The Palatable Pantry: Taste Memories of Holidays Past
By Sydney Karp Poll, a local holistic health coach, chef and friend of Care for Real
Food can evoke what we call ‘taste memories.’ Have you ever had a bite of pasta or smelled an apple pie and instantly recalled a memory from 10 years earlier? Those are taste memories. Holidays typically have a special place in our hearts. For me, there are a few recipes where I instantly reflect back upon happy moments with my loved ones.
My family always held an M.Y.O.P. contest (Make Your Own Pizza) on Christmas Day. It grew from a small family activity into a friendly competition between family and friends. A crown was awarded to the winner, and the laughter could be deafening. There were little bowls of various toppings, which might include basil, mozzarella, tomato sauce, pesto, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, black olives, pepperonis, and more. Everyone’s pizza would be different, and we all tried each other’s.
Pizza dough is sold at almost every grocery store, and I recommend buying rather than making it from scratch. You can even form the dough into various shapes like hearts or a Christmas tree! I added a mushroom pizza recipe below, but you can use whatever topping you like best.
Since Christmas was often around the time of Hanukkah, a special appetizer, potato latkes, was served at our annual M.Y.O.P. contests. I remember my dad frying the latkes in the kitchen. The smell was so amazing that the latkes rarely made it to the table; we would all swarm into the kitchen and eat them once cooked. My family’s recipe below is for latkes that are crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside. The traditional way of eating them is to top the pancakes with applesauce or sour cream, but if you want to really make a showstopper, top them with smoked salmon or, even better, caviar!
- Pre-made pizza dough purchased from the grocery store (or homemade, if you prefer)
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms of your choice
- 1 tbs avocado oil
- 1 tsp anchovy paste (or more if you like it)
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 1 tsp dried basil
- Grated mozzarella cheese (the amount is up to you)
- A little flaky salt
- Your favorite hot sauce
- Set oven at 450 degrees with pizza stone inside.
- Break the dough in half.
- Lay out on floured parchment and make a circle, heart, or shape of your choice.
- Sauté about 1 cup of sliced mushrooms (fresh or canned) in 1 tbs of avocado oil, a little anchovy paste, 1 tsp marjoram, and dried basil. Cook until soft and fragrant.
- Drain the liquid from the pan.
- Spread the pizza sauce on your dough. Top with mozzarella cheese and then your mushroom mixture.
- Bake for about ten minutes or until the cheese starts to brown and the dough is fully cooked.
- Top with flaky salt, and always add your favorite hot sauce.
Potato Pancakes (LATKES)
- 4 potatoes
- 2 cups of neutral oil like avocado or UNTOASTED sesame
- 1 yellow or white onion
- 1 beaten egg
- 2 tbs of flour (you can try gluten-free flour, as well)
- 1 tsp of salt
- Few grinds of black pepper
- Grate the potatoes finely with the onion into a big bowl. Drain as much liquid as possible. (You can use a food processor with the shredder attachment to save time and muscle.)
- Mix in the salt, pepper, egg, and just enough flour to make the batter thick (approximately 3 tbs.)
- Turn the oven to 200 degrees.
- Heat ¼ inch of oil in a cast-iron skillet or similar pan over medium-high heat and drop two or three ¼ cup mounds into the oil.
- Flatten the pancakes until they are ½ inch thick. Make them thinner if you prefer latkes on the crispy side.
- Fry them, turning once or twice until golden brown.
- Once golden, lay the pancakes on a paper towel-lined plate or cookie sheet to drain the excess oil. (Flattened brown paper bags from the grocery store work well, too.)
- Keep them warm in the oven until serving.
- Top with applesauce, sour cream, smoked salmon, or better yet, caviar!