Big Chill Cheese Fondue

big chill fondue by dinnerinvenice 1

big chill fondue by dinnerinvenice 1

After last week’s snow storm, and Tuesday’s record temperatures (we hit a record low of 4 degrees Farenheit or -15 C here in New York City), several friends emailed us  or called us from Italy expressing concern for our safety and comfort. We loved the attention, but don’t worry…. we are a tough breed! (here is what we have been doing:)

dinnerinvenice snow

Of course, after a couple of hours of frozen fun at the park, we headed home to warm up by the fireplace ! In most families,a nice cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows would be in order. But my 7-year-old is the kind of kid who, asked by a friend’s mom at snack time: “Do you eat parmesan cheese?” replied: “Would you mind cutting it into shavings and add honey and pears on the side?”. So here is what we settled on.

Fondue step 1-2 by Dinnerinvenice.com

My Italian fondue recipe hails from Valle d’Aosta, the smallest of all Italian regions, but dominated by two of Europe’s top peaks—Monte Bianco (aka Mont Blanc) and Monte Cervino (aka the Matterhorn) on its borders with France and Switzerland. Skiing down such impressive slopes requires serious refueling, or at least I like to think so!  Fonduta Valdostana is even simpler than Swiss Fondue. No wine or kirsch here, just a good pound of fontina (or other good melting cheese), milk and egg yolks. The calequons, those little fondue sets with the tiny forks are really cute, and I couldn’t resist buying one at Zabar’s, but come on – all you really need is a double-boiler made by layering two regular saucepans.

Fondue Step 3-4 by Dinnerinvenice.com

Even if you are not a health food nut, the combination of lots of butter with cheese and bread cubes might induce some feeling of guilt. That’s where the egg yolks come in handy, because at least you are having some extra protein. Besides the bread cubes, you can dip stuff like steamed baby potatoes, slightly steamed cauliflower florets, red peppers, zucchini and pear slices, steamed broccoli or cauliflower or whatever fruit or vegetable you’re in the mood for. I find that when I add fruit and veggies to the standard Italian or French bread cubes, I can tell myself that I’m having a perfectly balanced meal. Of course, don’t forget a steaming cup of mulled wine!

S 26 00 1 FONDUTA VALDOSTANA

Big Chill Cheese Fondue

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fontina or other good melting cheese, cubed or thinly sliced
  • scant cup whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • salt
  • white pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg if liked

Directions

Place the cheese in a bowl, cover with the milk, cover the bowl with wrap and allow to rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature or in the least cold part of your refrigerator, stirring occasionally.

Make a double boiler by pouring some water into a saucepan, and placing a second smaller saucepan inside the first one. Alternatively, you can use a very heavy enameled cast iron sauce pan on very low heat.

Melt the butter in the saucepan on low heat, stirring. Drain the cheese from the milk and add the cheese to the butter, with only 3 tbsp of the milk. keep stirring with a wooden spoon or with a whisk, until the cheese is all melted, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom or sides.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and remove from the stove top. Adjust the salt and sprinkle with white pepper (and nutmeg, if liked. Or even white truffle shavings, if you want to splurge!)

Serve in warm bowls (or in a shared fondue set) accompanied by bread cubes for dipping. You can also offer polenta cubes, cauliflower florets, pear slices, etc.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2014/01/09/big-chill-cheese-fondue/

Symbols of Plenty – Symbols of Tears

Autumn mini pumpkins

The Thanksgiving table is exquisitely symbolic. Aside from pumpkin, and of course turkey, which clearly represent bounty, some other harvest symbols are fraught with ambiguities – and not only in American culture.

Read about them in my latest column for the Jewish Week:

Autumn mini pumpkins

Puff Slices with Dandelion Greens and Cheese

Puff Slices with Dandelion and Cheese - DinnerInVenice

Puff Slices with Dandelion and Cheese - DinnerInVenice

This week, the nice weather inspired me to check out my neighborhood “community gardens”, and I found a few fun things to cook with. Of course, if you live in the suburbs, you might already have a lot of these interesting greens growing in your own property.When it comes to that stubborn backyard weed… why kill them when you can eat them?

Dandelion greens, for example. They make a great addition to a salad, but you can also try something fancier. They pair perfectly with cheese. Make sure they are not treated with toxic chemicals. And stay tuned – more “weed” coming soon! Next is borage…..

