Category Archives: Appetizers

Quinoa and Corn Chowder from Ecuador

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This fabulous recipe was inspired by the book The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces. The book explores the cuisines of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba and Mexico. This is one of the best cookbooks I have picked up in a while. In this recipe, I used fresh corn, but good frozen corn would work too. I also added some seasonings and chiles to the recipe. I make my own achiote paste, but you can buy it in Hispanic or Asian markets. Quinoa is an amazing chenopod, full of protein and fiber.

Quinoa and Corn Chowder

Crema de Quinoa de Zuleta; Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Corn

Ingredients:

2 cups Canola Oil for frying

2 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into match sticks or cut on a spiral cutter 

Kosher Salt

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil.

½ Spanish onion, finely chopped or TSTE dehydrated shallots reconstituted

6 cloves minced garlic or 2 Tablespoons TSTE Vik’s Garlic Fix 

1 Tbs achiote paste (click here for my recipe)

1 ½ cups quinoa (any color)

Kernels cut from 3 ears of corn or 1 cup of thawed and drained frozen white sweet corn

5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup heavy cream

2 Tbs minced fresh parsley

1 Tbs Aji Amarillo Chile Powder 

4 roasted poblano chiles, seeds and membranes removed, then diced

2 Tbs minced fresh chives (or leave in 1 “ strips)

Sliced Avocado for serving (optional)

Method:

  • Fry the potato strips in 375 degree oil till crispy and drain, season with salt
  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat, cook the onion and garlic till translucent, about 10 minutes.
  • Rinse and strain the quinoa
  • Stir in the achiote paste and cook for another 5 minutes
  • Stir in the quinoa and corn.  And cook, stirring often, till the quinoa is lightly toasted
  • Stir in the roasted poblano chiles

Add the cream and stock and bring to a light boil. Lower the heat to a light simmer,  uncovered till the quinoa is tender and the liquid has reduced by about one quarter, about 45 minutes.

Quinoa and Corn Chowder 2

To serve, fold in the parsley, and top with fried potatoes and chives. Garnish with avocado. This also goes perfectly with the Yuca Cheese Bread and Guava Chile Butter I posted last week.

yuca bread close up

The BEST New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp

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BBQ Shrimp close up

This is one of the best dishes I have made or tasted in a long time! I have been curious about this dish for a while. When I managed The Spice and Tea Exchange I had a lot of requests for a seasoning blend for making New Orleans BBQ Shrimp. I did some research, found some recipes (which varied greatly), asked some friends who had lived there and came up with this recipe. I have to say, it is one of the best things I have ever made! It takes a LOT of butter (one recipe called for TWO pounds of butter) and in fact I ended up using half butter, half Olive Oil, but you can save the sauce and use it a few more times as it is really only a poaching liquid, you don’t eat much of it, just the bit in the bowl that you dunk your bread into. It just gets better and better. I have butter poached lobster before and this recipe is a spicier form of that. This recipe can be tweaked to meet your more or less spicy palate, but it is meant to be spicy in a Cajun kind of way, full flavored. I also used wonderful Low Country Shrimp which have excellent texture and a sweet flavor. Not everyone has access to these, so of course, find the best quality shrimp you can find.

New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 pound of unsalted butter (yes, that is a lot)
  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons (I used Meyer because that is what I have and love)
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Ghost Pepper Salt (or sea salt)
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Salt
  • LOTS of freshly rough ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika(I used hot, but you can do half sweet and half hot)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon  dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (pull stick out after cooking)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped (more for serving
  • 2# of high quality shrimp, heads on if available. De-vein  if you want to, but leave the shells on (yes, it will be messy but have much better texture and flavor if you cook it in the shells)

Method:

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  • In a large oven proof saute pan, melt the butter, whisk in the oil and add everything but the shrimp and parsley. Simmer on very low flame for 20 minutes to incorporate. While this is cooking, preheat oven to 225.
  • Add shrimp and parsley and bake for 20 minutes (this can be done on a low burner too, but you will have to stir it), you just want to poach the shrimp, not over cook them. This is the reason for the low temperature.

BBQ Shrimp in bpwl

Serve with crusty French Bread and a salad.

BBQ Shrimp plated with tomato pie

Reserve any leftover cooking liquid and you can re-use it again.

