Or East Meets West, if you prefer.
At this year’s Momma d’Elisson Memorial Chanukah Dinner - an annual event that commemorates both the Festival of Lights and my mom, the late, great Bernice - East meets West by virtue of the menu, which consists of take-out Chinese food (East) alongside fresh, hot potato latkes (West).
But there’s another way to spin the East meets West game, and that is to take an Ashkenazic (i.e., Eastern European Jewish) food - the aforementioned latkes - and couple them with a Sephardic/Mizrahi (i.e., Iberian/Middle Eastern Jewish) food - herbed labneh.
Some time back, I saw an amazing recipe for herbed labneh with preserved lemon - a jacked-up version of a typical Middle Eastern cheese product. (Labneh is basically a thicker version of Greek yogurt. You can make it yourself by straining Greek yogurt through a cheesecloth or by taking the easy way out and buying it in prepackaged form at your local Middle Eastern grocery.) Since I happened to have a supply of preserved lemons handy (really!), I tried it. It was amazing.
It was even more amazing when spooned on top of Dee’s incomparable potato latkes. The cool, tart labneh, with its lemony savoriness (and a substantial burn from serrano peppers), perfectly complemented the latkes’ crispy crusts and creamy, potatoey interiors.
Potato latkes (top); herbed labneh with preserved lemon (bottom). Put ’em together and you get a little slice of heaven right here on Earth.
I may never eat latkes with plain ol’ sour cream again.