Puff Slices with Dandelion and Cheese 2 - DinnerInVenice

Puff Slices with Dandelion and Cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 puff pastry sheet
  • 1 cup (unpacked) dandelion leaves
  • 4 to 6 ounces semi-soft, ripened cheese such as taleggio, Brie or Camembert
  • extra-virgin olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F. Wash the dandelion leaves and pat dry.

Roll out the puff pastry and cut it into rectangles. Arrange them on a baking tray lined with parchment, leaving some space in between because they'll raise. . Brush with little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Decorate with the thinly sliced cheese and the dandelion. Drizzle with little more oil and add a touch of black pepper. Bake at 350 F in a pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden. Enjoy immediately.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/04/22/puff-slices-with-dandelion-greens-and-cheese/

Eggplant Ricotta Lasagna

Eggplant Ricotta Lasagna by DinnerinVenice.com

Eggplant Ricotta Lasagna by DinnerInVenice.com

Eggplant Ricotta Lasagna

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 60 minutes

serves 8

Ingredients

  • A little over 1 lb freshly made lasagnas OR just under1 lb dry lasagna (not the pre-cooked type)
  • 2 1/2 lb fresh eggplant
  • 2 lb strained tomatoes
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • extra frying oil (olive or grape seed)
  • 1 1/2 lb whole milk ricotta (if you find salted ricotta, mix 1 lb fresh ricotta with 1/2 lb crumbled salted)
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano cheese, or to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • baking pan, about12 x 9 1/2 inches

Directions

Slice the eggplant into regular slices. For best results, slice vertically: when sliced in this direction, the eggplant fibers soak up less oil when fried. Cover with coarse salt (more than you think you need), and place in a colander in your sink, to sweat out their water or bitter juices (30 to 60 minutes). This is important because if they are too juicy inside, they’ll soak up oil like crazy when fried. In the meantime, heat 8 tbsp oil in a saucepan, add 1 clove garlic and the tomato, salt, and cook on low/medium heat for 10 minutes until thickened, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Cook the pasta according to instructions and dry the sheets on kitchen towels. After allowing the eggplant slices to “sweat” for at least 30 minutes, rinse them very well, one by one under running water, rubbing them, and then rinse again (more than you think you need). Now dry them (again… more than you think you need!) with paper towel. Heat the frying oil in a deep pan (I know it’s scary, but use a ton of oil. Like, close to 1 quart. The less oil you use, the more oil the eggplant will absorb – because the oil temperature will be more likely to drop when you drop the slices in). If you like using food thermometers, heat the oil to about 330-340F, or just do what I do: test it by dropping a tiny cube of bread or eggplant into it, and if lots and lots of tiny bubbles form around it, you are good to go. Fry the eggplant slices in batches (do not overcrowd the pan, or you’ll lower the temperature of the oil, ending up with greasy soggy slices). Oh, and I almost forgot: use tongs to put the slices in the oil, they are too heavy to be dropped in without getting splashed with hot oil. Fry on both sides until golden, and dry them on several layers of paper towel. Feel free to press the paper towel into the eggplant if you want to remove even more oil. Chop finely, setting only 4 or 5 whole slices aside. Brush a baking pan with little oil and start with a thin layer of the tomato sauce. I like to use earthenware but other materials also work, and as far as size you can go with something about 12 x 9 ½ in. Combine the rest of the sauce with the chopped fried eggplant. Alternate layers of lasagna, eggplant sauce, and ricotta, dusting each layer with little grated cheese. Decorate the top layer with the whole fried eggplant slices and extra grated cheese. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 F for about 30 minutes.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/04/16/eggplant-ricotta-lasagna/


Four Cheese Pasta – Italian Mac & Cheese

Four Cheese Pasta

Four Cheese Pasta

Macaroni and cheese occupies a special place in the American heart, as the ultimate comfort food.

To tell you the truth, when I moved here from Italy and found out that people were so crazy about this abomination in a box, I thought you guys were all a bit eccentric. Really – why would you want your (processed, powdered) cheese to be orange? Not that it was a big deal: I have my own issues with junk food – namely, digging into the Nutella jar when under pressure.

