The Chanukah candles remind us of the miracle G‑d performed by allowing the flames of the Menorah to burn for eight days from only one flask of oil.

Using oil in our food to remember the miracle of the Menorah is certainly an important custom. But in order to best encompass the actual events that transpired, we need to understand exactly what kind of oil we want to emulate.

If something is known to be harmful, then the Torah commands us to abstain from that substance or behavior - such as smoking, or eating unhealthy or excessive quantities of food. Perhaps deep fried latkes and endless jelly donuts meet this description - for it's a bit difficult to see how they actually commemorate the festivities of Chanukah.

The fuel for the Menorah was "shemen zayit zach katit" - pure, pressed olive oil. The Torah commentator Rashi tells us that the olives were gently squeezed to expose only the first, pure drop of oil. The rest of the olive was then sent away to be crushed in the traditional manner to release the remainder of the oil for meal offerings.

Therefore, in order to best replicate the oil from the Menorah, shouldn't we specifically not use an abundance of oil to deep fry and saturate our foods - but rather a small amount of pure, extra virgin oil to a delicious dish or salad exclusively for the sake of the miracle? Wouldn't this be the ideal way to celebrate? Since the oil of the menorah represents wisdom, wouldn't it be wise not to indulge in behaviors that clearly cause us harm - such as clogging our arteries with excess fat? Something to think about as we try to allow the light of Chanukah to continue to burn in us even after the last candle flickers out.

Olive Oil - It's Good Food and Good for You

Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats to consume. It is a natural juice which preserves the taste, aroma, vitamins and properties of the olive fruit. Olive oil is the only vegetable oil that can be consumed as it is - freshly pressed from the fruit.

The beneficial health effects of olive oil are due to both its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidants. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the "good" cholesterol) levels.

Olive oil is very well tolerated by the stomach. In fact, olive oil's protective function has a beneficial effect on ulcers and gastritis. Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs. Consequently, it can help lower the incidence of gallstone formation.

But while all types of olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fat, EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives, contains higher levels of antioxidants, particularly vitamin E and phenols, because it is less processed.

Types of Olive Oil

Generally, olive oil is extracted by pressing or crushing olives. Olive oil comes in different varieties, depending on the amount of processing involved. Varieties include:

  • Extra virgin - considered the best, least processed, comprising the oil from the first pressing of the olives.
  • Virgin - from the second pressing.
  • Pure - undergoes some processing, such as filtering and refining.
  • Extra light - undergoes considerable processing and only retains a very mild olive flavor - can sometimes be cut with other vegetable oils.

How to Care For Your Olive Oil

Resist the temptation to place your beautiful bottle of olive oil on the windowsill. Light and heat are the #1 enemy of oil. Keep olive oil in a cool and dark place, tightly sealed. Oxygen promotes rancidity. Olive oil is like other oils and can easily go rancid when exposed to air, light or high temperatures.

The following recipes are healthy, delicious, nutricious and a great way to celebrate Chanukah while maintaining your health. These recipes can be found amongst the 300 simple, no sugar, no flour recipes in Soveya's Incredibly Easy and Healthy Cookbook.