Heart Woodfire Kitchen

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Tucked away off of Folly Road on James Island, Heart Woodfire Kitchen is a very special place. It is fun and hip and the first thing that hits you when you open the door is the sweet deep aroma of wood burning. This touches me tenderly, as I once owned a wood burning oven at my cooking school in Chicago and I miss it so much. The very core of this place is the Valoriani wood burning oven and a wood fired rotisserie grill. It does not stop there. Clever cocktails, local produce, pork and chicken raised in the Low Country, nice wine and beer selections and a creative upscale menu without being pretentious. This is not fast food, not BBQ and not white tablecloth dining, it is great flavorful dining at the mid price level, something we do not have a lot of in Charleston.

We went on a Tuesday night after going to see a film. It was balmy outside, so we opted for outside dining. The restaurant was unusually busy for a Tuesday and it was obvious that this was a bit unexpected for the staff. The assistant manager became our server because they were short staffed and we were very lucky because she was on top of her game and gave us second glasses of wine on the house because the kitchen was jammed. The food was excellent. Full of smoky flavor and interesting textures.

splendi heart woodfire

We started with a small order of one of their “Speidie,” little skewers. cooked close to the flame. We had the Fontina wrapped in prosciutto & balsamic with a wheat berry salad. 2 skewers for just $6, quite the perfect thing to nibble on while you are drinking one of their fabulous cocktails. They offer two other Speidie, one with Beef Short ribs, rosemary oil & almonds and another with Bacon wrapped Chicken Livers & chimichurri. The menu has several other small plates including some interesting soups& salads  that change with the seasons.

We shared  a spinach salad with roasted beets, wheat berries, romaine,onions and a green garlic vinaigrette.  It was crisp and yet warming with the roasted beets. The green garlic vinaigrette was perfect. I would have liked a little piece of their fabulous house made bread to go with it.
spinach salad
My husband ordered the blackened catfish sandwich which comes on one  of their sturdy house made rolls. It was round and he was expecting more of a poor boy style bread, but the flavors were fabulous and the fish was crusty with spices on the exterior and warm, tender and white on the interior, just as it should be. He ordered creamed mustard greens as his side and they were stellar. I had a few bites and we brought the rest home because after a bag of popcorn at the movies we were fuller than we thought we were.

flat bread

I had one of their signature flat breads, really a crispy little pizza. I opted for the vegetable flat bread with Acorn Squash & Goat Cheese, fennel, cauliflower & arugula pesto.I bought some home and will be having it for lunch today.

We are looking forward to going back and trying some of their local fish from the wood fired oven. We also saw dishes of their baked pasta with four cheeses walk past us and they looked delicious. Their rotisserie chicken looked fantastic and I can only imagine that their Grilled Butcher’s Steak with roasted mushrooms & onions, herb butter is fantastic. The Wood Fired Vegetable Stew, basmati rice, basil pesto, lemon yogurt, toasted almonds & apricots also sounds interesting to me.

Wood fire cooking

They have an extensive lunch menu and what looks like a fun brunch menu. They have happy hour from 4-6 and the offerings are a good way to taste several things at a reduced price.

My suggestion? Run don’t walk to this hidden gem of a restaurant. Heart Woodfire Kitchen at 1622 Highland Ave Charleston SC 29412  (843) 718-1539 Look for this sign off of Folly Road:
Heart woodfire

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

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baked

It is Meyer Lemon season. I have been in love with Meyer Lemons since I was a little girl. My great grandmother had an ever bearing Meyer. Coming from a citrus family has advantages. I wonder how that 60+ year old tree in Glendora, California  is doing now. I do lots with the lemons on my tree and those I buy to supplement my habit. Here is what I did with some of them yesterday.

Meyer Lemon Focaccia

Ingredients:

Makes 1 focaccia.

  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) instant yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons if you use bulk
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, preferably organic
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Olive oil, for bowl and baking sheet
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella or pecorino toscano thinly shredded
  • 2 lemons, very thinly sliced crosswise
  • about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary
  • 1-2 meyer lemons sliced thinly and seeded
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to grate over the top
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more if you like a kick)
  • thinly sliced sweet onion

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I use smoked)

*Note: It is best to use very fresh lemons for this, as older lemons rinds become difficult to chew.

