I love the look on people’s faces when I say, “South American Jew.” It’s like a mix of confusion and sometimes, intrigue. Most times? Pure confusion.
Shouldn’t you be Roman Catholic?
Well, my mother’s side of the family is from Colombia, South America, and my father’s side hails from Argentina. I mainly grew up surrounded by the Colombian and Jewish cultures, and I’m proud of both.
While in school I always struggled by not being “Latin” enough (my fair skin, my mixed accent, and my maiden name) or not being “Jewish” enough (not fully keeping kosher, not observing every law, and then, ironically, looking “Spanish”).
Over the years, I became more and more comfortable in my responses and prouder than ever. I know my daughter will get to learn Spanish from an early age, dance salsa in the kitchen, all while making latkes and playing the dreidel. This year, my birthday is during Chanukah, and that just means one more reason to celebrate!
I hope I do make more of these delicious latkes. They are a nod to my South American background and use a non-traditional ingredient: green plantains. For Chanukah — or any time of year — these are a tad sweet, crunchy, and delicious when dipped in a garlicky sauce.
LATKES DE PLÁTANO + SALSA DE AJO (Plaintain Latkes + Garlic Sauce)
Makes approx. 12 latkes
SALSA DE AJO:
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped (I also added fresh dill because I had it on hand and it was surprisingly good.)
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Mix all together well in a bowl and allow to sit while you make the latkes.
1 green plantain, shredded (To peel the plantain, cut a slit down the entire side. If it is not very ripe, and difficult to peel this way, you can drop them in boiling water for a few seconds and that should help.)
1 small onion, sahredded
1 small russet potato, shredded (can omit and double the plantain)
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. red or green pepper, shredded
Salt, pepper & enough vegetable oil to pan fry (Start with less than you think. If the latkes are thin, they will crisp up in a small amount of oil and you will get the result without making them soggy.)
While your garlic sauce is sitting, combine all latke ingredients in a bowl and mix well. On a very low flame, heat a frying pan with vegetable oil (start with a low, even layer across the entire pan).
Next, wring out the latke mixture in a kitchen towel, a little bit at a time to remove excess liquid. (This step makes them crispier and they come out better, but they will still be delicious if you skip this step. Just make sure they are thinner, and smaller, so they cook faster.)
Make small little mounds into the hot oil (raise the heat to medium) and cook until golden brown on one side (picture above).
Blot on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Sandy Leibowitz is a trained chef, recipe developer, and food blogger. After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), she worked at various New York restaurants, including Jean George’s Spice Market and Oceana. She now relishes teaching and sharing recipes celebrating her dual Jewish and Latina heritages. Find more of her recipes at thekoshertomato.com and follow her on Instagram @thekoshertomato.