After last Saturday's early snowfall, it's time to put our summer clothes in storage and welcome the cold season (at least in New York)! Don't be sad - there are plenty of fun things about fall and winter. One example: hearty soups like this one, which incorporates two ingredients with a distinguished history, staple foods for thousands of years in some areas of Europe. Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 2/3 pound dried chestnuts
- 1 cup Spelt
- 1 medium onion
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste Wash the spelt well, place it in a pot, cover with water and soak overnight. The next day, boil the chestnuts in salted water with the bay leaf for 40 minutes. In a second pot heat 1 tablespoon oilive oil, add the minced onion and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes; add the chestnuts with their water and the spelt (rinsed and drained well), and about 1 qt or more salted water. Simmer for about one hour, covered, until the spelt is cooked. Adjust the salt, sprinkle with pepper, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot with toasted bread slices. You can also add a little rosemary.
We just came back from ten days in Italy, mostly spent in Venice hanging out with my mom and childhood friends. But my husband and kids had never been to Florence, and I decided to treat them to a couple of days in the cradle of the Italian Renaissance. The highlight of our stay was a lunch at our friends Alberto and Giordana’s apartment, with a breathtaking view of Fiesole and the Tuscan hills; for the kids, probably the carousel in Piazza della Repubblica! The food in Florence and in all of Tuscany is fantastic, simple and elegant, and justly famous. Unfortunately for those who keep strictly kosher, the lovely kosher restaurant next to the magnificent synagogue (Ruth’s) only serves Israeli food! Even those who are more flexible and comfortable eating vegetarian food out will find Florence and Tuscany problematic: first of all because most dishes are meat-based (Tuscans are very proud of their beef, the world-famous “Chianina” breed); secondly, because the “vegetarian” dishes, like the ribollita soup, are often given a flavor boost by the addition of a prosciutto bone in the cooking! Don’t despair – you can make most Tuscan recipes in your own kitchen! Let’s start with this very easy and delicious soup: a perfect example of Italian “comfort food”, and of Tuscan peasant cooking. Bread soups were born of necessity: people could not afford to throw away stale bread, and devised ways to make it not only edible, but wonderfully tasty. Be warned that American-style soft sliced bread would just turn into a slimy and sticky mess: you will need artisanal bread with a firm, rough crust. The best types are Tuscan or Pugliese loaves. I live in Manhattan, and my favorite (kosher) bread is made by Tribeca Oven. If you visit Florence, don’t miss my friend Chiara’s kosher cooking classes! You can emal her at Chiara105@gmail.com PAPPA COL POMODORO: • 2 tablespoons cold pressed extra-virgine olive oil, plus more for drizzling • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed • 1 large can (12 oz.) peeled whole tomatoes (I like Italian tomatoes, San Marzano type) • ½ medium loaf, or 1/3 large loaf of Italian-style bread, 2-day old • 1 cup water or vegetable stock • Salt and pepper to taste • A pinch of sugar • 10 to 15 fresh basil leaves Directions Slice the bread. In a heavy pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the garlic. After a couple of minutes discard the garlic, and add the can of tomatoes, breaking them with your hands into the pot. Add salt, pepper, sugar and water, and stir with a wooden spoon. Shred the bread into bite-sized chunks with your hands (if it’s too hard/dry cut it into cubes with a bread knife), and add them to the pot. Do not stir too aggressively, because you don’t want the bread to melt into the water completely: the texture should be somewhat chunky. You should stir gently using an upward motion, and not too long. Cook on low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Shred the basil leaves and add them to the soup; drizzle with more olive oil (about 1 tablespoon per person), lightly toss, serve. This soup tastes even better reheated: it will be so thick that you will be able to eat it with a fork. Enjoy!
Today, October 24, is Food Day! Americans from all walks of life push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. One of the huge problems we are dealing with is that Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce for consumption, while the number of people without enough to eat continues to rise. A very important Jewish concept, especially relevant today, is Bal Tashchit (do not destroy or waste). Originally, Bal Tashchit refers to the biblical prohibition against the destruction of fruit trees during wartime (Deuteronomy 12:19), but the rabbis of the Talmud extended the concept to the prohibition of destroying and wasting anything needlessly. Really! Nowadays we should apply this idea to all kinds of waste (do we really need to drive, when we can walk or take the bus?). And of course, let's start with food. Don't leave your bread in plastic bags: chances are, it will be covered in green mold before you are done with it. If you keep it in a paper bag or a bread box, on the other hand, it will just dry out and you'll still be able to use it, soaked in broth, to make delicious meatballs (with leftover cooked chicken), or for this delicious cake! Ingredients (serves 4) 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in warm brandy (or warm water) 2 eggs 1 (scant) cup sugar 1 untreated lemon a pinch of salt 1 cup milk 3 large or 4 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin, drizzled with lemon juice to prevent oxidation about 1/3 pound day-old sliced bread (crust removed) butter to grease the pan Directions In a food processor (or with your hand mixer) process the eggs with the sugar till frothy, then slowly add the milk. Add the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. . Grease a spring-form pan and cover the bottom with sliced bread, then cover with some of the egg/sugar mix, followed by a layer of apple slices and raisins, Continue layering all he ingredients, topping with apples and raisins; brush the top with little melted butter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 350 F. Another version of the Bread Cake Ingredients: 1/3 pound day-old sliced bread (crust removed) milk or rice milk for soaking 2 pounds apples or pears 1/2 cup raisins 1 cup sugar 3 eggs 2 or 3 tablespoons rhum 1 package baking powder (optional) Directions Break or cut the bread into small pieces and soak it in milk or soy milk until very soft. Drain it and process it with your mixer till creamy. Add the egg yolks, plumped raisins, rhum, sugar, and the apples (peeled, cored, and diced). In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and carefully incorporate them with a spatula (alternatively, you can avoid separating the eggs in the first place and add a package of baking powder to the mix when you add the sugar). Pour into a greased spring-form pan and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.