Thursday, November 29, 2012 | return to: supplement, Chanukah


Chanukah Gifts & Kids: Oh, it’s fryin’ time again — but it doesn’t have to be

by chavie lieber, jta

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Gone are the days when Chanukah meant an eight-day binge-fest of all things fried. The Festival of Lights has a longstanding tradition of oily foods such as latkes and doughnuts. But there are healthy variations.

“People have a misconception of the tradition to fry on Chanukah,” said Yosef Silver, the author of the popular blog This American Bite. “The concept is to remember the oil, but that doesn’t necessarily mean frying. We’ve gotten so wrapped up with frying, but there are ways to make Chanukah food, like latkes, without just using oil.”

These days, Jewish foodies have plenty of options for consuming traditional holiday fare without packing on the pounds.

Silver was raised on the old ways — frying everything. But now he prefers to bake latkes rather than fry them.

“If you prefer to use the traditional potato latke recipe, the best way to make it healthy would be to pan fry it with an oil substitute like Pam,” he said. “If you want to incorporate oil, add only a tablespoon and lightly pan-fry it.”

For those who prefer a fried taste, Silver suggests swapping potatoes for healthier vegetables that provide vitamins and nutrition as opposed to starch.

“My favorite latke variety to make is my variation using rutabaga and turnip,” Silver said. “Rutabaga is a starchy vegetable, but it’s not actually a carb. It gives a similar consistency to potatoes and is delicious.”

Shaya Klechevsky, a personal chef from Brooklyn who writes the kosher cuisine blog At Your Palate, says there are ways to make healthier doughnuts, or sufganiyot. But Klechevsky warns about playing too much with recipes.

“When making the batter, you can use a little bit of whole wheat if you want to veer away from white flour, but you need to be careful because too much whole wheat will turn your doughnuts into bricks,” she said. “You can also substitute sugar with honey.”

Rather than altering the recipe for the dough, Klechevsky says the best way to make healthy doughnuts is to use healthy fillings, like sugar-free jams, nuts, fruit and granola.

“The best option is to bake doughnuts rather than fry them,” Klechevsky said. “The taste won’t be the same, but it will be close. You can buy little round molds and fill them with batter.”

Erica Lokshin, a wellness dietitian at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, points out that baked doughnuts have half the calories and one-third the fat of fried doughnuts. “Chanukah foods loaded in oil are high in cholesterol, which can be really bad for your heart, and eating them for eight days straight increases risks,” Lokshin said.

For latke toppings, she recommends reduced-fat sour cream and unsweetened applesauce. Here are two healthier latkes recipes, one with gingered carrots from Klechevsky and one with rutabagas and turnips from Silver.


Roasted Gingered Carrot Latkes

(About 15 latkes)

6 cups coarsely grated peeled carrots

3 Tbs. all-purpose flour

3 Tbs. whole wheat flour

11⁄2 tsp. salt

3⁄4 tsp.  baking powder

1⁄2 tsp.  ground black pepper

7 tsps.  finely grated peeled fresh ginger

3 large eggs, beaten to blend

blended olive oil (for frying)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil, or take a pastry brush dipped in olive oil and lightly coat the foil. Place grated carrots in a large bowl; press with paper towels to absorb any moisture.

In another bowl, combine flours, salt, baking powder and pepper, and blend together. Add carrots, ginger and eggs to the flour mixture and combine. Mixture shouldn’t be too wet or too dry. When forming patties, the mixture should stick to itself and not come apart. If it’s too wet, add a little bit more flour; if it’s too dry, add more beaten egg. Allow to stand for 10-12 minutes for ingredients to absorb into each other.

Place patties, about 31⁄2-inch rounds, onto the greased baking sheet. Leave a little room around each one. Place tray on middle rack of oven and roast for 10-12 minutes per side, or until golden brown.


Rutabaga and Turnip Latkes

2 rutabaga, shredded

2 turnips, shredded

1 large onion, shredded

1 egg, plus 1 egg white

1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix all the ingredients, then shape the latkes so they are approximately the size of your palm and about 1⁄4-inch thick. Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil if you want to keep with tradition, or substitute coconut oil for a lighter alternative. Place the latkes on the cookie sheet with space between them. Once the oven has heated, bake the latkes until golden brown.


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