handy.

3) Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.

4) Keep small children out of the kitchen or cooking area.

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Pesto Latkes

Winning Recipe: Multicultural Category, Latke Festival 2000 and 2001

Winner of the Culinary Engineer's Golden Dreidel Award

Ingredients:

1 large onion

4 med. shallots

1 bunch of scallions, greens only.

8-10 russet potatoes

Salt and pepper

5 eggs

1/2 - 1 cup white corn meal

1/2 cup pesto sauce

1/2 cup pignoli nuts

1/4 cup grated Romano Locatelli cheese

1) Mix all ingredients well and check that the consistency is a "batter" and not too liquid.

2) Form into small, thick pancakes and squeeze any excess liquid out as you are forming each latke.

3) Fry to a golden brown, not dark brown color.

4) Spoon over a teaspoonful of pesto sauce and top with a few pignoli nuts and grated Romano Locattelli cheese.

Recipe created by Scott Saunders.

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Larry's Firecracker Latke Poppers

Ingredients:

4 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and grated

2 eggs, well beaten

1/2 cups scallions, chopped

8 tablespoons matzoh meal

1/4 cup reduced broth, chicken or vegetable (or 1 bouillon cube)

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 fresh jalapeño (or other hot) peppers, seeded and diced

2 cups vegetable oil for frying

For Cheese Filling:

1 cup shredded cheddar or Colby cheese

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup cream cheese

For Topping:

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mango chutney or preserve of choice

1) Peel and grate potatoes by hand or with food processor. Squeeze out starchy liquid. Beat eggs and mix in with potatoes. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except oil for frying.

2) For filling, mix cheese together in food processor to create a paste. Chill in refrigerator to harden. Before frying, roll the cheese mixture in your hands to create cheese balls the size of a quarter and set aside on a plate or wax paper.

3) For topping, mix together sour cream and preserves and set aside.

4) In a large frying pan, heat oil until very hot. Use enough (1- 1 1/2 inches) to cover latkes.

5) With a large spoon, scoop out the batter and press a cheese ball into the center. With your hands, roll around until the cheese is sealed inside.

6) Gently place each sealed latke into the hot oil. Repeat, but don't crowd the pan. After a few moments, gently turn over each latke to brown both sides.

7) Remove latkes from oil and drain on paper towels. Serve with topping

Preparation Notes: For best results in "imbedding" the cheese, make the cheese filling ahead of time and chill to stiffen the paste. Also, chop latke ingredients very fine and thicken the batter with dried potato flakes.

Makes 15-20 latkes.

Recipe created by Larry Oxman of Remsenburg, New York.

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Spana-Latke-Kopita

Winning Recipe: New Approaches Category, Latke Festival 1994

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh spinach, well washed

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 ounces feta cheese

4 potatoes, peeled and grated

1 egg

salt & pepper

2 cups vegetable oil for frying

1) Clean, stem and coarsely chop spinach. Peel, smash and mince garlic.

2) In a frying pan, heat olive oil. When hot, toss in garlic, stirring well for 30 seconds. Remove garlic and set aside. Toss in spinach and let sizzle for a moment. Toss in a dash of water and cover immediately. When cooked down (about 2-3 minutes), add garlic and feta. Stir well until feta is melted in. Add lemon juice, removed from heat and set aside.

3) Peel and grate potatoes by hand or with food processor. With hands, squeeze out starchy liquid over sink.

4) In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse several times to make a coarse batter

5) Heat oil until very hot. With a tablespoon, drop batter into frying pan. Repeat until pan holds 4-6 latkes, but don't overcrowd. When underside is golden, gently turn over. When fully cooked, remove from oil, drain and serve hot.

Makes about 15-20 latkes.

Recipe created by Roger Mummert.

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Mexi-Latkes with Jalapenos & Red Peppers

Winning Recipe: New Approaches, Latke Festival 1989

Ingredients:

4 potatoes, peeled and grated

1 egg

salt and pepper

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced

1 red pepper, seeded and finely sliced

2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

1 onion, finely sliced

1 teaspoon dried chipotle chile powder

1 teaspoon epazote (can substitute oregano)

2 cups vegetable oil for frying

FOR TOPPING

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

dash of fresh lime juice

1) Peel and grate potatoes by hand or with food processor. Squeeze out starchy liquid. Carefully seed jalapeños (rubber gloves guard against burning hands), and finely chop. Thinly slice red pepper and onion.

2) In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except oil for frying. Mix well to form batter.

3) In a large frying pan, heat oil until very hot. Using your hands to form "lattice style" patties, drop batter into frying oil. Repeat, but don't crowd the pan. Gently turn latkes when first side is cooked.

4) Drain on paper towels, then serve hot with topping.

5) For topping, clean, dry and chop cilantro. Toss into blender with sour cream, add juice of a fresh lime and pulse to whip together.

Makes about 15-20 latkes.

Recipe created by Roger Mummert.

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Curried Sweet Potato Latkes

Winning Recipe: New Approaches, Latke Festival 1994

Ingredients:

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and grated

1 cup white flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon cayenne powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 cup milk

salt & pepper

1 cup peanut oil for frying

1 cup sour cream or fruit chutney for topping

1) Peel and grate potatoes by hand or with food processor.

2) In a mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and add milk. Pour into dry ingredients and mix well.

3) In a large frying pan, heat peanut oil until very hot. Oil should generously cover the bottom of the pan. With a tablespoon, drop batter into frying oil. Repeat, but don't crowd the pan. Gently turn latkes when first side is cooked. Drain and serve with sour cream or fruit chutney.

Makes about 15-20 latkes.

Recipe created by Ilene Schleichkorn.

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