In the last year, I think I have learnt more about judaism and jewish-ness than in the last ten years! Last year around this time, I made my first ever visit to the contentious region of the Middle East. Starting from Israel, I then traveled to Turkey with the ability to compare the cultures across three distinct yet related religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Looking back, in a way, a new world of learning and understanding of people opened up to me with that trip. I firmly believe that the window to understanding cultures lies in the roots and traditions of the cuisine. Where perceptions can be cluttered, food offers an unbiased view of humanity and its beliefs. And, in the reality of similarities of customs lie the clue to resolving the distortions of perceptions.
The journey of awareness that began with exposure of the intertwined cultures in a troubled region, a year ago, is bearing fruit now as I find myself relating to people at a more intrinsic level and less so based on superficial actions and words. I find myself questing for the unsaid values that drive their actions, the inane proclivities of culture that colors their reactions. I find myself being more patient whence before I would have reaction from my sphere of judgements.
Yes, it is all just another reinforcement of the positive influence of travel. I only argue that the added layer of attempting to relate through the cuisine is a shortcut to the expansion of mind as we relate to the heart and soul of the person(s) better. What and how one eats is a good indicator of the way their heart and mind works.
Well, that is all the philosophy for today. I just wanted to tell you what I was thinking when I made these Sweet Potato and Kale Latkes over the Hannukah period. Ironically, the coincidence was unconscious. Now, I see how my seemingly irrational mind rationally drove my actions. :)
I love latkes. They are full of goodness and naturally gluten free. Typically, the starch from the potatoes and the egg is sufficient to hold the pancake together. Sweet potatoes have lower starch content and the kale does release water as it cooks. To compensate for both, I add a little potato starch to the mix to keep it together. You can also use tapioca starch or psyllium husk. I don't use gums in my cooking; if you are used to xantham or guar gums you can use them as well to substitute for the starch.
Keeping the flavors of the region in mind, I mixed in a good dose of tahini in the latke mix. Finishing off with a spread of tahini laced quark, I feel brings a rounded European touch to this Israeli favorite. I am also certainly feeling self-satisfied with the bridge of European and Middle Eastern, I managed in this dish. Oh yes, the darlings of kale and sweet potato have been sorted as well! :)
Sweet Potato and Kale Latkes
with Tahini Laced Quark Cheese Spread
For the latkes:
1 large sweet potato, peeled and grated
1 cup bunch of kale, chopped roughly
1 T potato starch
1 T tahini
1 tsp aleppo pepper
1 tsp z'atar
salt and pepper as needed
For the Tahini Quark cheese spread:
1/4 cup quark cheese
3 T water
juice of half a lemon
2 T tahini
pinch of salt
aleppo pepper for garnish
Toss together all the latke ingredients in a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the cheese spread ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Heat a pan of oil and drop handfuls of the latke batter and flatten with your hand.
Let it cook and brown on each side, atleast 2 minutes. Reserve and drain the excess oil.
Serve with dollops of the cheese spread schmeared on top.
Garnish with a sprinkle aleppo pepper and chopped parsley.