Are you concerned about fried foods and high cholesterol?

Cathy Powers, a registered dietitian at the Culinary Institute of America, says the major health concern linked to frying is the amount of fat and calories it adds to the diet."Many people may think frying always means high cholesterol, but this is not necessarily the case," Powers says. "Cholesterol comes only from animal fat, so the choice of frying oil can greatly influence the cholesterol content of the final product. Corn oil and all other vegetable oils, for instance, contain no cholesterol."

The basic resolution to fried foods in the diet is moderation, the institute says. America has had an indulgent love affair with fried foods that should be curbed. However, those who exercise restraint throughout the year should suffer no guilt from enjoying occasional fried food.

For example, the Italian zeppole is a puff of fried dough sprinkled with granulated sugar. It is among the foods traditionally associated with the Feast of St. Joseph's Day on March 19.

"Different regions of Italy embrace unique culinary creations to celebrate St. Joseph's Day, and many of these festive foods are fried," says Roger Riccardi, director of restaurant operations at the Culinary Institute. "In my household, the zeppole was king."

Two other foods are traditionally associated with St. Joseph's Day: sfinci (sfinge) and frittelle. Sfinci are fried puffs of dough with a ricotta cream filling. Frittelle is made with either rice or flour, with some varieties containing added ingredients such as raisins, pine nuts and lemon or orange zest.

"Although there are recipes that call for baking of sfinci and zeppole, I fondly recall that on St. Joseph's Day, the oven at my grandmother's house was relegated to pot and pan storage," Riccardi says. "The real business in the kitchen took place on top of the stove, with oil being used for frying."

Concerning this manner of cooking, a reference from Brillat-Savarin's classic 1825 book, "The Physiology of Taste," provides an appropriate guide: "Fried things are highly popular at any celebration. They add a piquant variety to the menu, are nice to look at, possess all of their original flavor, and can be eaten with the fingers."