Leek & Celery Pancakes
It’s hard to imagine life before potatoes, but they and sunflower oil are both discoveries from the New World. Leeks, however, have been cultivated in the Mediterranean for over four thousand years, and celery even longer than that. Both are used a lot in Judeo Spanish cooking.
Potato-free and made with olive oil, medieval crepes and omelets were also liberally dosed with fresh herbs and spices. I like the simplicity of this version, which is pre-New World and close in spirit and flavor to my family’s Rhodes sensibility, more about herbs than spices. If someone you love shouldn’t eat potatoes (which aggravate rhumatoid arthritis), this will still put a smile on their face.
4 large leeks (whites & tenderest green part only
- 1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup matza meal
good olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Slice the leeks crosswise into 2-inch lengths and cut these segments lengthwise in quarters. Rinse well in a bowl of cold water and drain. If the leeks are very sandy you’ll have to rinse them in two or three changes of water.
Put the cleaned leeks into a saucepan, add cold water just to cover and a little salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for a few minutes until the leeks are soft but not mushy. Drain the leeks in a colander and, when cool enough to handle, gently press out the excess water.
Break the eggs into a bowl that’s large enough to hold all the ingredients. Don’t beat them. Add the leeks, chopped celery leaves, matza meal, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well with a fork and let rest a few minutes.
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a skillet – about 1/4 inch – over a medium-high flame. When the oil is hot (but not smoking), drop large spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and flatten them lightly with a spatula. Fry the keftes on one side until golden, then flip them over to finish cooking on the other side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle very lightly with salt.
Serve warm or at room temperature.