As I mentioned in my previous post, I am part of the menu-planning group at Harvest Noon Cafe. We modify and test the recipes we dig up to meet the cafe’s mandate: affordable vegan lunches produced with local, organic ingredients. We try to make our mains gluten-free as well.
We are at that time of year when many of our tested recipes for main dishes featured squash. Now, that can stand as a testament to the mighty squash’s versatility, but we felt the need to switch things for our customers. We searched our mental filing cabinets and flipped through cookbooks as we picked away at the last bits of the very delicious ‘noon-tine’ sample (an attempt at vegan poutine crafted by Willie, a heavy-hitter on the menu planning team).
Like all kitchens, we are limited at the cafe by the capacity of our equipment and a tight preparation schedule. So when we started to get excited about giving autumn latkes a spin (again from Moskowitz’s Veganomicon), we realized that we had to bake the crunchy treats rather than fry them. Having grown up with some ‘Chrismukkah’ traditions, I associate latkes with extra-long stove-side sessions as the potatoes are fried in batches that need constant attention. Baking the latkes would be a revolution in freeing up hands to play board games, as that tends to be the activity of family members who aren’t busy in the kitchen on the holidays. For the purposes of the cafe, it would free up much needed space on the burners as well as the hands of a kitchen volunteer.
Autumn latkes replace the usual potatoes with beets, heirloom carrots, and sweet potato. Not to brag, but they are a taste and sight to behold! The sweetness of the roots remains a delicate flavour so it isn’t an overwhelming sugar binge to eat a plateful of these patties for a meal. When baked, the latkes crisped up on the outside yet also stayed a little tender and chewy on the inside, reminding me of this Simpsons moment. While grating the veggies, the vibrant pink, orange, and yellow of the shreds looked like some unique candy you’d find in the chocolate river room of Willy Wonka’s factory. Unfortunately, I had to grate by hand due to my grater-attachment-less food processor. Perhaps it was this long process that made my thoughts shift to fantasy sweets, though I think it might have just been one of those days. Long story short, I would encourage you to use a food processor, but let it be known that it can be done by hand. And don’t worry – we have a much better processor at the cafe!
Baked Gluten-Free Autumn Latkes
Modified from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Veganomicon
Yields 24 2-inch latkes (approximately4 servings), Takes 40 minutes to bake (prep time dependent on equipment)
300g beets (about 3 medium), peeled and shredded*
100g carrots (about 1 medium), peeled and shredded*
200g sweet potato or yam (about 1 medium), peeled and shredded*
50g shallot (about 1 medium), chopped finely
1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand, a blend of garbanzo flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, and fava flour)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for baking sheet
*Squeeze the excess water from your shredded veggies to ensure greater crispiness.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a large baking sheet as support, use oil to grease a piece of parchment paper or use a silicone mat (a.k.a. culinary lifesaver).
2. Combine shredded veggies in a large bowl with shallot, flour, cornstarch, salt, and black pepper. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together, letting the flour and cornstarch lightly coat all of the ingredients. The moisture from the veggies should dissolve the powders, but if it is still very ‘dusty’, add a splash of water.
3. Form the mixture into spheres with about an inch diameter. Place them on the greased baking sheet and then press down on them to form 2-inch medallions that are slightly thinner at the centre. Mist the top of the latkes with oil and place in the oven.
4. Bake for 20 minutes. Gently flip the latkes over and bake for 10 to 15 more minutes.
5. Remove those hot cakes from the oven and dig in!
The Veganomicon includes some great sauce options, including a vegan horseradish-dill sour cream. As a non-vegan, I ate the fresh latkes with some dairy sour cream and parsley on day one, and the leftovers with tzatziki. It’s a win in my books.