Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lotsa Latkes!!

"Stop! Stop running in the oil, HOT OIL...I'M FRYING!" Serious danger zone at all hours.
I make latkes once a year and ONLY during Hanukkah. Latkes are one of the very few dishes I actually dread making but ALWAYS end up making a ton once I start. Slightly different every year but always packed with veggies. This year, zucchini and carrots - SO delicious, even the pickiest kid will love em.

Shopping can cheer anyone up, right! I bought a brand new Cuisinart! With my sleek silver shiny new food processor, I am GUNG HO for grating and chopping.

(makes 275-300 latkes!)
olive oil, to fry many batches of latkes
3/8 cup salt
2T fresh ground pepper
2T granulated garlic
2T sesame seeds
10 large russet potatoes
10 medium zucchini
1 big carrot
2 cup matzoh meal
22 eggs
3 big sweet onion
1 bunch scallion

First, the Zucchini. Cut them in half length-wise. Remove the center seeds with a spoon or round tool-thing like the one in the picture (it punches out holes - what is it?!).
Prep the onions and carrots for the food processor. Cut the onion length-wise into 1.5-2 inch chucks. Cut carrots into 1 inch chunks.
Use the Shredding Disc to grate all the zucchini first in 2-3 batches. I love my new Cusinart!
Transfer the shredded zucchini into very large mixing bowl lined with paper towels. (The bowl should be large enough to hold all the ingredients.) The paper towels will soak up all the excess moisture juices.
Peel and cut up the potatos length-wise to fit into the food processor. Use the Shredding Disc to grate them in the food processor in 2-3 batches.
Then squeeze out all the juice from the potatoes. I use a strainer with tiny wholes, pressing down with my hands or small metal bowl (see picture below). Look at all the fluid coming out! (This is probably the most labor-consuming part of the recipe.)
Add the grated potatoes to the zucchini mixture.
Next use the Shredding Disc to grate the onions and strain them using the strainer-bowl technique. Onions will release LOTS of onion juice.
Next up, carrots. Switch to the Chopping/Mixing blade and chop up the carrots into a coarse grainy bunch.
Chop chop chop carrots!
Add the grainy carrots to the mixture of zucchini, potatoes, onion. Toss and mix. I always use gloves (nonlatex surgical gloves) to mix and toss large batches of food. Gloves are great to protect hands and they keep fingernails clean! I don't do well with mixing spoons, as I always ALWAYS end up with food splashing and tossed all over the place.
While tossing, add salt and pepper evenly. Remember potatoes absorb lots of salt!
Next add the eggs. Crack the eggs in a separate bowl to make sure no shells accidentally slip in. There is nothing worse than biting into a latke and crunching some eggshell - awful!
Next pour in the matzoh meal.
Now with your protected gloved hands, toss the entire mixture evenly, mashing up the eggs.
Keep working it!
Now it is time to fry ALL OF THIS! Transfer some of the mixture to a smallish bowl that is easy to handle with one hand. Use a Tablespoon to measure.
Generously coat a frying pan with oil. Transfer a small heaping tablespoonful to the frying pan one at a time. Add a heaping Tablespoon to the oil, careful keeping each spoonful separate. Flame high to medium. (To get through faster, I use 3 frying pans at once.)
Watch for the edges to brown a bit, like in the picture. Use a spatula or fork with a spoon to flip each latke over to cook the other side.
The bottoms should be a delicious crispy brown color with a moist center.
Transfer the fried latkes to trays lined with papertowels. The papertowels will soak up excess oil. Serve immediately or store.
If you cook the entire mixture, you will have about 300 latkes! I store the latkes on trays lined with parchment paper. BON APPETIT!
Then seal with plastic wrap the entire trays. This way, to reheat, I just need to remove the plastic and place the entire tray into the oven at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes.
(Can't cook in silence. Select foods call for select playlists. These latkes were made with LOVE in the dead of night to the screaming sounds of MSI, Placebo and NIN with slick new Skullcandy earbuds with an iPod nano!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Casual DINNER avec kids: easy, quick, nutritious, TASTY...all the familiar dishes...tilapia, potatoes, shrooms...

