December 20, 2011

Tonight begins Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Unlike other Jewish holidays, where I, as a Jewish person, fast or give up leavened foods, this holiday encourage me to celebrate with one particular kind of food: fried food.

Really. That's why latkes, potato pancakes fried in oil, are the official food of Chanukah. Many people also celebrate with donuts; last year I had a party where I served latkes, donuts and fried chicken. People thought I'd completely lost my mind, but there wasn't a crumb of crispy coating left.

Why all the fried food? The story behind the holiday is that one of the great temples of the Jews was destroyed, and they had to rebuild it. But they only had enough oil in the oil lamp to last for one day. And then, miraculously, that oil lasted for 8 nights of flame, so the Jews had the time to rebuild the temple.

Which is how the Festival of Lights also became the Festival of Fried Food.

So, while health conscious Jews across the world are moaning with concern about the extra fat and calories, let's me break down some simple truths:

1. Yes, latkes are cooked in fat. No way around that. 

2. Most 3 to 4-inch latkes will run you 80-100 calories (see recipe below). Like a banana.

3. Less is more with a latke. If you've ever overeaten the latkes, you know what I mean. Two latkes should definitely be enough. After all, you need to leave room for

Cilantro-Jalapeno Latkes with Chipotle Sour Cream: I thought by now you'd be excited to experiment with something just a little bit edgy, so why not heat up the place with peppy jalapeños, cooling sour cream, and rich, spicy chipotles. This is for the latke epicure. 

So there you have it; 8 Cooking Light-approved latke recipes, averaging at 80-100 calories per latke. The only question left is: where to begin?

Happy holidays!


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