Ricotta Latkes (with Persimmon Compote)
We served these Ricotta Latkes (adapted from Gil Marks’ The World of Jewish cooking) at our Killer Cheese & Girl Power Chanukah Party. These pancakes most likely originated in Italy. We suggest serving them with a Persimmon Compote (Recipe below).
The lesser-known custom of eating dairy foods for Hanukkah dates back to the Middle Ages, when the Book of Judith played an important role in the Hanukkah narrative. This story involves the celebrated Jewish heroine saveing her village from the Assyrians. A beautiful widow, she fed the Assyrian army’s general salty cheese. To quench his subsequent thirst, she gave him wine. When the general passed out drunk, Judith cut off his head with his own sword. The Israelites launched a victorious attach on the leaderless Assyrian army, and so in Judith’s honour, we eat dairy for Chanukah. The more widely-known Potato latke is a more recent Ashkenazi invention that gained popularity in Eastern Europe during the mid 1800s, when a series of crop failures led to the mass planting of potatoes, which were easy and cheap to grow.
Gil Marks wrote:
Latke – derived from elaion – is an Ashkenazic term for pancakes, particularly those served on Hanukkah. Cheese, the original form of latke, combines the two primary Hannukah foods–dairy and fried. Ashkenazim and Sephardim enjoy these delicate pancakes for dairy meals on Hanukkah and Passover”…Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kalonymus (c. 1286-1328) “included pancakes in a list of dishes to serve at an idealized Purim feast, as well as a poem about Hanukkah. After the Spanish expelled the Jews from Sicily in 1492, the exiles introduced their ricotta cheese pancakes, which were called cassola in Rome, to the Jews of northern Italy. Consequently, cheese pancakes became a Hanukkah dish.”
(Read more about the party and the latkes in this article from the Montreal Gazette.)
1 pound or 1 3/4 cups ricotta cheese
4 large eggs, beaten
About 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted, or sour cream
1 – 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil or butter for frying
Puree all ingreidents in a food processor. Or, mix very well by hand, making sure to break up and evenly distribute the cheese.
Lightly grease a large skillet with oil or butter and heat over medium heat. Drop the batter by heaping a tablespoon of it into the skillet and fry until bubbles form on the tops of the pancakes and the bottoms are lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes.
Turn the pancakes and fry until golden-brown, 1-2 minutes. (The pancakes can be kept warm by placing them in a 200˚ F oven in a single layer on a baking sheet).
Serve with Persimmon Compote (below) or any syrup, jam or fruit of your choice.
3/4 cup persimmon pulp from about 3 fuyu persimmons
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one clementine
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until jell point is reached (around 220˚F). Cool slightly and pour into a clean jar. Compote can be stored in the refrigerator up to a week.