Zucchini Mint Latkes

Chanukah – the Jewish holiday of lights (and oil) is two days away. I heard a woman lament the other day that Christmas smells so good and cozy, with all the spices and the pines, and all we Jews get is the smell of oil around the house, because of all the frying we do around Chanukah. To me, though, the smell of fried Israeli jelly donuts (soufganiot) brings back pleasant memories of passing many fun hours with my mom in the kitchen, helping her to prepare soufganiot and levivot (latkes) for the evening.

In our house, the soufganiot are a much bigger deal than the latkes, but because I don’t think I will get to make them this year, I chose to represent Chanukah with a latke recipe. The recipe, invented in my kitchen, is different than the usual potato latkes that are so familiar in American Jewish cuisine. This recipe captures the freshness and flavors of the Mediterranean. The combination of zucchini and mint is well known in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, and I’m sure there are other versions of this recipe floating around the Internet.

The secret in the recipe is the mint. Don’t try to skimp on it. If anything, go the other way – the more, the better.

When grating the zucchini, don’t discard of the zucchini ends (the bottom end of the zucchini). Check out my recipe Zucchini Ends in Garlic to learn what you can do with them.

Ingredients:

5 large zucchini (about 2lb)
2 cups chopped mint leaves
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 cup flour
salt, pepper
½- 1 cup oil for frying

Preparation:

Grate the zucchini using a food processor or a grater. Place the grated zucchini in a colander. Take a handful of grated zucchini and using the palms of your hands squeeze well to extract all the liquid.

Place the squeezed zucchini in a large bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

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Cover the bottom of a large pan with oil and heat.

Using your hands, make patties out of the zucchini mix and place in the preheated oil. Alternatively, use a spoon to spoon the zucchini mix into the pan and flatten it lightly.

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Fry for 1-2 minutes until edges are golden brown, then flip and fry the other side.

Remove from the pan and place on a tray covered with paper towel to absorb extra fat.

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Serve warm or at room temperature together with Tzatziki, or Greek yogurt mixed with minced garlic.

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Happy Chanukah!

Turmeric – Edible Gold

In the past three to four years, there has been a new rising star in the American natural healing scene. Described as practically omnipotent and one of the best medicinal plants ever, it has finally been revealed to the world – turmeric.

Wherever I go, whether it’s health food stores, farmer’s markets, restaurants, and even the local supermarket or drug store, turmeric has the reputation of the new miracle. It is becoming very trendy in cooking, as well.

I must admit that my feelings about this fuss around turmeric are mixed. On the one hand, I am happy that Americans have finally discovered turmeric and can start enjoying its many medicinal and culinary benefits. On the other hand, I feel like turmeric is being treated like a superstar, it is huge and trendy, but usually, as soon as a new superstar shows up, people forget about it. I hope I’m wrong in this case.

You see, my relationship with turmeric goes back a long way. I’ve been familiar with turmeric ever since I can remember myself. My father’s parents were villagers who grew up in the mountains of Kurdistan and Northern Iran. They knew a lot about “natural medicine” (my grandma would laugh if she heard me call it that) not because they learned about it, but because they lived it. This amazing knowledge was acquired unknowingly simply by applying what they saw their parents do. When my grandparents immigrated to Israel, they brought this knowledge (and their amazing Persian cuisine) with them, and when needed, applied it on us.

I remember my grandmother sprinkling turmeric powder on my arm or leg, whenever I fell and hurt myself. I didn’t know why she did it, I didn’t ask. I was a little girl, and all I wanted is for someone to take care of my booboo somehow. Well, the turmeric worked. Every time. So I learned that whenever I cut or injure myself, the best way to stop the bleeding and heal the wound fast was to sprinkle turmeric powder on it. It worked better and faster than iodine and a band-aid. Today I know that one of turmeric’s most celebrated properties is it being anti-inflammatory and having the ability to clot blood.

Later on in life, after I had my first child and subsequently suffered from hemorrhoids (swollen and inflamed veins in a place where the sun doesn’t shine), an Indian friend told me that a great Indian remedy to treat hemorrhoids is to make a paste of turmeric powder and ghee (clarified butter), and apply it to the exposed hemorrhoids. I decided to sacrifice a pair of underwear and give it a shot (turmeric stains everything it touches yellow). After a few days, the hemorrhoids were gone. The turmeric shrank the hemorrhoids and cleared the inflammation.

On a more pleasant note, turmeric is one of the most, if not THE most, used spice in Persian cuisine (at least in my family). It adds color and flavor, and makes the food happy. My grandmother used to put it in almost every dish she made, Persian or not. I remember she once made us some beef patties and French fries, which were super yellow from the turmeric she added to them. Although they weren’t typical beef patties or French fries, it was all yummy nonetheless. After that, whenever our mom made French fries, we asked her to add turmeric to them.

This is how we used to eat our sunny-side-up eggs (when my dad cooked):

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Or have our open face grilled cheese:

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Look how colorful! Doesn’t it make you happy? And I haven’t even mentioned all of the wonderful Persian dishes featuring turmeric. Two examples are Basmati rice and Khoresh Sabzi.

Interested to learn more about Turmeric’s medicinal benefits? Check out this Dr. Axe’s article: https://draxe.com/turmeric-benefits/.

Orange Cranberry Scones

This recipe is made by default with regular all-purpose flour. I’ve made it twice at home, using my all-purpose gluten-free flour mix, just to see if it could be a good product to have in my gluten-free bakery. It came out so flaky and delicious, and nobody could even suspect it was gluten-free.

If you don’t want to make it GF, feel free to switch back to regular all-purpose flour. The amounts are the same.

Cranberry Orange Scones ingredients

Ingredients:

4 cups plus 1/4 cup all purpose gluten free flour mix
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (if not added in the flour mix)
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3/4 pound (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water, for egg wash

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.

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Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough.

Cranberry Oragne Scones dough rolled

Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn’t stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.

Cranberry Orange Scones egg washed

Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch.

Cranberry Orange Scones baked in pan

Cranberry Orange Scone cut open

They are soooo flaky and delicious!!!