Vegan Latkes, Shredded Potato Style

Standard

latkes

3 large russet potatoes*
1 onion
4 tablespoons corn starch
4 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper
oil

Peel the potatoes and onion. Shred the potatoes in the food processor. Remove to a clean tea towel and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Shred the onion in the food processor. Combine the onion and potato in a large bowl. Sprinkle with corn starch, flour, salt and pepper. Use your hands to combine. When you squeeze the potatoes with your hand, it should form a loose clump. Keep the potato mixture covered with a damp towel (use the same towel) while you work to prevent the potatoes from browning.

tea towel

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Let it heat for a good-long while. You should be able to feel the heat when you place your hand about two inches about the oil. Grab a handful of potato mixture. Squeeze, flatten, and then place it carefully into the hot oil. Use a metal spatula to lower the latkes if you like.  Try not to crowd the pan too much. I can usually fit about four latkes into my skillet at once. Fry for about five minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Remove to a rack or a stack of paper towels to drain the oil. Repeat until done.

TIP: Make the recipe kosher for passover by substitution matzah cake flour for the wheat flour and potato starch for the cornstarch.

*It seems like you can only find giant russet potatoes at the supermarket these days. If you can find the much saner potatoes that are just about the size of a fist, use 4-6 potatoes.

Potato Kugel Muffins

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potato kugel muffins

Potato Kugel

There’s something special about food cooked in a muffin pan. There’s no pressure to share or take a smaller piece “to leave some for guests.” My family makes these every year for Rosh Hashanah and, with alterations, Passover. If you prefer, the recipe can be doubled and cooked in a 9 x 13-inch pan.

cooking spray or oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/2 cup silken tofu
1 tablespoon non-dairy margarine, melted
4 to 6 medium potatoes
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (or another tablespoon flour)
1 teaspoon salt salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray (or oil thoroughly). Process the onion in a food processor. Add the tofu to the processor and process until combined. Add melted margarine. Set aside.

Working quickly, peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Process in the food processor. If you must do this in batches, cover the pureed potatoes with plastic wrap and refrigerate to keep from turning brown.

Mix together the potato, onion-tofu mixture, flour, nutritional yeast, and salt to taste. Fill the oiled muffin tin with the batter. The kugel doesn’t rise much, so you can fill the cups nearly to the top. Bake for 1 hour or until the tops are browned.

NOTE: My mother would insist that all the grating be done by hand. Feel free to do so, going as quickly as you can. Expect to skin your knuckles a few times. For the real experience, have a Jewish mother nearby to scold you to go, “faster, faster!”
TIP: If you want to make these for Passover, sub matzah cake flour (ideally) or matzo meal for the flour, and oil for the margarine. With the tofu they will, of course, have kitniyot.

The Vegan Seder Plate

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Vegan seder plate

A vegan seder plate with charoset, lettuce, parsley, avocado pit, horseradish, and beet.

Jewish holidays are full of food and symbolism, usually combined into one delicious guilt-ridden plate of food. I can’t stop your mother from complaining about your career trajectory, but I can help you ditch the animal products from your seder plate.

The traditional seder plate has six items: maror (bitter herbs), zeroah (roasted lamb shank), beitzah (roasted egg), charoset (a fruit and nut mixture), karpas (green vegetable), and chazeret (a second bitter herb, which some families skip). There are also new traditions that also include an orange, tomato, or olives on the seder plate. Besides the seder plate, the Passover table also includes matzah, wine, and salt water.

Obviously, vegetables and bitter herbs are no problem for vegans. For many of the other items, there are traditional or modern substitutions.

  • Instead of a lamb shank, many families use a figure of a lamb or a roasted beet. There are a number of apocryphal stories about why we use a beet, but, in the end, it’s probably due to the beet’s bloody appearance.
  • Many charoset recipes are naturally vegan. Sephardic recipes are often a mash of dried fruits, nuts, spices, and wine, while Ashkenazi recipes usually mix chopped apple and nuts with spices, wine, and honey. You can either choose a naturally vegan recipe, or replace the honey with agave nectar, sugar, or any kosher for Passover sweetener.
  • There are more options for replacing the roasted egg. The beitzah is said to be a symbol of, among other things, spring, renewal, life cycles, mourning, and temple sacrifice. Common vegan options are: a flower, an avocado pit, a small boiled potato, a small white eggplant, a figurine of an egg, or seeds (just be sure to choose seeds from a kosher-for-Passover food).
  • The matzo used for the seder is traditionally just water and flour. While egg matzah exists, it’s considered too rich for the symbolism of the seder table. We left Pharoah in a hurry after all!
  • It might take a bit of research to find a wine that is both kosher for passover and vegan. Barnivore is a great resource on vegan alcohol. Some of the most common KP wines are vegan, including Mogen David, Manischewitz, Goose Bay, Baron Herzog (whites only), and Bartenura.