The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 15, 2006


In the holiday kitchen: latkes, cookies and tea breads

Latkes (Courtesy Photo)
Christmas cookies

Some of my friends who wouldn't think of making cookies, cakes and breads during most of the year get inspired in the kitchen in December. For the first time since last holiday season, their grocery baskets fill up with flour, butter and sugar. To me, a basket or a plate of home-baked goodies is a wonderful present!

One of my favorite, tried-and-true Christmas cookie recipes is a refrigerator dough made with cornmeal. These cookies are attractive, tasty and deceptively easy to make. Two cookies are sandwiched with raspberry or apricot jam. Arranged on a colorful plate, they make a delicious gift.

Today, December 15, is the first day of Hannukah, the eight-day holiday known as the Festival of Lights. Whether or not your family celebrates Hannukah, it is a good time to fry up a batch of latkes, a favorite dish that is delicious as well as fun to make! Latkes is the Yiddish word for potato pancakes. Legend has it that over 2,000 years ago, when the desecrated temple in Jerusalem was restored and rededicated, there was but a small amount of sacred oil in the temple. Somehow, by the hand of divine providence, the lamp stayed lit for eight days. To commemorate the miracle, it has become a tradition to fry foods such as these potato pancakes in oil during the eight-day holiday. (They are very good but you needn't make them all eight days!)

The first method makes for crispier latkes but the second is quicker to prepare.

Method one: Grate the potatoes with a medium grater. Wrap the potato pieces tightly in a tea towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Pat dry. Mix, in a large bowl with remaining ingredients.

Method two: Cut potatoes in chunks and put in blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients and puree briefly.

For each pancake, drop a large spoonful of mixture into hot oil. With a spatula, flatten the pancake. Fry about three minutes on each side, until golden-brown.

Keep pancakes warm in oven until they are all done.

Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream.

Tea breads

Tea breads are another tasty way of saying, "Happy Holidays" to friends and neighbors. Less labor-intensive than cookies, they can be wrapped with festive paper and ribbons and presented in a basket.

One of my favorite recipes for a quick bread is a cranberry orange bread. I like the taste that comes with combining tart cranberries and sweet oranges. At holiday time, adding orange liqueur to the batter lends a special elegance. I generally use Triple Sec or Cointreau,which are less expensive than Grand Marnier. Of course, additional orange juice can be used rather than a liqueur.

Whatever holiday you celebrate (I like to celebrate them all!), enjoy!

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito