Kid-friendly Vegan Israeli Levivot Winter Fruit Fritters Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Vegan Israeli Levivot Winter Fruit Fritters

Recipe: Vegan Israeli Levivot Winter Fruit Fritters

Vegan Israeli Levivot Winter Fruit Fritters

by Erin Fletter
Photo by (Gita Kulinitch Studio/Shutterstock)
prep time
40 minutes
cook time
25 minutes
makes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Vegan Israeli Levivot Winter Fruit Fritters

Levivot (Potato Pancakes)!

Preparing for a Hanukkah celebration, we thought it would be great to feature a recipe from Israel. Levivot are Sephardic fried balls of dough typically served with rose or orange-kissed syrup. (Sephardic refers to Jewish people of Mediterranean origin). In other parts of the world, levivot are called potato pancakes (like latkes). How fun it will be to introduce these bite-sized, kid-friendly fritters to kids and let them stuff them with winter fruit, then serve them with a simple vanilla dipping sauce! Almost every single culture has some version of fried dough. It has been said that levivot can be found worldwide in various cultures because the people who first began frying dough migrated to many other places on the globe. But one thing brings them together: the comfort food of levivot. For example, Spaniards have a similar food called "bimuelos," another name for levivot. These fritters are even better drizzled with a creamy vanilla sauce and served with a quick ice-cold homemade Vanilla Float. Wishing you a sweet celebration, whatever it may be!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • dice :

    to cut foods into small pieces of equal size so that the food is cooked evenly or looks uniform and pleasant when used in the recipe.

  • fold :

    to gently and slowly mix a light ingredient into a heavier ingredient so as not to lose air and to keep the mixture tender, such as incorporating whipped egg whites into a cake batter or folding blueberries into pancake batter; folding is a gentler action than mixing or whisking.

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • sift :

    to pass a dry ingredient like flour or sugar through a sieve to make it lighter and more even in texture.

  • whisk :

    to beat or stir ingredients vigorously with a fork or whisk to mix, blend, or incorporate air.

Equipment Checklist

  • Oven
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Large Mixing bowl
  • Dry measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Muffin pan
  • Pastry brush (optional)
scale
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Ingredients

Vegan Israeli Levivot Winter Fruit Fritters

  • 1 large apple or pear (your choice!)
  • 1 C all-purpose flour (sub gluten-free flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/4 C dairy-free yogurt
  • 2/3 C full-fat canned coconut milk (or other dairy-free milk)
  • 1/2 C olive oil

Food Allergen Substitutions

Vegan Israeli Levivot Winter Fruit Fritters

  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free flour.

Instructions

Vegan Israeli Levivot Winter Fruit Fritters

1.
preheat + dice + sift

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Dice 1 apple or pear into small pieces. In a large mixing bowl, sift together 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2.
whisk + add + mix

Whisk together 2 tablespoons sugar, **1/4 cup dairy-free yogurt, and 2/3 cup dairy-free milk**. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined.

3.
fold + oil + bake

Fold the diced fruit into the batter. With a pastry brush, brush the insides of the wells of a muffin pan with oil. Divide the batter among the wells. Bake for 15 to 20 mins or until the fritters are cooked through. Let cool slightly, then drizzle with Creamy Vanilla Dipping Sauce (see recipe)!

Surprise Ingredient: Vanilla!

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Photo by Aquarius Studio/Shutterstock.com

Hi! I'm Vanilla!

“I'm a flower, a flavor, an aroma, a spice, a seed, and a pod! Did you know that my pods come from a Vanilla orchid? For cooking, I can flavor foods by adding vanilla extract (much tastier than imitation vanilla) or vanilla paste (made from extract and ground seeds). You can also slice open a pod and scrape out the tiny black seeds to add to your dish, and steep the pod in liquid. I'm essential for baking (and ice cream)!"

History & Etymology

  • Vanilla has an intriguing history. Because of its high value over time, vanilla has been the subject of historical robbery and great intrigue. Growers in Madagascar are known to "tattoo" their beans with a knife when the pods are still green so they can identify their beans if they suspect someone has stolen them. How they find the stolen beans is anyone's guess!  
  • Vanilla is indigenous to southeastern Mexico and, in the 1500s, traveled to Spain. Initially, it was only valued for its use as perfume. 
  • For hundreds of years, Mexico was the only country that grew vanilla. Now, Madagascar, an island country off the coast of Southeastern Africa, grows the most vanilla in the world.
  • Other places that produce vanilla are Costa Rica, Guatemala, Uganda, Kenya, China, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, Hawaii, and other Pacific Islands. Find these places on your map! What do they all have in common? They are hot, tropical places where vanilla orchids can grow abundantly.
  • Why is vanilla so expensive even today? It's because growing vanilla is very labor-intensive. In fact, vanilla is the second most labor-intensive agricultural crop, next to saffron. It can take nearly three years after planting the vines before the first orchid flowers appear. Vanilla beans must remain on the vine for nine months before developing their sweet aroma. The beans are still green when growers harvest them. Then they turn brown and become richly flavored during the drying and curing process. 
  • We consume the most vanilla in the United States compared to any other place! However, the vanilla found in fragrances and foods is 98 percent imitation! This is because synthetic vanilla is less expensive than the real thing.
  • Only the Melipona bee in Central America can pollinate the vanilla flower. In other parts of the world, farmers mimic the process with wooden needles.
  • July 23rd is National Vanilla Ice Cream Day in the US. 
  • The English word "vanilla" comes from the Spanish word "vainilla," meaning "little pod, the diminutive of "vaina," meaning "sheath" or "pod." 

Anatomy 

  • Vanilla is a member of the orchid family and prefers hot, wet, tropical climates. Vanilla is also the only edible orchid (that we know of).
  • A climbing vine, vanilla grows whitish-green flowers that are hand pollinated. It requires supportive structures for optimal growth. Vanilla vines can grow anywhere from 30 to 50 feet long!
  • The fruit, when mature, is about five inches long, a half-inch thick, and looks like a bean pod.
  • The pod ripens gradually for 8 to 9 months after flowering, eventually turning black and giving off a strong aroma. Inside the cured vanilla bean pod are thousands of tiny vanilla seeds that are rich in flavor. 
  • These seeds give vanilla bean ice cream its tiny black flecks, and it is how you know your vanilla ice cream is the real thing! 
  • The vanilla orchid lasts only a day, and pollination needs to happen before it dies. 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • No two vanilla beans are the same in taste, color, or aroma, just like wine grapes.
  • Store vanilla beans away from heat or light.
  • To open a vanilla pod, place it on a flat surface. Press down at the top to hold it steady, then take a knife and split the pod down the middle. Next, spread apart the pod and run your knife down its length. The seeds will stick to the knife! 
  • Use the empty vanilla pod to infuse a jar of sugar or salt. Or steep it in milk or cream to use in recipes! Or poach fruit with a vanilla bean to give it a subtle kiss of flavor.
  • A few drops of vanilla will balance a tomato's acidity. 
  • Steep vanilla beans in coffee or tea, or grind them with your coffee beans for flavored java.
  • Spiders don't like vanilla! So, vanilla and vinegar in a spray bottle will send spiders running!
  • Try chopping up vanilla beans and mixing them with Epsom salts and a little vanilla extract for a luxurious bath.
  • One vanilla bean is equivalent to about three teaspoons of vanilla extract.
  • You can add vanilla to sweet and savory recipes. Try mixing some vanilla beans into a homemade salad vinaigrette or poaching a vanilla bean in butter for a delicious sauce to serve over fish!
  • Vanilla extract is made by pounding vanilla pods in a solution of ethanol and water. Ethanol is a grain alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, but it is also used as a fuel additive, often blended with gasoline (especially corn-based ethanol). However, the ethanol manufactured for drinks and vanilla extract has to follow more purity standards than the type used in petroleum products.

Nutrition

  • There are some claims of the health benefits of vanilla, such as reducing skin damage, aiding digestion, and alleviating nausea; however, there is not enough evidence to confirm these. Still, vanilla's pleasant fragrance may help calm and lift moods.

 

What is Levivot?

Photo by vm2002 for Shutterstock
  • Levivot (Leh-veev-OTE) is a Sephardic pastry of fried batter. It is eaten as part of the celebration of Hanukkah. 
  • "Levivot" is a Hebrew word meaning "fritters" (a patty fried in oil), but the original levivot may have been boiled in water. The term is also used for Israeli potato pancakes. "Lev" (Lehv) means "heart" in Hebrew. 
  • The fritters are traditionally served at the end of the meal with a rose or orange blossom syrup. 
  • The custom of frying foods in oil started centuries ago to symbolize the small jar of oil used to light the Temple of Jerusalem for eight miraculous days after the Judean victory over Syrian-Greek forces. 
  • Although levivot are not precisely shaped like the objects we draw to symbolize the heart, records indicate a more antiquated and realistic interpretation of the heart would have looked more like a dumpling.

