My grandmother was a natural cook: “old world” style. She didn’t own a single cookbook or follow a recipe; she cooked purely by sight, smell and feel. When I was a child, she would come over to help my mother cook for the holidays. Nonchalantly, she would call me over repeatedly. “Taste this,” she would say. Ten minutes later she would do it again. “Does it need more salt? Does it need more sugar?” What I didn’t know back then was that she was actually training me to taste and season.
Watching her make latkes was a lesson in embracing mess. Each latke was lovingly shaped by hand, batter drips falling through her fingers. She cared about each and every latke, knowing that they were going to be feeding her family with her love. For her, cooking was synonymous with giving to others, and I try to follow in her footsteps. To this day, my very best cooking happens when I close my eyes, taste and season from the heart.
These sweet potato latkes remind me of her, but they also bring something different from the traditional latkes of my childhood: A little bit of spice complements the warm flavors of sweet potato.
Some cooking notes: For easiest prep, use the fine shredding disc on your food processor. The natural sugars in sweet potatoes can cause sticking in the pan. Do not try to move about or flip the latkes until a golden crust forms on the bottom of each latke. Latkes are best made fresh out of the pan, but if making in advance, reheat uncovered on a sheet pan in a single layer in a 350°F oven for 10–15 minutes or until hot and re-crisped.
This recipe is excerpted and published with permission from The Giving Table by Naomi Ross.
For the maple apple cream:
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons maple syrup
- ½ apple, peeled and grated
For the latkes:
- 2½ lbs medium sweet potatoes (about 3–4), peeled and grated
- 4 scallions, finely chopped
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp salt (or more to taste)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- canola or vegetable oil, for frying
- To make the maple cream: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk to blend.
- To make the latkes: In a large mixing bowl, stir together potatoes, scallions, flour, eggs, and spices.
- Heat about ¼-inch oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot (not smoking). Working in batches, spoon potato mixture (approximately 2–3 tablespoons per latke) into oil and flatten with the back of the spatula. Cook until golden brown, flipping once, about 2–3 minutes per side. Transfer latkes with a slotted spatula to a rack or place on paper towels to drain.
- Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream or maple apple cream.