Grate Expectations! Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes
Courtesy Sputnikcccp/Wikipedia

Hanukkah is a time when all good people grease their arteries with potato pancakes or latkes.  Friends will remember the haze of grease that would descend in my San Francisco apartment every year around this time, for the party I called Greasefest.  This would involve somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 lb (11.34 kilos) of skinned potatoes, a bunch of eggs and onions, some matzoh meal, and a vat of oil.  Oh and people you care about to foist all of this on.

Here now my recipe in smaller numbers:

  • 5 lb (2.27 kilos) of large peeled potatoes (the larger, the better)
  • 2 eggs
  • two medium-large onions, quartered
  • 1/2 cup matzoh meal
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup (or more) A descent high smoke temperature oil (grape seed oil is good)


  1. Preheat a large pan to the highest temperature you have.
  2. Grate potatoes and onions into a large bowl.  If you are making a larger amount, seriously consider using a food processor.  My aunt swears that it doesn’t taste as good, but I suspect that’s only if you use the blending blade instead of a grater attachment.
  3. Add eggs, matzoh meal, and salt.  Mix.
  4. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  5. Add grape seed oil, and allow to heat.  Important: do not add the mixture until the oil is VERY hot.
  6. Dollup small portions (about 2 tbsp) of the mixture into the pan.  Consider wearing long sleeves for this part as the oil will splatter. Flatten the mixture as best you can.
  7. Cook for approximately two minutes or til brown on one side.  Flip, and cook another two minutes.
  8. Remove latkes to a plate covered with paper towels to remove excess oil.

Serve with apple sauce and/or sour cream, coffee, orange juice, and Lipitor.

Bread for Beginners

When I was about 10, my neighbor came over to babysit my brother, sister, and me.  My sister being about one at the time, my mother left one instruction: check on the baby.  Instead, we baked bread, which my neighbor loved to do.  I don’t remember how the bread tasted, but I do remember my mother yelling at the babysitter,“You didn’t check on the baby!”

“But Mrs. Lear, how did you know?”, the girl responded.  “Easy,” said my mother.  “There are no white footprints leading to her room, while there is flour all over the rest of the house!”

This, and the fact that bread takes a long time to make, has led to a lifelong aversion to baking bread.  That came to an end today, with a little coaxing from a few corners, not the least of which were my wife and daughter.  I started with the simplest recipe I could find, after my wife found yeast.   It’s Super Easy Bread for Beginners, which is found on  This is a recipe that is nearly impossible to get wrong, and yet I almost did, by misreading the amount of salt (I thought I saw a b in tsp).  It is an extremely white bread, but it’s a start.  Next stop will not be a challah, as I’m still not up to either separating out eggs, or braiding.  But it will be a more whole or cracked wheat bread with some fun seeds.  Wish me luck.

For the record: no flour all over the house, although daughter’s shirt needed a good sweeping.

Pumpkin Pie: I’m a bit screwed

Thanksgiving is coming, and so here in Switzerland I felt like making a pumpkin pie today.  Yes, it’s not actually Thanksgiving, but I could either celebrate it before or after, so I’m doing both.  Here’s the thing about pumpkin pie: because it really is an American dish, some of the ingredients are really American.  My favorite recipe is Libby’s, but my wife and daughter both were not thrilled. But it also has two other problems, one of which is difficult to avoid.  Libby’s calls for condensed milk and canned pumpkin.  There is absolutely nothing to be done about the canned pumpkin part.  Anyone who knows anything knows that you just get a can of pumpkin for pumpkin pie, because quite frankly, we all have better things to do than to chop, bake, skin and mash a pumpkin, and probably the wrong pumpkin at that.  The catch is that here in Switzerland, apparently they don’t, or they simply don’t eat pumpkin.

So that leaves the condensed milk.  Some recipes call for it, and some call for cream cheese. This year I tried a recipe from the Joy of Baking, which merely calls for cream.  It makes a very light pie, but the spice doesn’t bowl you over.  Quite frankly I found it a bit meek.  But this is precisely what, I think my wife and daughter liked.  Also, this pie isn’t too sweet, which is something I like.  This is a Martha Stewart recipe.  Are they all so middle-of-the-road?

Anyway, Happy (early) Thanksgiving, America!

Recipe: Morroccan Lamb with Shiraz Honey Sauce

I was SO getting into a rut with food for the last few weeks, and so I got to thinking: how about Moroccan? After all, those of us who know the Bay Area probably have eaten at Marrakesh in San Francisco, and they (at least used to) have some wonderful dishes, like this one.

This is a recipe right off of  I like that web site because many of the dishes are easy to prepare.  I am no chef.  I am barely a cook.  It took me no more than 40 minutes start to finish to cook up this little gem.  The catch is making sure you start with the right ingredients, and not to fuss about frenching the lamb rack.  (Wow that sounds obscene, anyway.  How do butchers come up with these terms?)

It’s a nice change of pace, and something easily made at home.  Just brush your teeth afterward!


First, before I write anything else, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope 2010 is the best year of your life, thus far.

Here’s a recipe for pancakes I made for those who can get the ingredients.

Eliot’s Blueberry Apple Banana Pancakes


  • One egg
  • Two cups low-fat milk
  • One teaspoon baking soda
  • One teaspoon vanilla
  • Two tablespoons vegetable oil (these can be omitted to reduce fat)
  • Two cups flour (all purpose, not self rising)
  • 8 ounces of fresh blueberries (frozen won’t cut it)
  • One large banana or one and a half smaller bananas, sliced thinly.

For the apples:

  • two fuji apples
  • One tablespoon vegetable oil
  • One teaspoon cinnamon

Heat a pan to medium.  Peel and core apple.  Slice into relatively thin (but not paper thin) pieces, and cut into smaller bits.  Add oil, apples and cinnamon.  Fry for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When finished, remove from pan onto a plate and let cool.  Add baking soda and vanilla to an egg and whisk.  Add milk and vegetable oil and mix.  Add flour while whisking (I use half cup measures).  Mix in blueberries and bananas.  Add in apples.

Heat a large pan to medium-high, greasing if necessary.  Spoon quarter cup pancakes onto pan.  Cook about 5 minutes and flip.  Wait another minute and remove.  Repeat until batter is gone and serve immediately.

Serves 4.