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Method:

  1. In a large bowl, or in a bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast and 2 1/2 cups flour with 2 cups water; whisk to combine. Let stand 15 minutes.
  2. Add remaining 2 1/2 cups flour and salt; mix until well combined. Change to the dough hook if using a stand mixer. If using the mixer, knead with the mixer. If doing by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead until wet and tacky, but not sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until doubled in size, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
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  3. Scatter semolina on a large rimmed baking sheet and press dough evenly into baking sheet. Let rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  5. “Dimple the dough with your fingers  Drizzle some olive oil on the dough. Cover dough lightly with Pecorino or Mozzarella  and lemon slices, then sprinkle with rosemary and pepper; drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil. Gate a little Parm over the top.
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  6. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, and continue baking until lemons and crust are golden brown, about 15 minutes more.
    ready to bake
  7. Remove bread from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
    baked 2

Tamale Time

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tamales to steam

I make a big batch of tamales several times a year. Yesterday I made a batch of pork and green chile tamales. They are not at all difficult to make and they freeze really well. They are also easy to re-steam. Here is the recipe, but keep in mind the filling can be any number of things, from chiles and cheese to chicken, pork, crab, beef etc. Once you get the rolling technique down you will be able to make them with anything. I often triple this recipe. This recipe makes about 20 good sized tamales. You can make them smaller if you are using them as an appetizer.

filling and husks
You will need: 

Cornhusks or banana leaves for wrappers

String

4 cups of Masa para tamales (this can be found in the Hispanic aisle of most large grocery stores.

1 1/2 cups of home rendered lard (see here how to do it and why) or butter

4 cups of good stock (I used duck stock, but turkey chicken or veal stock works great)

2 tablespoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

A large pot fitted for steaming. You need a lot of water for this, so raise your steaming basket to allow for a lot of water. This has to boil for 40-60 minutes.

filling

Filling: 

2 tablespoons lard or olive oil
2 cups of well seasoned shredded pork shoulder (see my recipe here for making smoked braised pork shoulder Latin style).

1 onion finely chopped

6-8 roasted poblano chiles seeded, skinned and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (or in a pinch you can use canned green chiles)

8 cloves of garlic finely minced

1 tablespoon Vik’s Garlic Fix

1 tablespoon Sweet Onion Sugar

1 teaspoon of smoked salt (I make my own, but you can buy it here)

2 tablespoons of Ancho Chile powder

1/2 cup of stock

queso

2 cups of Queso para Quesedillas, para papusas or Jack cheese grated. Any good melting cheese is fine for this.

sauce

Sauce:

4 tablespoons of masa para tamales

4 tablespoons of house rendered lard or butter

1 cup of New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder

3 cups of good stock

Method

Cut lengths of string long enough to wrap the tamales. There are different ways of folding and wrapping the tamales, but this is my favorite way to do it. You can also tie just the ends or you can fold it so there is one side open and don’t even use strings. If you do this, you must place them upright in your steamer. Some people use parchment paper instead of corn husks or banana leaves.

Soak the corn husks in hot water, weight them down so they are immersed. Just before making the tamales, pour out the water. If you are using banana leaves they need to be heated to soften. I blanch them and place them on a wet towel.

In a stand mixer (or bowl with a beater) whip the cold lard for about 3 minutes on high speed till it is fluffy

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir. Fold that and the stock into the lard. Mix until a very moist (but not sticky) dough forms. Chill for about 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.

masa

In a large skillet melt the lard and add onions. Stir and cook till the onions are translucent, add garlic in a hot spot and stir, then add the chiles and spices and finally deglaze the pan with the stock and allow to simmer till the stock is absorbed, then cool.

Set up a station on a table or counter top. You will need the masa, the cheese, the filling, the string and a platter to stack the finished tamales on.

tamale ready to fold

Start with about 1/2 cup of masa on a corn husk. Fold the sides of the husk where you will want the ends of the tamales to be and spread the masa with the folded husk. Do the same thing with the top and bottom of the husk so that the dough is spread out and you end up with a square of dough about 4″ X 4″. You will need to select the husks that are large enough to accommodate this size of tamale. You should have at least an inch of exposed husk on all sides. Place the filling in the center of the masa and lightly push down on it. Then take the bottom end of the husk and roll it forward to meet the end of the dough. Pull the dough forward making the two ends of dough meet. Then fold in the sides and roll the tamale. Place the string under the tamale and tie like a package. Repeat till you have used all of the dough or filling.

tamale folded

In a steam pot, place the tamales on a rack, cover and boil vigorously for 40-50 minutes. While you are steaming make the sauce.