We have a low round coffee table on wheels I like to use as the buffet when we have families with kids over. Easy access for the kids allowing the freedom to graze and choices.
Tuesday night dinner with friends! I stuck with easy, quick and familiar dishes that can't go wrong. Tonight, we had the following:

(1) Plate of Strawberries and Blueberries (straight fruit, no added sugar OK?)
(2) Bowl of Fussili Pasta tossed in Olive Oil and Sea Salt (you always need a comfort-food back-up for picky eaters)
(3) Grilled Tenderloin Steak with Lime (carnivores)
(4) Grilled Tilapia with Tomato Avocado Cilantro Scallion (healthy types)
(5) Mommy Potatoes tossed in Garlic and Parsley (for everyone!)
(6) Stir-fry Mushrooms and Crab in Oyster Sauce, Garlic and Ginger
(7) Walnut & Raisin Bread, Olive Bread

4 thick fillets of Tilapia
Olive Oil
Granulated Garlic
Tomatoes - 2 yellow, 2 orange, 3 red
1 bunch Scallion
1 bunch Cilantro
1 and 1/2 Avocado
*Fish Sauce*

(1) First, set the Grill on HIGH. Marinate/season the Tilapia fillets on both sides with generous amounts of Salt, Pepper and Granulated Garlic. Add Olive Oil to coat both sides. Set aside
(2) Cut up Tomatoes and Avocado into bite-size pieces and add some salt and pepper. Chop up Scallion and Cilantro. Set aside.
(3) Time for Grilling. Grill the Tilapia on one side for about 5-7 minutes with the cover down, or until charred. Turn over and grill with the cover down for another 4-5 minutes. Time will depend on the thickness of the Tilapia and how cold it is when you place it on the grill.
(4) Transfer the fish to a large platter. Add the Tomatoes, Avocado, chopped Cilantro and chopped Scallion across the entire dish. Drizzle some Prepared Fish Sauce. Put the rest of the Fish Sauce in a container on the fish platter. Add leftover bundles of Cilantro or Scallion to garnish. (I should have used a white platter for such a colorful dish, but I had the yellow one near - too much yellow...)
With the beautiful colorful tomatoes and green avocado, scallion and cilantro, plating is really fun. (I really should have used a whilte platter, uh!) This could have looked MUCH more elegant (I know you are thinking about how sloppy it is!), but I sort of threw those topping on without thinking that I was going to post this.
Now we'll do the Mushroom Crab dish.

Mushrooms - any assortment (here: Empire Mushrooms, Enoki, etc.)
Olive Oil, Garlic, Onion, Ginger
Sugar, Salt/Pepper, Sesame Seeds, Scallion
King Crab meat, about 2 pounds, shell off
(1) Gorgeous giant fat Empire Mushrooms. So meaty. I like to cut them into smaller bite-size pieces. Since this one is especially thick, cut down the center first, then slice.
Since they are so chunky, I use 2 saute pans coated in Oil to cook them. High heat, with enough movement so that they don't burn.
Remember, add larger thicker mushrooms first. Then add the smaller mushrooms after a few minutes. Kids LOVE helping, especially when it's a challenging danger task involving knives;)
For Max, I instruct him to place the trimmed mushrooms on a cold pan (kids safety first!) coated in Olive Oil...then heat on HIGH.
Add the minced Garlic, chopped Onion, julienne Ginger...
Add a tablespoon of sugar, salt, pepper...and a tablespoon of Oyster Sauce
Then add the teeny delicate Enoki mushrooms...
Last, throw in, toss in the crab meat, sprinkle with salt, pepper, scallion, sesame seeds.
MOMMY POTATOES again! Crispy, salty, garlic-ky, delicious...People LOVE these potato circles - LOVE IT! I made 3 batches this time since I expect many kiddies to be munching on these all night long.
Fingerling Potatoes
Minced Garlic
Dried Parsley
Olive Oil
(Parchment Paper, Baking Sheet)
I was excited to find the colorful variety in a huge bag at Costco yesterday. Make sure you check that they are not soft, bruised or sprouting (!!), but are firm and good-looking.
First off, preheat the oven to BAKE or Convection Bake to the highest 500+ setting. Clean and peel the bad parts off. Since they are so itty little, a peeler can be tricky - careful not to cut yourself.
Then slice them into 1/4 inch disks. This could be tedious, but once you get into a rhythm, before you know it, you'll have a pile of perfect imperfect circles!
Add Olive Oil and toss to coat.
Take a big baking sheet and line with parchment paper (not aluminum!).
Put the tray onto the lowest rack for 12-15 minutes. Check at about 8 minutes to see how they are. Cooking time will vary with ovens, altitude, potatoes, etc.
When you take them out, toss with minced garlic, lots of salt, pepper and dried Parsley. Here, I poured them onto an Ikea tray lined with a napkin and added a bowl of ketchup. Repeat until all the potatoes are cooked!