Holidays. Traditions. Trees. Candles. Advent Calendars. Dradles. Reindeer. Mistletoe. “THE TREE”. Parties. Gifts. AND FOOD. Ahh, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for an uninterrupted pass at eating almost continuously. Somewhere in between the all of the food we also have work, family time and to think about gifts and small gestures to offer loved ones and friends hosting our celebrations. In my family Christmas is a time of certain traditions, albeit turned a little sideways, as my generation gets closer to helming the Christmas Eve dinner, and, a time where many of us love to take on creative projects for the gifting part.
Personally, I have never really understood going out and buying presents for the hell of it because it is just what you do. I have to feel connected to what I am sharing in some way. Over the years the gifts always take on some sort of theme and everyone receives something that is at once part of the bigger picture and hopefully a little personal to them. At best it’s an opportunity to be able to reflect back my personal experience of each person. Still, it’s not always easy to get to that place and sometimes I just need to keep it simple. Case in point, last year the theme was SOCKS with some underlying theme of ‘don’t be barefoot in the kitchen unless you want to be pregnant’. But I digress.
This year I’m feeling a little more ambitious and thoughts of JARS and putting things up is on my mind. Here is a short list of food projects that I’m considering and hope, that even if I don’t get to most of them you might be inspired to take one on.
MOSTARDA. Mostarda is a traditional Italian condiment for meat and cheese and can be made with a wide variety of fresh and dried fruits.
VERDURETTE. I first came upon verdurette through a post by Frank Giglio of Three Lily Farms. More research into this old French technique of at once preserving root vegetables and creating an AMAZING instant base for vegetable stock, led me all over the place and to this great blog: Cinnamon Girl. Check it and MAKE IT!
PICKLED VEGETABLES. These are quick pickles and meant to be consumed withing a few weeks or a couple of months at most. I love pickles and the sour flavor period AND the sour flavor is excellent to counter all of the more dense food you may be consuming this time of year! Here is one for Japanese turnips from a super old blog post of mine and one for Chard Stems from Food 52.
RAW CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES. Chocolate. Truffles. Enough said.
If you are not up for playing with any of these projects, at the very least, whip up this vegan (if you so choose) and gluten free (sound the trumpets) riff on latkes to nourish you while you are wrapping up presents or toasting the holidays with friends and family. They are definitely a little sideways, but I like it that way.
As is typical for me, I took the ‘latke project’ on as a curiosity as latkes are not something native to my family culture, but being madly in love with someone who does have a latke pedigree, I thought I would play with them and see how I might create a version friendly to people that don’t want dairy or shy away from gluten. They are pretty delicious so I encourage you to give them a try!
SWEET POTATO- PARSNIP LATKES
1 large sweet potato, grated on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor, about 4 cups
2 parsnips, grated on the large holes of a box grated or in a food processor, about 1 cup
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced, about 1/3 cup
1/4c flax meal
1/4c almond or chickpea flour
1/3 c almond or cashew cream* (recipe follows) or thick, full fat, yogurt
fresh ground black pepper
For cooking: coconut oil, olive oil or butter for cooking
Garnish: almond or cashew cream, yogurt, creme fraiche, chives and whatever else you may choose.
Place all of ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands, mix everything well. I let it sit for a little bit so the vegetables softened. Please note this won’t be “batter like”, the mixture is thick and holds together well.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of your choice of fat in a large skillet, get it to the point of sizzling. Meanwhile, start to form 2-3 inch cakes. Put just a few in the pan at a time, so as not to crowd things up, and flatten them down. Cook until browned and turn over to brown the other side, about 2 or so minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining batter. These are pretty sturdy and hold well. In fact you can reheat any left over ( if only) in a pan with a little more oil or the oven.
To serve, top with a little cream of your choice and chives.
CASHEW or ALMOND CREAM
1c cashew or blanched* almonds
1c water or rejuvelac
1/4 t salt
Place all the ingredients in a blend and bled from low to high, adding more liquid if necessary to achieve a thick cream consistency.
* soak the almonds for 8 hours or overnight and peel. This is a little painstaking, but totally worth the effort.