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A COLUMBIAN CHANUKAH

Meet our columnist! Sara, the foodie behind @thymelyeats, originally hails from Colombia, South America. Aside from her bi-linguistic prowess, she combines her love for travel, healthy eating, and hospitality to create soulful and delicious foods for her family, friends, and Instagram followers. She loves cooking from scratch, chopping fresh herbs, watching her baby eat, collecting spices from around the world, and making food look as beautiful as it tastes.

 

A Columbian Chanukah 

I love to talk about Colombian cuisine, but I rarely cook the typical foods I grew up on. Not because I don’t love them (I do!) but because they tend to lean towards starchy, cheesy, and fried, and my year-round cooking style is much cleaner and healthier. But Chanukah is the time of year when the aroma of oil frying, and a satisfying cheese pull are all I want. These Colombian recipes accomplish exactly that for me (that, plus a euphoric dose of childhood nostalgia). As for my guests, they love a good variation of a latkes!

 

I challenge you to try something new this year: There are eight nights of Chanukah, and plenty of room on the menu for both traditional Chanukah foods and all of the fun variations! 

 

Patacones
The Colombian Latke
(makes approximately 12)

Sometimes referred to as “tostones”, these plantain fritters are popular all-over Latin America. Just like potato latkes, they’re delicious all on their own, or can be jazzed up with all kinds of toppings (think labneh, avocado crema, jalapeno aioli, or even pulled beef and steak slices). Patacones are twice fried, which makes them satisfyingly crunchy, and very much in the Chanukah theme. If you’re on the fence about making these, no, patacones don’t taste like bananas, and they don’t require peeling and grating.

 

You can find plantains at any bodega or chain supermarket- just be sure to look for the green unripe ones for this recipe.

 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 green unripe plantains 
  • Canola or vegetable oil for frying
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Trim the ends of the plantains. Make a slit along the length of the plantain and remove the peel (you may need to use your knife to coax the plantain out). Cut the plantain into 1.5-inch chunks, about six pieces for each plantain. 

 

  1. In a large skillet, heat about 1/8-inch canola vegetable oil over medium. When the oil shimmers, add the plantains, flat side down. Fry until beginning to turn golden, about 1 minute per side.

 

  1. Remove the plantains. Using 2 cutting boards, and working one piece at a time, set the fried plantain piece down on one cutting board and use the second one to gently press it down to flatten it.

 

  1. Refry the smashed plantains, until crispy and golden. Remove them from the pan and place them on a paper towel to drain the excess oil. Top with salt while they’re still hot. Serve them just like that, with scallion salsa (recipe below) or with any of the toppings suggested above.

 

Deditos De Queso
The Colombian Mozzarella Sticks

 

Once you have this version, I promise, you will not want to go back to the breadcrumb-covered mozzarella sticks. These deditos (or “fingers” in Spanish), are wrapped in a flaky, buttery dough. They take a bit of practice, skill and getting the oil temp just right, but it’s worth the learning curve, trust me! This dough makes for a fantastic quiche crust, so go ahead and double the dough recipe if you’re feeling ambitious.

 

Ingredients:

Makes approximately 30

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ cup butter, cut into small cubes (½ stick)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 15 mozzarella sticks, cut in half (or you can use your favorite flavored block of cheese, cut into 3 x 1/2in sticks)
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

 

  1. Mix flour, egg yolk, butter, sugar, and salt. Add milk slowly and mix until you get a dough-like consistency (not too floury, but not too sticky either). 

 

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. The thinner you can get it, the better! 

 

  1. With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut dough into strips about four times the size of the cheese sticks. Wrap the cheese stick using one strip of dough overlapping the dough (kind of like a bandage). Roll between your hands lightly to seal the edges (this is super important to make sure that the cheese doesn’t leak when you fry them). 
  2. Layer sticks flat on a tray, and freeze for a few hours, or best overnight. Take the sticks out of the freezer about 20 min before you’re ready to start frying them.
  3. Heat oil in small pot over medium heat (enough oil to cover the deditos completely– these are deep fried). When oil is hot, test one dedito out first: drop the dedito into the oil to see if the oil is hot enough and to make sure that the dedito is defrosted enough- it should get golden on the outside and completely melted on the inside. If the dedito is golden but the cheese inside is not pulling, you’ll need to let them defrost a few more minutes. If the deditos are leaking or falling apart, you’ll need to get them back in the freezer. 
  4. When you’re ready, fry the rest of the deditos in batches. Transfer the cheese sticks to a plate lined with paper towel and eat immediately, plain, or dipped in the scallion salsa.

 

Scallion Salsa

 

You can make this salsa as spicy as you’d like – just add less hot sauce and add more ketchup. The consistency is somewhere between a sauce and a chunky relish, making it perfect for both dipping and topping.

 

½ purple onion, minced
5 scallions, chopped small
½ tbsp. white vinegar
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
½ cup ketchup
2 tbsp. hot sauce
⅓ cup chopped cilantro

  1. In a medium serving bowl, combine the chopped onion, scallions, vinegar, sugar and salt. Let it marinate for about two minutes while you chop the cilantro. 
  2. Add the ketchup, hot sauce and cilantro, and stir to combine.

Green Goodness Labneh

Labneh is easy to throw together with ingredients that you usually have around. All you need is plain, whole milk yogurt, salt, and a cheesecloth (and a few hours’ notice, as this needs time to strain). You can serve it as is, or with a drizzle of good olive oil and zahtar. Here, I have a little fun with it and add even more pzazz. This is a fantastic topper for the patacones, but also delicious with breadsticks, crackers, or as a dip on a crudité platter.

Ingredients

32 oz.  whole milk or plain Greek yogurt 

1tsp. salt
1 lemon, peeled, deseeded, and segmented (Do this over a bowl so that you can save the lemon juices.)
A handful of parsley and/or cilantro, chopped (You can also use the frozen cubes as a shortcut.)
1 clove of garlic, crushed

  1. Pour the yogurt into a bowl. Stir in salt.
  2. Strain the yogurt: Line a strainer over another large bowl with a few layers of cheesecloth and pour the yogurt mixture into the cheesecloth. Allow it to drain in the fridge for 12 – 48 hours (depending on how thick you want the labneh to be).
  3. After the yogurt has strained, discard the liquid.
  4. Stir in the lemon segments, whatever juices are in the bowl, herbs, and garlic, and add more salt to taste.

 

 

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