I remember this time last year when I was just beginning to fall in love with taking photos of food. Food had always been so beautiful to me, but I didn’t really start studying food photography until I discovered some gorgeous cookbooks last spring. I spent hours pouring into cookbooks and hoping to one day capture the colors and textures of dishes as richly as I saw on the pages. (Still trying to do just that, y'all — I'm always learning.)
One of the first cookbooks that inspired me to photograph food was “Jerusalem” — recommended to me by a mentor/professor who knew my love for cooking & would always let me borrow his copy to look through. This cookbook has photos from throughout Jerusalem that contextualize the recipes in addition to stunningly styled photos of all the dishes. I spent a great deal of time last spring flipping through its pages and admiring the vibrant cuisine & the hundreds of dishes I had never tasted.
Fast forward to the fall, I gifted this cookbook to one of my best friends who is moving to the Middle East in the future. (Not Jerusalem specifically, but I thought having some killer Middle Eastern recipes in her repertoire would still be useful!) Sophie read through the book & put tabs on all the dishes she wanted to try and when I visited her a few weeks ago, we were finally able to make something from "Jerusalem" together.
We settled on making latkes, something neither of us had made before, but the crispy potato pancakes caught our eye & looked too good to pass up. While I'm copying their recipe for you to use below, I do have a few suggestions from our experience making these latkes. First up, have a couple extra eggs on hand — four egg whites go into the potato mixture, but we also brushed a couple extra egg whites on top to help the pancakes keep their shape and hold together well. Another thing to keep in mind: this recipe made far more than the 12 latkes denoted in the cookbook — plan on making at least 24 if you use this recipe. (To serve 4 people, I would cut the recipe below in half.) Also, the grocery store was out of parsnips so we decided to substitute carrots, which worked nicely, but may have mildly affected the flavor from the original recipe.
Even still, my first experience with latkes was everything I hoped — the sharp chives, sweet carrots and crispy golden potatoes made for the perfect appetizer that we kept eating, even throughout dinner. I'll leave you with a note about this traditional potato pancake from the pages of "Jerusalem." “Don’t save latkes just for holidays though; they are truly marvelous and a good way to start any meal, or to accompany roasted beef. Latkes are also often served sweet. To do this, remove the chive and reduce the salt. Serve warm with sour cream and sprinkled with superfine sugar.”
- Rinse the potatoes (peeled & grated) in a large bowl of cold water.
- Drain in a colander, squeeze out any excess water, and then spread the potato out on a clean kitchen towel to dry completely.
- In a large bowl, mix together the potato, carrot, chives, egg whites, cornstarch, 1 tsp. salt, and plenty of black pepper.
- Heat half the butter and half the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Use your hands to pick out portions of about 2 Tbsp. of the latke mix, squeeze firmly to remove some of the liquid, and shape into thin patties about 3/8 inch / 1 cm thick and 3 ¼ inches / 8 cm in diameter.
- Carefully place as many latkes as you can comfortable fit in the pan, push them down gently, and level with the back of a spoon.
- Fry over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side. The latkes need to be completely brown on the outside.
- Remove the first latkes from the oil, place on paper towels, and keep warm while you cook the rest. Add the remaining butter and oil as needed.
- Serve at once with sour cream on the side.