Of course, the potato latke is de rigueur on any Hanukkah menu, but why not serve latkes with other seasonal ingredients, I wondered? That’s when sweet, delicate butternut squash came to mind... and this recipe was born.
Because the squash is grated raw, the latkes remain light and slightly crunchy. The addition of the pan-roasted cumin seeds bring these lovely morsels an exotic flair, while the sour cream helps to pull the flavors together.
Note: The latkes can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead and kept at room temperature. To reheat, place on a jellyroll pan and warm in a 400 degree preheated oven for 6-7 minutes until sizzling.
Heat a small, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they turn dark brown and are fragrant, about 2 minutes, shaking the pan constantly and taking care not to burn the seeds. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
Place the butternut squash and leek in a medium-sized bowl. Sprinkle the cumin seeds and flour on top. Season with the salt and pepper and toss well. Add the eggs and stir until well blended.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to generously cover the pan (about 1/8-inch). Using a dessert spoon, drop 2 teaspoons of batter into the hot oil for each latke. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Flip the latkes and sauté for another 2 minutes until golden brown. (You may have to lower the heat as the pan gets hotter. The latkes shouldn’t turn brown too fast and the oil should never come to the smoking point.)
Transfer to a platter lined with a paper towel. Repeat until the butternut squash mixture has all been used up, adding more oil to the pan as necessary. Place the latkes on a platter. Spoon a dollop of sour cream on top of each latke. Garnish with a cilantro leaf and serve immediately.