“Latkes, latkes, what a treat/Latkes, latkes, can’t be beat.” When I was a kid, we chanted this every Hanukkah when my mother whipped up potato latkes. Pancakes typically made with grated potatoes and fried in oil, latkes are, for Ashkenazi Jews, synonymous with Hanukkah. But you don’t have to be Jewish or celebrating the Festival of Lights to enjoy this veggie latke recipe from chef Michael Scelfo. The owner of three eateries in Cambridge, MA—Alden & Harlow, the Longfellow Bar, and Waypoint Harvard—has created a latke recipe that replaces the potatoes with zucchini, kale, and other goodies. The resulting pancakes are still quite a treat.
Makes 8-12 large latkes
1 zucchini, sliced thin
½ jalapeño, deseeded and sliced thin lengthwise
6 kale or Swiss chard leaves, sliced chiffonade style
3 scallions and/or spring onions, sliced thin lengthwise
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
black cracked pepper
“a splash” or two of milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 cups all-purpose/plain flour
butter or grapeseed oil for frying
handful of torn mint leaves, plus more mint for garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons crumbled feta (for topping)
honey (for serving)
The key is to cut all the vegetables as thin as possible. “This is why I suggest cutting the zucchini on a box grater or using a mandoline slicer,” Michael says.
To slice chiffonade style, Michael suggests stacking the leaves and rolling them tightly, then slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll to create small, thin rings.
Place the zucchini slices in a medium-size mixing bowl, spreading them around, then add the rest of the vegetable slices and the garlic.
Add the eggs and mix well. “Think of this as making a pancake batter,” Michael says. “As the vegetables are in thin slices, ensure they are fully coated with eggs.” Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper, then a splash of milk, and mix again. If the vegetables aren’t moist, add another splash of milk. Add the olive oil and continue mixing so that that vegetables are well coated.
Gradually add flour and continue mixing. The zucchini will begin to soften. Mix until a batter consistency forms. If the batter becomes too wet, add more flour as needed. Add an additional sprinkling of salt to taste.
Generously coat a cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottom pan with butter or grapeseed oil. Place over high heat. Allow heat to build up in the pan for a few minutes, ensuring the butter or oil has a nice shimmer when you move the pan back and forth.
If your batter has thinned by this point (it happens; vegetables have high water content), add more flour to thicken, mixing well. At this point you could mix in a large handful of torn mint leaves if desired.
Place a “serving size” spoonful of batter on the skillet. Use a spatula to lightly press down and flatten the latke. Feel free to cook several latkes at a time. Once the bottom of the latkes is golden, flip them. “Try to flip the latkes away from you so oil doesn’t splatter,” Michael says.
When the latkes are golden on both sides, transfer them to a serving dish. Top with feta cheese. Garnish with fresh mint leaves, and serve with a drizzle of honey, an additional sprinkling of salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.