Black Grape, Goat Cheese, and Noodle Latkes with Fragrant Honey

I had wandered several blocks from our Philadelphia hotel. The December sky was already purple and my toes frozen numb when I found the tiny bakery and hobbled in. Enveloped by the smells of strong coffee and a dazzling array of freshly baked focaccia, I immediately felt that all was right with the world.

The focaccia I chose was an unusual interplay of exuberant Mediterranean tastes—rosemary, goat cheese, midnight blue-black grapes and walnuts—all held in delicate balance by a final drizzle of fragrant honey.

I was so intrigued by the combination of flavors, I wanted to repeat them in another dish. I was thinking of a noodle pudding, but since it was so close to Hanukkah, I decided to update a traditional noodle latke recipe.

Honey is used here as a seasoning, not merely a sweetener. For superior results, select a honey with complex, highly aromatic notes: an herbal one, like Greek thyme or rosemary or musky, slightly bitter chestnut honey.

Delicious and not at all difficult to prepare, the latkes do require a bit of special attention. Since heat can make cheese soft and runny, work quickly shaping and frying the latkes to ensure that the cheese does not ooze out in the pan. Or try shaping the latkes, then chilling them again before frying.

Excellent for brunch, lunch, or as part of a dairy meal, these latkes also make a fine conclusion to a light supper.

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Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 4 ounces medium egg noodles (these should he flat; it is difficult to form these latkes with twisted, corkscrew-type noodles)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ÂĽ cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces fresh (not aged) goat cheese, chilled
  • 1 cup (about 7 ounces) black grapes, such as Muscat, seeded and cut into quarters
  • Unsalted butter and mild vegetable oil, such as avocado or canola, for frying
  • Fragrant honey

Method

  1. Bring 2–3 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a rapid boil in a large pot. Add the noodles and cook until just tender but still firm. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, walnuts, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Drain the cooked noodles thoroughly, let them cool slightly, then combine them well with the egg mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the mixture until cold and firm, about 1 hour. The noodles will have absorbed all the egg. Cut the cold goat cheese into bits and add it to the bowl, together with the grape quarters. Mix well.
  2. Take about ¼ cup of the mixture, making sure it includes some cheese and grape pieces, and shape it into a patty. Place it on a platter and continue forming patties until you have used up all the batter. Handle the patties carefully—they will be somewhat fragile—and always be sure each contains some of the cheese and grapes. If time permits, refrigerate the patties to firm them up before frying.
  3. In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons each of butter and oil over high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches, if necessary, add the latkes. Flatten each slightly with a spatula and fry quickly until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn carefully, using 2 spatulas if necessary, and brown on the other side. Avoid turning more than once. Add more butter and oil if needed to fry the rest, but be sure to let the fat get hot before adding the patties.
  4. Drizzle some honey on the hot latkes and serve immediately.

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