Let's Learn About Israel!

Photo by Haley Black
  • The State of Israel is a Middle East country. The Mediterranean Sea borders it to the west, Lebanon to its north, Syria to its northeast, Jordan to its east, and Egypt to its southwest.
  • Jerusalem is Israel's capital and largest city. 
  • The official language is Hebrew, but the Arabic language is also recognized.
  • The government of Israel is a unitary parliamentary republic and has a president, prime minister, and a legislature called the Knesset. Their currency is the Israeli shekel.
  • The country's total land area, according to Israeli law, is 8,522 square miles; however, the entire area under Israeli control, which includes the Palestinian-governed West Bank, is 10,733 square miles. The population is over 9.5 million. The majority of residents are Jewish, about 74 percent, and Arabs make up about 20 percent. 
  • The northernmost part of the country is snowy and covered in mountains, while the southern part is made up mostly of desert.
  • Israel's northern and coastal regions are hot and dry in the summers and cool and rainy in the winters. 
  • Israel's Dead Sea is the lowest spot on Earth, at 1,315 feet below sea level at its lowest point! This sea is saltier than ocean water and, as a result, you could easily float in it. However, animals cannot flourish in this salty environment. Other salt lakes around the world are in Djibouti (Africa), Utah, and McMurdo Dry Valleys (Antarctica). 
  • Wildlife in Israel is amazingly beautiful and varied. It includes the Arabian oryx, the Fire salamander, the Sand cat, the Arabian leopard, the Middle East tree frog, the Caracal, the Marbled polecat, the Mountain gazelle, and the Syrian spadefoot toad.
  • Israel is known as one of the world's leading exporters and growers of flowers. The climate is not, however, appropriate for growing vanilla orchids.
  • Per capita, Israel has more museums than any other city in the world. There is even an underwater museum at the site of a once-prominent port town. Visitors have to wear wetsuits, naturally.
  • Israeli inventions include USB flash drives and Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP).
  • An ice cream shop in Jaffa created hummus ice cream! The average Israeli eats about 2.6 gallons of ice cream per year, compared to 1.6 gallons per capita in Italy, the home of gelato!
  • Israeli cuisine consists of local dishes and those brought to Israel by Jewish immigrants from other countries. Many of these immigrants came from Europe, Africa, and other places in the Middle East. About one-half of Israeli Jews eat kosher, which means food prepared according to Jewish law. 
  • Shakshuka and other egg dishes are common for breakfast, along with fresh vegetables, fruits, salads, breads, and pastries. "Salat katzutz" (Israeli chopped salad) is a well-known dish in Israel. This chopped salad can be eaten by itself or added with hard-boiled eggs, fried eggplant slices, "amba" (pickled mango), and tahini sauce to pita bread to make a "sabich" sandwich.

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Israel?

  • Education is very important in Israel, and school is required for children ages 3 to 18. Kids may attend a state secular or religious (Jewish) school, an ultraorthodox Jewish school, or an Arab school. Language proficiency in Hebrew and English is required for high schoolers to get their Bagrut certificate to go on to higher education.
  • Soccer is the most popular sport for kids and basketball the second-most popular. They may also participate in tennis, swimming, gymnastics, and more. One of the traditional games kids play is Three Sticks. It involves jumping between three sticks laid on the ground that get moved further apart after each attempt. The goal is to not step on a stick or jump more than once in the space in-between. 
  • Families observe Jewish holidays in Israel, including Hanukkah and Passover, and they also celebrate "Yom Ha'atzmaut," which is Israel Independence Day, which took place in May 1948.
  • Kids' lunches might include hummus in a pita or a white cheese, egg, or tuna sandwich. They also have raw veggies, like cucumber, carrots, or tomatoes. They may snack on Bamba (peanut-butter-flavored corn puffs) or Krembo (chocolate-covered marshmallow on a cookie base), and favorite desserts may be "babka" (a sweet braided bread or cake) and "rugalach" (a filled crescent-shaped pastry).

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