However, when my children started coming back from school demanding Mac & Cheese, I went from mildly entertained to outraged (after all, I spend hours canning made-from-scratch tomato sauce!). I did try to lecture them about the superiority of fresh ingredients, the importance of vegetables, blah blah blah, but they ignored me. I needed a better strategy. Here is how I gained back my cool factor.

Meet Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi, the Italian ancestor of Mac & Cheese. While it’s probably terrible for you (I can’t imagine another dish that packs in as much butterfat), at least this homemade recipe does not include any chemicals, plus it tastes infinitely better than Kraft’s packaged version. You might still end up needing a bypass, but at least you’ll have enjoyed getting there!

Four Cheese Pasta

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

30 minutes

yield: 6-8

Calories/Fat: ignorance is bliss

Ingredients

  • 1 package (1 lb) rigatoni or penne pasta (I like Garofalo, De Cecco and Barilla)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream + 1/2 cup milk (if you feel too guilty, just 1 cup whole milk)
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese (or a sharp and creamy cheese like Brie, Camembert) shredded or cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup taleggio (or Fontina, Asiago, Gouda), shredded or cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup Swiss cheese, Emmenthal or Gruyere, shredded or cubed
  • 1/3 cup Parmigiano, Grana or Parmigianito, freshly grated, plus more for topping
  • Black pepper

Directions

Bring water to a boil and add salt.

Heat the milk in a saucepan; add cream and the cheeses to the hot milk and stir continuously, until all the cheeses are melted together. If you like living dangerously, you can even add 1 tablespoon butter.

When the water boils, add some coarse salt, add the pasta and cook it until al dente, according to the directions on the box. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water and drain the pasta.

Toss the rigatoni and the cheese sauce together, adding a little of the cooking water (it acts as an emulsifier and thickener); sprinkle with black pepper and serve accompanied by extra parmigiano. Those of you who feel fancy can go with a touch of grated nutmeg, or even shaved truffle! You can also transfer into a baking dish and broil on high until golden and crisp on top (3 to 5 minutes).

(***if you keep strictly kosher, here are some imported kosher cheeses available in the US. The site specifies each cheese's kosher certification, since we often joke that "Two Jews, three opinions" and do not always share the same standards: http://www.kcheese.com/ )

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/02/07/four-cheese-pasta-italian-mac-cheese/

Hazelnut Cocoa Tea Cookies

biscottini da te alle nocciole

biscottini da te alle nocciole

Biscottini da Te’ al Cacao e Nocciole

Italy’s Langhe region, in the heart of Piedmont, produces some of the finest wines in the world. However, to many foodies, Langhe is first and foremost synonymous with nutty and chocolaty treats.  The local hazelnut, “Tonda Gentile”, is in fact considered the highest-quality hazelnut in the world, and the jewel of the Italian production. Even the famous food writer David Lebovitz writes, “I do not like to speak in superlatives, so when I say that the hazelnuts from Piedmont are really the best I’ve ever tasted—believe it”.

The pure, fresh air of these vine-covered hillsides does seem to work some kind of magic on both the flavor and texture of the nut.  And magic it could well be: the Langhe hills, topped by medieval churches and often wrapped in a mysterious fog, which fades the natural colors into soft purples and muted greens, inspired in the past many superstitions about witches’ gatherings! Of course, after the Piedmontese confectioners came up with Torrone (Italian honey nougat) and then with Gianduja (chocolate with hazelnut paste) , everybody figured out that those mysterious witches they feared must in fact be good fairies.

My personal Langhe fairy was my mother’s friend Matilde. Matilde, an elderly Piedmontese piano teacher with a formidable gift for baking, was solely responsible for turning my sugar-hating self (I did not eat dessert until age 10) into the cookie monster, and all with this easy recipe below.

Hazelnut Cocoa Tea Cookies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

1 hour, 15 minutes

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 and ¼ cups flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 and ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ lb blanched (peeled) hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (or 2 sticks) butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 4 yolks
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • salt

Directions

Grind the hazelnuts in your food processor with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the confectioner’s sugar (taken from the total. The sugar absorbs the nut oil so that you don’t end up with marzipan). Sift the flour with the cocoa, and combine it with the butter – either in a stand mixer or using ice-cold hands (keep a bowl of ice nearby).

Add the ground hazelnuts, the rest of the sugar (but reserve 2 tbsps for decorating), the yolks, and a large pinch of salt, and knead into a ball. Wrap in plastic and place into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes .

