Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Mashed potato latkes

November 30, 2013

Every year when Hanukkah comes around, I pick a night to make latkes and a brisket. And every year, I swear I will not only make latkes for Hanukkah.

Similarly, a lot of people go crazy about selecting, preparing and serving a turkey for Thanksgiving and never think about it again the rest of the year.

This year, with Thanksgiving falling on the first day of the Feast of Lights, I was concerned about when I might make my latkes. Even with a scaled back crowd attending dinner this year, I knew realistically we wouldn’t be done with the leftovers until at least half-way through Hanukkah.

The first night after Thanksgiving, we finished up the leftover ravioli and sauce and meatballs and sausage. On Saturday night, we set our sights on some turkey, the end of the dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes.


Why not repurpose those leftover mashed potatoes into latkes. I could still spoon some of the gravy over them. Or top them with cranberry sauce.  Of course a dollop of sour cream is always nice.

What a great idea! And so easy to do.  They turned out great! Crisp exterior with a fluffy interior. 

The convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah that occurred this year won’t happen again for 70,000 years.

Don’t wait that long to try this recipe. mplatkes

Mashed Potato Latkes

  •          Leftover mashed potatoes (approximately 2 cups) at room temperature
  •          1 large egg
  •          ½ to 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  •          Vegetable oil

In a large bowl, sprinkle about ¼ cup of the flour over the potatoes.  Add the egg and work into the flour and potatoes. Add just enough additional flour to form a cohesive dough that is just stiff enough to be workable. Don’t overdo it.

Pour oil into a 10 or 12 inch skillet (cast iron is perfect for this) to a depth of about ½ an inch. Heat the oil over a medium flame until it sizzles when a small piece of the dough is dropped into it. (About 7 minutes).

Grease a ¼ cup measuring cup with Pam or a similar spray oil. Fill with the dough mixture and drop into the hot oil. Flatten the dough slightly with a spoon. Do this three more times. Do not overcrowd the pan.  Cook until browned, four to five minutes, flip and cook for another four or five minutes.

Remove the latkes from the skillet and set on paper towel lined platter to drain. Cover to keep them warm. You may want to lightly salt and pepper them to taste. Repeat until you have used up the dough.  Serve warm with sour cream and applesauce (or the Thanksgiving leftovers).

Makes 8 – 10 potato pancakes.


Sausage pie

April 7, 2012

Note: This entry is slightly revised from a note I posted on Facebook a few years ago. It was, in fact, the seed from which this blog sprouted.

Sausage pie

As I was growing up, holidays and family gatherings were as significant for the food served as for the actual “reason” driving the get-together.  Easter was no exception.  We would often go out to the cemetery for a sunrise service, then visit my grandfather’s grave before starting the rounds of visiting various relatives.

Easter bread, pastiera, and “sausage pie” were seemingly on the table everywhere we went that day.  The last one was my favorite and I could never get enough.  My mom quizzed my great aunts and cousins for their recipes.  She had to transcribe an oral tradition distilled through years of experience to come up with a written recipe.  I still have the ragged copy she sent me when I was in college so I could make my first attempt at this family tradition.

Well used recipe from Mom

Over the years, I’ve read dozens of variations on this theme known by several different names (pizza rustica, pizza chiena).  One variety uses cubes of Italian lunch meats and cheese in place of the crumbled sausage and I make that every so often.  Still, each spring I make the recipe I got from Mom who got it from her Aunts-in-law and their children.  I don’t know how many of my cousins still make this treat, I hope many.

Easter “Sausage”  Pie


  • 2.5 pounds of flour
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 package of yeast dissolved in warm water (approximately 2/3 to 1 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ pound butter melted

Mix all ingredients to form soft dough.  Cover and let rise in draft free place (overnight).


  • 2.5 pounds Italian sweet sausage (out of casing)
  • 2.5 pounds Italian hot sausage (out of casing)
  • 3 pounds of ricotta
  • 8 eggs
  • Parsley
  • Grated cheese

Beat eggs and add to ricotta.  Mix in sausage, parsley and grated cheese until well blended.
Roll out dough (NOTE: this is a covered pie. Be sure to reserve dough to roll out and cover once the shell has been filled), fill, cover.  Brush top of pies with beaten egg, prick top to vent.  Back in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower temp to 375 until done (approximately one hour more).

Yield: 1 8 x 13 pie or 3 really full 8×8 pies.

Buon Pascale!

Not a pain at all

December 1, 2010

Pain Petri: a challah infused with fennel seed and topped with sesame seed.


Tonight is the first night of Hannuka. I haven’t yet planned on when I’ll make my latkes and brisket, but you can bet it will be before the week is out. I did bake a batch of fennel infused challah bread, though. As good a way to kick of the holiday as any.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been back in touch with a couple of my Cohen cousins via the internet. Sandra has been sharing recipes along with the family updates.

Knowing my fondness for fennel she recently sent along a recipe for Pain Petri: a challah seasoned with fennel seeds. Sandra said her daughter, Elysa, makes it and it’s quite good and she thought I might enjoy the “mixture of {my} two heritages.” She forwarded me the recipe below from noted cookbook writer Joan Nathan. The best part is, the bread can be made in an hour. Quick as it is, the aroma wafting from the oven while the bread bakes will make you wish the clock would run faster.


Pain Petri  (Anise-Flavored Challah with Sesame Seeds)


Makes 4 challahs (16 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil
  • 7 to 8 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 heaping teaspoons anise seeds (note, I had fennel seeds on hand and substituted them for the anise seed)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 11/2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 375º, and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook, and pour in the water. Stir; when the yeast has dissolved, whisk in the two whole eggs, then add the oil.

Add 7 cups of the flour, the salt, sugar and anise seeds to the bowl, and beat for a few minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary. Form into a round loaf, then poke a 1-inch hole all the way through the center. Let the dough rest uncovered on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.

Use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into four equal pieces.

If needed, re-flour the work surface. Flour your hands.

Roll one of the pieces of dough into a cylinder about 20 inches long. Use the palms of your hands to flatten it, then roll it into a rope about 2 feet long, making sure there are no seams in the dough. Bring the two ends next to each other and twist to form a loose spiral.

Place on one of two lined baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining three pieces of dough, placing two on each baking sheet.

Beat the two egg yolks in a bowl, then add the water. Stir well, and brush all of the mixture over the loaves. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350º and bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped.

Cool before serving.

Note: Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring or shaking them frequently, just until fragrant and lightly browned.

Invest an hour in this recipe. You’ll light up at the results.

Happy Hannuka!