Latkes and 3 simple toppings

Apple salsa topping on potato latkes

Apple salsa topping on potato latkes (Credit: Marge Perry)

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This is the classic latke recipe. Replace some of the potato with grated zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, parsnip, apple or pear if you like.

Latkes are best eaten right out of the frying pan. A close second is latkes made within the hour, drained briefly on a plate lined with paper towels and kept warm in a very low (200-degree) oven.

Latkes kept over an hour tend to get dry and heavy. To keep them as light as possible, cover them with a damp paper towel and a cloth before placing in a low oven. And whether they will be held for 30 minutes or two hours, be sure to keep them in a single layer on the pans.

2 large (1 3/4 pounds) baking potatoes, peeled

1 2 1/2-inch yellow onion, peeled and quartered

1 large egg

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 to 5 tablespoons butter

3 to 5 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Grate the onion and potato on the largest holes of the box grater, with the grating disc of the food processor, or with a v-slicer or mandoline.

2. Lightly beat egg and combine with flour and salt. Toss with the potato and onion.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil in a skillet. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter into the pan, forming it into a 1/2-inch thick disc. Repeat, forming four pancakes, or as many as comfortably fit without crowding the pan. Cook until brown and crisp on the underside, flip and cook until again brown on the underside, for a total of about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and keep warm in a 200-degree oven until serving (but preferably for no more than an hour).

4. Add another tablespoon each of butter and oil to the skillet and repeat the process several more times, until you've used all the batter.

Makes about a dozen latkes. Recipe may be doubled, tripled or quadrupled.

I love latkes with traditional applesauce and sour cream, but where is it written that there's no other way to enjoy them? Spicy and sweet salsa, honeyed yogurt and sauteed apples (feel free to substitute a little Calvados for the apple juice) may not be as traditional, but is every bit as tasty atop freshly fried latkes.

APPLE SALSA

2 medium golden delicious apples, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch dice

1 red pepper, cut in 1/4-inch dice

1/2 jalapeƱo, finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped scallion

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit at least 20 minutes. Makes 4 servings

Nutritional analysis per serving: 58 calories, 1 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 0 fat, 149 mg sodium

CARAMELIZED APPLE TOPPING

Swirl in an extra tablespoon of butter at the end for an even richer topping.

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon canola oil

4 apples Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges

1/2 cup apple juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch salt

1. Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, apple juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and the liquid caramelized, about 6 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 92 calories, 0 protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 39 mg sodium

HONEYED YOGURT TOPPING

This makes a great alternative to the usual sour cream. Use rich, thick Greek yogurt (such as Fage brand), be it fat free or full fat.

1 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)

1. Combine the yogurt and honey, and refrigerate, covered, for up to one week. One to two hours before serving, stir in the mint, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving: (made with fat-free yogurt): 94 calories, 5 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 0 fiber, 0 fat, 0 saturated fat, 22 mg sodium.

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