Chile Sauce:

You can use New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder for this. I used red this time, but my next batch of corn, cheese and chile tamales I am making green sauce.

Make a roux of the masa and lard, stir till slightly brown. Add the chile powder and stir, then whisk in the stock. Allow to simmer and thicken slightly. Keep warm till ready to serve.

To serve, open the husks and remove the tamales to a plate. The masa should be soft and supple, yet firm enough to hold together. Spoon the sauce over and add additional cheese, crema and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

tamales steamed

tamales plated 2

 

 

 

 

New Years Fun Food: Collard Green Empanadas

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empanadas with sauce

I had a New Years Day dinner party and decided to have a Hispanic theme. I usually make my Chiles en Nogada for Christmas, but I was busy working on Christmas Eve and decided to postpone that tradition till New Years. I have done a lot of regional Mexican and South American cooking, spent a great deal of time in Latin America from a young age and went to cooking school in Mexico.  Since moving to the Low Country, I have been interested in the spin that my friend Sandra A. Gutierrez has put on some of the traditional Latino recipes and ingredients in her book The New Southern-Latino Table. I decided to incorporate a few of her recipes into my menu for New Years and the first one  was Collard Green Empanadas. In the south it is a tradition to eat two things on New Years, greens  which represent folded money and black eyed peas which represent good luck. Sandra had recipes using both ingredients, so I made them her way with a few twists of my own.

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Here is the recipe for the empanadas. She suggested frying  store bought empanada dough or baking pastry dough. and I wanted to bake, so I used store bought pie pastry & baked them because of the time and mess crunch with all of the other parts of the meal I was doing. But you can make them with your favorite pastry dough too. I have filling leftover and plan on doing that next weekend.

Heat oven to 375

Ingredients: 

  • 2 Tablespoons Bacon Drippings (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion or shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped in a a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 bag of chopped frozen collard greens
  • 1/2 cup cooked and chopped bacon (I bake my bacon with Sweet Onion Sugar on it)
  • 1 8 ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup cojita or fresco cheese (optional) these cheeses can be found at Hispanic markets or most grocery stores now days.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 egg whisked
  • Raw sugar for topping
  • 16 empanada disks or 1 package of Pillsbury pie dough.

Method:

Empanadas

  • In a large skillet heat the oil/drippings and cook the onions till translucent. Add the garlic and saute for about 20 seconds, then add the drained collard greens. Saute for a few minutes and remove from the heat, cool for 20 minutes. Add cheeses and spices.
  • On a floured surface roll out the pie dough to an increase of about 25%. Cut circles with a biscuit cutter or glass. *you can make them bigger if you have a larger cutter, using more filling.
  • Put a teaspoon of filling on each disk and brush the egg wash around the edges. Close and seal, using a fork to crimp the edges. Use the remaining egg was on top of the empanadas. Sprinkle with the flavored sugar. Top with Habenero Sugar. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with salsa.

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Roasted Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Ravioli

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Wonderfully easy and fresh Ravioli! So easy 40 minutes from oven to table. You can also roast the tomatoes ahead of time and make this even faster.

The tomatoes are mostly small grape tomatoes, but I tossed in a few others too. The ravioli dough is actually won ton wrappers. I cannot find my ravioli cutters after the move, so I used a biscuit cutter. This recipe serves 2, but you could easily double it.

Ingredients:

  • 1# of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Vik’s Garlic Fix (or fresh garlic minced with a sprinkling of Kosher salt)
  • finely chopped Italian Parsley, Basil and rosemary (about 3 tablespoons total)
  • 8 nice leaves of Italian Parsley and Basil for the raviolis
  • 8 small balls of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers
  • 1 cup of dry vermouth (or chicken stock)
  • Reggiano Parmesan for grating
  • Additional seasoning to taste for the sauce, smoked salt, Vik’s Garlic Fix, coarse black pepper & crushed red pepper.

Cut the tomatoes in half. Place on a cooking sheet with rim. Drizzle with olive oil, Vik’s Garlic Fix, a spring of rosemary leaves and black pepper.

Roast at 350 for 30 minutes

Remove and cool slightly

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On a floured counter, lay out 8 wonton wrappers and place one parsley leaf, one basil leaf, one tomato half and one ball of mozzarella ball on each. On 8 other wonton wrappers, brush the egg wash and then place on top of the “loaded” wrappers. Seal carefully and then cut with a ravioli cutter or leave square. Place these on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and allow to dry a bit. 10 minutes is optional, but 5 is fine.

