Herbed Spinach Latkes (with Feta-Yogurt Sauce)

Herbed Spinach Latkes

Packed with fresh herbs, these little fritters from Jayne Cohen's Jewish Holiday Cooking (Wiley) bring a beguiling whiff of springtime to wintry Chanukah celebrations. The latkes make wonderful cocktail fare, or prepare slightly larger ones and pair with soup and a big salad for a light dinner, or fish, for a more substantial meal. 

Yield: About 30 small latkes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh spinach, well washed, tough stems discarded, or two  10-ounce packages frozen leaf spinach, thawed
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus additional for frying
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 8), white and pale green parts only
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 packed cup fresh challah or other egg bread (crusts removed), torn in pieces
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh dill leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Mild olive, canola, or avocado oil, for frying

Directions

If you are using fresh spinach, cook it in a large saucepan with 1/4 cup lightly salted water until tender. Cool, place in a colander, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. If you are using frozen spinach, squeeze the thawed spinach dry. You'll be able to press out the most liquid if you do this with your hands. 

Photo by Laurel F

Photo by Laurel F

In a heavy medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and sauté until scallions are softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the spinach, and sauté about 3 minutes, until all liquid is evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then cool completely. Process the challah in a food processor to fine crumbs. Add the spinach mixture, dill, mint, and cilantro, if using, and pulse, using on/off turns, until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. Taste, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Mix in the eggs and baking powder. 

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, drop the batter in heaping tablespoonfuls into the skillet, using the back of a spoon to flatten the latkes slightly. Fry until lightly browned, about 2 minutes per side. Avoid turning more than once. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the latkes to paper towels to drain. Fry the remaining latkes in the same way, adding more butter and oil to the skillet as necessary, and allowing the fat to get hot before adding more batter. Serve with Feta-Yogurt Sauce. 

Feta-Yogurt Sauce

From Jayne Cohen's Jewish Holiday Cooking. Cohen says, "This is more than you will need for this recipe, but I like to keep this useful sauce on hand. It brings sparkle to raw and cooked vegetables, lentils, and mixed green salads. If desired, just halve the amounts called for."

Yield: about 2 cups 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup crumbled feta (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole-milk Greek-style)
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt (optional)

Mash the feta in a medium bowl using a fork. Blend in the yogurt. Stir in the remaining ingredients and season to taste with pepper. Taste and add salt if needed (the feta may be quite salty). Set aside for flavors to blend at least two hours before serving. (Can be made two days ahead. Cover and refrigerate until needed.)