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A Taste of Hanukkah
All Things Considered Samples Traditional, Updated Latke Recipes

Listen Listen to Robert Siegel's conversation with Joan Nathan about latkes, and hear his taste-test review

Jump to the recipes:
Crispy Traditional Pancakes
Mushroom Pecan Levivot with Salmon and Pickled Ginger

Joan Nathan

Joan Nathan in the NPR kitchen
Photo: David Banks, NPR

Dec. 6, 2001 -- When Hanukkah begins Dec. 9 at sundown, most holiday tables will feature latkes -- either a treasured family recipe of the potato pancakes, or an updated, gourmet version. On All Things Considered, host Robert Siegel gets recipes for both from Joan Nathan, author of The Foods of Israel Today.

In the NPR kitchen in Washington, D.C., Siegel talks to Nathan about the history of latkes -- how they became associated with Hanukkah, and what was used to make them before the potato was introduced to Israel. Then Siegel got to taste-test the fruits of Nathan's cooking demonstration.

Below are the two recipes Nathan shared with NPR:

Crispy Traditional Pancakes

This recipe is originally from the cookbook Jewish Cooking in America. Nathan says she makes them "very thin," but those who want thicker latkes can add matzo meal or flour.

2 pounds russet (baking) or Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 medium onion
1-1/2 cups chopped scallions, including the green part
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

Traditional latkes

Nathan's traditional latkes
Photo: David Banks, NPR

1. Peel the potatoes and put in cold water. Using a grater or a food processor, coarsely grate the potatoes and onions. Place together in a fine-mesh strainer or tea towel and squeeze out all the water over a bowl. The potato starch will settle to the bottom: reserve that after you have carefully poured off the water.

2. Mix the potato and onion with the potato starch. Add the scallions, egg, and salt and pepper.

3. Heat a griddle or non-stick pan and coat with a thin film of vegetable oil. Take about 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture in the palm of your hand and flatten as best you can. Place the potato mixture on the griddle, flatten with a large spatula, and fry for a few minutes until golden. Flip the pancake over and brown the other side. Remove to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately. (The latkes also can be frozen to be served at a later time, after crisping in a 350-degree oven.)

Yield: about 2 dozen latkes
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Mushroom Pecan Levivot with Smoked Salmon and Pickled Ginger

This recipe comes from Hava Volman, an Israeli caterer living in Brooklyn, who told Nathan, "The first time I ever heard of a full Hanukkah meal was in the United States. In Israel, we ate latkes all year round and also at Hanukkah." Nathan says recipes like this one "would not have been possible even five years ago, because gourmet products like wild rice and pickled ginger were non-existent in Israel. Today, Israeli cooks like Hava are experimenting with new ingredients to tempt palates at Hanukkah and all year round."

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 large egg
3 tablespoons matzo meal
3 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Canola or other vegetable oil for frying
Smoked salmon for garnish
Pickled ginger for garnish

Wild rice latkes

Mushroom pecan levivot
Photo: David Banks, NPR

1. Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan, add the mushrooms and saute for five minutes or until soft. Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Place in the food processor fitted with a steel blade, and pulse just until the mushrooms are chopped.

2. Transfer the mushrooms to a mixing bowl. Add the wild rice, pecans, sour cream, egg, matzo meal, snipped dill, lemon zest, cardamom, and nutmeg and mix well.

3. Coat a nonstick frying pan with the remaining tablespoon of oil and heat. Take heaping tablespoons of the latke batter, flattening each slightly with a spatula, and fry for a few minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining batter. Garnish with strips of smoked salmon and pickled ginger, and serve.

Yield: about 10 latkes
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Other Resources

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