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Using a cold, flour-dusted rolling pin, roll the dough on a floured surface (even better: roll between two sheets of parchment or wax paper*). When it’s about 1/3” thick, cut it into discs using a cookie cutter. Arrange the cookies about 1” apart from one another on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.

And bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and dust with the remaining confectioner’s sugar. Serve with a hot pot of black tea!

TIPS FOR ROLLING OUT A STICKY DOUGH:

• If the dough is very sticky, dust its surface with flour before placing it between the two sheets of parchment or wax paper.

• Lift the sheets out and put them back on several time, to prevent them from sticking to the dough and creating creases.

• Turn the dough over several times, so that it is rolled out evenly

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/01/31/hazelnut-cocoa-tea-cookies/

A FEW MORE IDEAS FOR COOKIES BY SOME OF MY FAVORITE BLOGGERS:
Brutti ma Buoni by AglioOlio&Peperoncino

Nutella Cookies by SundayAtTheGiacomettis

Amazing Sugar Cookies by CouldntBeParve

Margarita Cookies by SmittenKitchen

 

Potato Puree

S 10 880 PURE DI PATATE

S 4 950 2 pure

The term “comfort food” originated in the US, and I’ve heard it used In Italy only recently, mostly by food-bloggers. That’s not to say that we didn’t have comfort food before, we just didn’t have a name for it. On top of that, our choices are often different. Where you go for hamburgers, we dig into spaghetti; when you take out the ice cream, we open the Nutella jar. There is one exception, a unifying, universal ingredient: mashed potatoes.  In Northern Italy, when a mom wants to comfort her kids after a not-so-great grade at school, a broken heart, or simply a long week of rain, she will serve this crowd-pleaser as a side: Pure’ di patate  (potato puree), a silky, creamy and scrumptuous blend of starchy potatoes, milk and butter.

While mashed potatoes can be dry, lumpy, hyper-garlicky, and even gloppy, puree is velvety smooth, and will win the pickiest palates over with its decadence. Not even your carb-phobic friends will be able to resist it.

* for a non-dairy version, replace the butter and milk with olive oil and vegetable broth.

* *if you are watching your weight, you could replace the whole milk with 1% and halve the butter; but do add some butter for flavor.

*** If you need to reheat it, you should add a little more hot milk or broth.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds starchy potatoes (Yukon gold or russet, not too young)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup milk, or a little more
  • salt to taste
  • a pinch of nutmeg

Directions

Cook the potatoes with the peel (whole, if they are small-ish, or halved or quartered if they are very large) in a pot of salted boiling water (30-45 minutes). If you are in a rush, you can cook them much faster in a pressure cooker or even in the microwave (about 15 minutes). Test them with a fork to make sure they are soft, and drain, discarding the cooking water. Allow them to cool until they are still very warm but not too hot to handle, and peel them.

1757_1 Patate

Put them through a ricer or potato masher, gathering them back into the pot. Place the top over low heat and add the butter, and then slowly the hot milk, stirring with a wooden spoon.

STEP 3 PURE' BICOLORE

Keep stirring until the puree is soft, smooth and silky! Adjust the salt, add a pinch of nutmeg, and serve immediately.

S 10 880 PURE DI PATATE

 

Potato Puree

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

1 hour

6 servings

CALORIES AND FAT: ignorance is bliss!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds starchy potatoes (Yukon gold or russet, not too young)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup milk, or a little more
  • salt to taste
  • a pinch of nutmeg

Directions

Cook the potatoes with the peel (whole, if they are small-ish, or halved or quartered if they are very large) in a pot of salted boiling water (30-45 minutes). If you are in a rush, you can cook them much faster in a pressure cooker or even in the microwave (about 15 minutes). Test them with a fork to make sure they are soft, and drain, discarding the cooking water.

Allow them to cool until they are still very warm but not too hot to handle; peel them, and put them through a ricer or potato masher, gathering them back into the pot.

Place the top over low heat and add the butter, and then slowly the hot milk, stirring with a wooden spoon. As you add milk, you can also switch to a whisk. Keep stirring until the puree is soft,

Smooth and silky! Adjust the salt, add a pinch of nutmeg, and serve immediately.

* for a non-dairy version, replace the butter and milk with olive oil and vegetable broth.