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While the ravioli is drying, put remaining tomatoes and juices in a saute pan and simmer with the vermouth and additional basil, parsley and rosemary. Season to taste.

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In a pot of boiling water, cook the ravioli for 3-4 minutes in small batches. Use a slotted spoon to plate and cover with sauce and top with cheese.

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Sriracha Buffalo Chicken Wings

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Wings plated with Beer

I love sassy stuff. Sriracha is a staple in my house. So is Frank’s Hot Sauce. This recipe is easy and delicious too. If you want to make it healthy, you can use the sauce as a marinade and grill the wings. I opted for the fry method here, but I do grill them too.

Sauce:

1 stick of unsalted butter

1 bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce

2/3 cup Sriracha Sauce (Rooster on the bottle)

3 tablespoons Vik’s Garlic Fix 

1 tablespoon Sweet Onion Sugar 

Place all in a pan and simmer while frying the wings.

sauce

I used Drummets, they have more meat on them and they are readily available here. When we lived in Hawaii they were impossible to find. I wonder what they do with all of the other wing parts…. cat food?

In a large deep pan, heat oil to 400 and then adjust the heat to maintain 350-400 degrees while frying.

Fry in small batches so the wings do not stick together.

This should take about 6-8 minutes, remove when golden brown.

wings fried

Drain.

Place in a pan once all are fried and pour the sauce over and stir to make sure the wings are completely covered with sauce.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Serve with celery, carrots and blue cheese dressing. FINGER LICKING good.

wings plated

Want another great wing recipe: Here I recreated Husk’s Sweet Tea Brined Smoked Kentuckyaki Chicken Wings. 

And here is a post from my friend Scotty Harris, who lives near Buffalo about wings… he insists there is no such thing as Buffalo Wings, they are just wings to him.

Candied Bacon, Beyond Delicious

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bacon candy

File this one under DELICIOUS! This recipe could not be easier, especially if you have access to the flavored sugars mentioned. But you can also make your own by adding chile powder to raw sugar. The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston is part of a larger company with many franchise stores around the US. They also sell everything on their corporate website. I have provided links for the sugars in case you would like to order them. You can also play around with other flavors, but this is a terrific combination.

1 package of bacon, I used thick cut black pepper bacon

3 tablespoons of Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar

1 tablespoon of Spice and Tea Exchange Habanero Sugar

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  • Place the bacon strips close together on a broiler pan
  • Sprinkle the bacon with the sugars and fresh ground black pepper
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is crispy

You may want to double this recipe… it is impossible to resist eating these.

All of the grease will go down to the bottom pan and after you pour that out clean up is easy.

 

Best Latke Recipe! Gluten Free too!

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latke

I make Latkes (my mother called them Potato Pancakes) year round. Sometimes I make them dense as a breakfast food and other times I make them tiny and serve them as appetizers with sour cream, dill , caviar and applesauce.  Yesterday morning they were on my brunch table along with candied bacon BLTs and broiled grapefruit from my trees. While generally latkes are made with flour, I used cornstarch with mine so they are also gluten free. If you have a food processor it is a super easy recipe, if you don’t it is still pretty fast. Give them a try both ways and you will see how delicious they can be. I like mine savory, so I eat them with really good BBQ sauce and bacon, but for a fancier meal I go for the lighter version and add sour cream, smoked salmon and dill.

Ingredients:

  •  2 large russet potatoes
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill (optional)
  • 1/2″ of olive oil & 1 tablespoon of butter in a large heavy pan

Using the fine grater on the food processor grate the potatoes and onion. Place in a sieve over a bowl and allow to rest for 5 minutes, then push the excess water out.
*Note if using a hand grater, use the larger holed grater, the fine one on that is too small.

Place the potatoes and onion in a medium bowl and add the egg and stir, then sprinkle the corn starch and dill over the bowl and stir again till all are incorporated. For larger portions, create 2-3 flat cakes and add to the pan when the oil sizzles when a piece f potato hits it. For the smaller portions add cakes about 1 1/2 to 2″ across. These cook more quickly, so keep your eye on them. You want the small cakes to be lighter, more light gold and the larger cakes to be a crispy golden brown. Place on a rack to drain before serving.

Appetizer Potato Latkes