* if you are watching your weight, you could replace the whole milk with 1%, but do add some butter for flavor.

* If you need to reheat it, you should add a little more hot milk or broth.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/01/18/potato-puree/

 

 

Chocolaty Vienna-Style Coffee

CAFFE' ALLA VIENNESE

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Have you ever heard of “Caffe Viennese” or “Vienna Coffee”?

I have to confess that I never really checked if it actually has anything to do with Vienna, or if it does my version may not be the most authentic: I discovered this perfect beverage during my college years, in the historic cafes of Venice and Trieste – such as the Florian and the Tommaseo – and regarded it as my grown-up upgrade from Italian hot chocolate. My roommates and I found that it helped immensely with the cold, the fog, the all-nighters before exams, and heartless boyfriends .

While in general I find that most elaborate coffee drinks are just bad examples of “gilding the lily”, please trust me with this: it’s an improvement upon perfection!

Keep in mind that we are not talking about ordinary ingredients. Yes, chocolate tastes great, but there is more to it than what meets the lips: it’s full of chemicals that are associated with mood and emotion (phenylethylamine, theobromine, anandamide and tryptophan, since you are asking), to the point that a shocking percentage of women report to prefer chocolate to sex (sorry, guys!). Daniele Piomelli, from the University of California, compares its effects to those of marijuana.

And don’t get me started about coffee. How many of us would have graduated from college had it not been for those midnight Americanos, and could we still call New York “the city that never sleeps” without the omnipresent to-go cups of joe?

Obviously, the pairing of the two is a marriage made in heaven – as long as if you don’t suffer from gastric ulcers.

Do not ask me how many calories are in a cup of this concoction. I have no idea. And besides, thinking about the calories may just make you crave it more. Go ahead and  enjoy it, just try to stop after the first two cups!

CAFFE’ VIENNESE

Serves 4

  • 4 small cups of espresso “ristretto” (strong and concentrated)
  • 4 ounces really good bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar, or to taste
  • Whipped cream to decorate, if you like (I prefer it without)
  • Ground cinnamon, if liked

Bring some water to a boil in a saucepan and place a second saucepan or heat-proof bowl on top to create a bain-marie. Add the chocolate pieces or shavings to the top saucepan or bowl, and allow them to melt, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the heavy cream and sugar and keep stirring. Add the espresso and keep heating until some bubbles form and it thickens. Remove from the heat, and add cinnamon or chocolate liqueur if liked. You can also decorate with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.                                                                                   I probably don’t need to tell you this, but… serve immediately!

Carrot Cream Soup – cream-less and dairy-free

Creamy Carrot Soup with No Cream (Parve)

Creamy Cream-Less Carrot Soup (Parve) GF

In Italy, creamy soups – or “vellutate” – are not usually made with cream (an ingredient that we like to leave to the French): the texture is given by the addition of a simple potato or a handful of rice.

The starches in the rice are slowly released during the cooking, and act as a thickener and an emulsifier at the same time. Slowly-released starches are what gives creaminess to authentic risottos, and also the reason why we add the pasta cooking water to our sauce (the starches released by the pasta turn the cooking water into an emulsifier, and a thickener). Better than fairy dust! This method obviously helps limit saturated fats, but it’s also a great resource for the dairy-intolerant, or the kosher cooks who need dairy-free dishes to serve with meat.

If you love smooth textures, you can turn any vegetable soup into a vellutata simply by throwing in a boiled potato and some water and processing everything in the blender. An easy way to recycle your second-day minestrone!

Ingredients (serves 4 to 6):

  • 2 pounds carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 ½ quarts vegetable stock or to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 or more tablepoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Italian rice (short grain – Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley (or basil/parsley mix)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Peel the carrots and slice them thinly.
Chop the celery, onion and garlic very finely.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy pot and cook the mix of celery, onion and garlic ( “il soffritto“) on medium/low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and the bay leaf and cook for 5 more minutes. Add 2/3 of the hot stock and bring to a boil, then add the rice, lower the heat, cover almost completely, and allow to simmer for about an hour.
Discard the bay leaf, process with a hand mixer, add the rest of the hot stock and the herbs, and allow to simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes, stirring continuosly. Drizzle with 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with black pepper and serve.

Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears (Sfogliata al Gianduja e Pere)

Sfogliata Gianduja e Pere (Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears) (Dairy or Parve)

Sfogliata Gianduja e Pere (Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears) (Dairy or Parve)

The combination of hazelnuts and chocolate is wildly popular in Italy – I’m sure you have heard of Nutella!  The original version is Gianduja – a concoction made of chocolate and hazelnuts invented in Turin during the Napoleonic blockade, when the precious cocoa beans had become scarce and the famous Piedmontese chocolatiers had to find a way to make them go further-. It didn’t hurt, of course, that their hazelnuts (from the Langhe area of Piedmont) were said to be the best in the world, and that Turin was the birthplace of solid chocolate. As you can imagine, the result was much more interesting than other hard-times-inspired products (such as the French chicory “coffee”), and even after the end of the blockade the Torinese kept enjoying their new delicacy, and named it “gianduja” after a local marionette character.

Besides enjoying the tasty combo in the form of a spread or in confections (the delicious gianduiotti – the first-ever chocolates to be individually wrapped!), make sure you try my gianduja puff cake!

Ingredients

1 pound of puff pastry (home-made, or 1 package store-bought)
3 medium pears
5 ounces dark chocolate (I used 70 % Scharffen Berger) 
½ cup ground hazelnuts
6 chocolate-flavored tea biscuits, or small biscottis
2/3 cup (scant) sugar
pinch of salt
1 organic lemon
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons butter, or hazelnut or almond oil
2 tablespoons milk (or non-dairy almond or soy milk)
flour (to dust the counter)

Directions

Peel and core the pears, slice them thinly and combine them with the lemon juice, the sugar, and the grated lemon zest. Grate the chocolate and coarsely chop the cookies. If using butter, melt it in a pan or in your microwave.
On a floured surface, roll out the pastry into a rectangle and brush the top with the melted butter or oil; top with the crumbled cookies, the drained pears, and the grated chocolate. Roll up the pastry as if making a strudel, sealing the edges and closing the ends.
Brush the top with the yolk (mixed with a couple of tablespoons of milk or parve almond or soy milk) and bake in a pre-heated 250 F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden. Enjoy warm or at room temperature, on a cold winter night :-) .

Stuffed Cabbage, Italian-Style

… or simply wrap your Meatloaf in Cabbage Leaves! (Meat)

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The long marathon of Jewish Holiday ends each Fall with Simchat Torah: on this day, all the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and paraded around the synagogue while people dance and sing around them. Every Shabbat a different portion of the Torah is chanted in synagogue, and it takes a year to complete the cycle: on Simchat Torah, the end of Deuteronomy is reached, and we start again from Bereshit (Genesis).

Because its shape resembles that of Torah scrolls, one of the most traditional foods for Simchat Torah, found in Jewish communities all over the world in different variations, is stuffed cabbage. Italy is no exception: in Venice, we cook it in stock; in Rome they use oil, onion and tomato; others make a Sephardi version, using lamb instead of veal/beef; some add raisins and pine nuts. If you’d like to try something different, instead of stuffing each leaf you can make a large meat loaf and wrap it in several leaves: Italian Jews have many versions of “Polpettone” (meat loaf) made with beef or poultry and stuffed with different vegetables, frittata or boiled eggs, and encased in turkey or chicken skin, or in a goose neck.


Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 lb ground beef, or veal (or a mix)
  • 2 slices bread, crust removed
  • beef or chicken stock
  • 4 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ½ cup peas, blanched
  • 1/2 cup carrot, cooked and cut into small cubes
  • ¼ tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.
Soak the bread in meat stock and set aside. Blanch the best leaves of a cabbage in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic and cook until soft.
In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread mixture (liquid squeezed out), nutmeg, salt, pepper, the egg, and after everything is well combined, fold in the carrot and peas. Allow to rest for five minutes and the mixture will firm up. Only if it’s still too soft, add some breadcrumbs  to thicken it.  Shape the mixture into a meatloaf and wrap it in the cabbage leaves.
Tie well with kitchen string (to make sure it won’t break you can also place the meatloaf in a muslin bag.
Place in a deep pan, cover with stock (enough to reach the top of the cabbage), and cook on medium/low heat, covered, for 1 and 1/2 hours (checking every 30 minutes and adding stock if it’s drying out).  Uncover the pan and if there is still a lot of liquid, allow most of it to evaporate.
Serve with the juices from the pan.

 

Watermelon and Cantaloupe Bruschetta

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Bruschetta (which, by the way, should be pronounced [bru’sket:ta] ( listen) and not [bru’shet:ta], please!!!) is a snack that Italians have been  enjoying for centuries. It’s a simple slice of roasted bread, rubbed with fresh garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh tomato and basil. Tuscans, always the chic minimalists of Italy, skip the tomato and stick to olive oil and garlic; they call it Fettunta, “greased slice”. Of course they use the very first and very best oil of the season, which makes everything else seem redundant!

Just like bread soups or bread puddings, bruschetta was born as a way to salvage bread that was going stale (note to Americans: real bread does get stale!), at a time when it was considered precious and nobody was watching their carbs and worrying about Atkins. Some Italian peasant, who never reached the fame of the Earl of Sandwich but remained nameless, had a culinary epiphany that would revolutionize the concept of snacking.

Who doesn’t like giving their fork a rest and eating with their hands at picnics and cocktails? Although most of us tend to think of bruschetta in terms of tomato and basil, it’s actually a great base for most Mediterranean appetizers and salads, which it turns into finger foods. Just pick your favorite summer ingredient and build your own! Here is mine:
 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 ripe cantaloupe, diced
  • 1/4 small ripe watermelon, diced
  • 3/4 cup goat cheese, or crumbled feta
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • fresh mint or basil
  • 2-3 tbsps of the best extra-virgin olive oil you can find (not too strong or acidic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf Italian or French style bread, sliced and toasted, broiled, or grilled

Directions

  1. Rub the toasted or grilled bread slices with the garlic cloves while they are still hot. Discard the garlic. Brush with very little oil.
  2. Spread a little cheese on the slices.
  3. Dress the two melons (separately) with the rest of the oil, and little salt and pepper. If using feta, which is saltier, you can skip the salt.
  4. Top some slices with the cantaloupe and others with watermelon. Decorate with fresh mint.

 

Cheese and Pepper Pasta

Cheese and Pepper Pasta (Dairy)

Cheese and Pepper Pasta (Dairy)

Pasta Cacio e Pepe  (Cheese and Pepper) is the perfect example of a minimal dish that packs maximum flavor. The only tricks are using really good ingredients (the cheese and the butter), and cooking the pasta perfectly al dente. Pair it with an arugola salad and you won’t miss your Mac ‘n Cheese! 

Cheese and Pepper Pasta (Dairy)

serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • a package of Italian pasta (tagliolini, linguine, bucatini, or thick spaghetti)
  • coarse salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 tablespoon freshly grated black pepper (or to taste)
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Italian Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Directions

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper and cook for one minute.

Add half of the reserved pasta water to the skillet, bring to a simmer and add the pasta and the rest of the butter.

Remove the skillet from the heat; add both the Parmigiano and the Pecorino cheeses, tossing well and adding more pasta water if the pasta is too dry.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/07/25/cheese-and-pepper-pasta-dairy/

Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce

Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce

Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce

Italian Jews have always been very fond of lemons, and incorporate their juice and zest into many recipes: just like those with vinegar, these dishes are described as “all’agro” (sour style).
In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, they were apparently heavy lemonade drinkers – in most regions it was sweetened with honey or sugar, but in Rome it was seasoned with salt.*

Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce

serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound tagliolini, fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti
  • extra-virgin olive oil (1/2 cup to 2/3 cups) OR melted butter
  • grated Parmigiano (1/2 cup to 2/3 cups)
  • 2 large organic, untreated lemons
  • grated zest of one of these lemons, avoiding the white part
  • Salt to taste
  • White pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons of freshly chopped mint leaves

Directions

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring every couple of minutes, until "al dente".

In the meantime, mix together the olive oil (or butter),lemon juice, lemon zest and cheese in a large bowl, previously warmed.

Drain the pasta, but save 3/4 cup of its cooking water. Toss the pasta with the sauce and the reserved cooking water. Add the water a little at a time, only as needed 1/4 cup at a time as needed. Add salt and pepper, and the chopped mint leaves or chives.

*For more on this topic, A. Toaff, Mangiare alla Giudia, Bologna 2000, Societa' Editrice Il Mulino, p.109 (also available in Hebrew)

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/06/23/tagliolini-in-lemon-sauce/