Venetian Thanksgivukkah Fritters

Venetian Thanksgivukkah fritters by Dinnerinvenice

Venetian Thanksgivukkah fritters by Dinnerinvenice

With all the hype about Thanksgivukkah this year, I also received a challenge to post something that would be perfect for both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah – and it had to be made with some type of mashed food. I normally panic when I get this kind of requests, but this time it was really brainless. These pumpkin fritters are one of my favorite recipes, and always a huge hit with guests.

venetian Thanksgivukkah Fritters 2 by Dinnerinvenice

Venetian Thanksgivukkah Fritters

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, cleaned and diced small
  • 2 eggs
  • grated zest of 2 oranges
  • ¾ cup of sugar and a pinch of salt
  • 1 and ½ cups flour
  • scarce tbsp baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, if liked
  • 1/3 cup Raisins or Sultanas
  • 1/3 cup grappa or rhum
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup candied citron or lemon (optional), finely chopped
  • Rice bran oil, peanut oil or vegetable oil for deep-frying, at least 3 cups or more
  • Confectioner’s sugar for decorating

Directions

Plump the raisins in the liqueur.

Place the diced squash in a large platter and cover almost completely, leaving a small opening for the steam to come out, and microwave on high for 10 minutes or until very tender (or bake covered for 40 mins in the oven).

Beat the eggs in a food processor with the sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange zest; add the cooked squash and process until smooth.

Drain and pat dry the raisins, and add them to the mix.

Transfer to a large bowl and gradually add the flour (sifted with the baking powder), using an electric or manual whisk.

In a frying pan, heat the oil to frying temperature (you can test it by dropping a small piece of bread in the oil: if bubbles form around the bread, the temperature is right).

Take the batter with a tablespoon, filling it to about ½, and push the batter into the oil with your index finger or a second spoon.

Fry in small batches until golden all over, turning to cook evenly.

Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer onto a platter lined with several layers of paper towel.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/11/19/venetian-thanksgivukkah-fritters/

Bittersweet Manicotti with Moscato Wine Sauce

Bittersweet Manicotti with Moscato Wine by Dinnerinvenice

Bittersweet Manicotti with Moscato Wine by Dinnerinvenice

This October my column in the Jewish Week featured a recipe for butternut squash manicotti with goat cheese and pumpkin. But there are so many versions of these, that I couldn’t resist posting one more! After all, for the past few weeks, I’ve been in a pumpkin frenzy. This time, I also added red radicchio, and a touch of Moscato wine.  The result is slightly bitter, slightly sweet; buttery, creamy, and totally worth the splurge.

Bittersweet manicotti with Moscato Wine Sauce by Dinnerinvenice.com

Bittersweet manicotti with Moscato Wine Sauce

Ingredients

  • 12 lasagna rectangles
  • 1 head radicchio (or just over 1/2 lb)
  • about 2 1/2 cups peeled cubed pumpkin (just over 1/2 lb)
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta (just over 1/2 lb)
  • 1 scallion
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup moscato wine
  • 3/4 cup clear (no tomato) vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 to 3 tbsp slivered almonds
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Chop the radicchio coarsely and cut the pumpkin (or butternut squash) into small cubes.

Heat 1/2 the butter in a skillet and add the minced scallion. Cook on medium/low for 3 minutes. Add The pumpkin and radicchio and cook on medium/high for 10 minutes, stirring often. Allow to cool and combine with the ricotta, salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar; add the flour, then gradually the wine and broth until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, and cook in a bain marie (http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Double-Boiler-(Bain-Marie) ) over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it thickens; at the end, add the remaining butter to the sauce. Keep warm.

In he meantime, cook the lasagnas according to instructions in a large pot of salted water.

Drain them with a slotted spoon, place them on paper towel (blot them dry on both sides. Spread one side with the ricotta/vegetable cream, leaving 1/2 " margins, and then roll the pasta up on itself into cylinders.

Arrange them on a baking tray lined with parchment, brush them with little melted butter, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for about 15 minutes at 350F in a pre-heated oven. Serve warm, topped with the Moscato sauce and the slivered almonds. You can serve some parmigiano or grana for those who prefer to add some grated cheese on top.

*** if the semi-sweet egg sauce is not your thing, you can top the manicotti with a bechamel sauce or simply some melted butter and grated cheese.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/11/01/bittersweet-manicotti-with-moscato/

Bruscadela – Bread and Wine Trifle

Bruscadela.Collage.by.Dinnerinvenice

At the end of Yom Kippur there is a widespread custom to break the fast joyously, since a Midrash (Jewish homiletic story) describes a heavenly voice speaking at the end of the fast with these words from Ecclesiastes:

“Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine …..” (Kohelet Rabbah 9:7).

The Jews of Piedmont, Italy, take this quite literally!

Find out how in my new article for The Jewish daily Forward

Bruscadela.Collage.by.Dinnerinvenice

Pistachio and Cream Swiss Roll

ROTOLO AI PISTACCHI

Pistachio Swiss Roll by DinnerInVenice

This week my family and I will observe one of my favorite holiday traditions, that of indulging in creamy dairy treats for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. After all, who am I to say no to extra helpings of lasagna and tiramisu, especially when our sages encourage me?

Another custom typical of Shavuot (and Simchat Torah) is eating preparations that are rolled, a visual reminder of the Torah scrolls that are read in synagogue. It may be a no-brainer to celebrate by smothering your dishes in butter and cream; however, rolling up foods can be  challenging for inexperienced cooks. Take cake rolls, and raise your hand if you don’t end up buying the pre-packaged version rather than risking a disaster.

The truth is that, if you follow  instructions, these guys are not that hard to make. Just don’t cheat on the pan: the only type that works is a  jelly roll pan (usually a 15x10x1-inch pan, regular or disposable).  This is also the kind of recipe that you don’t want to attempt if you have just ran out of parchment paper. Last, but not least, do not over-bake: the cake needs to be a bit flexible and “springy” to be rolled up.

After baking the cake, remove from the oven and loosen the edges from the pan with a knife, then turn it out the cake onto a large parchment sheet. Peel  the existing parchment from the top (what was previously on the bottom of the baking pan) and discard.

Now the tricky part: starting with one of the shorter  sides, roll up the parchment with the warm cake inside into a spiral. Once the cake is all rolled up into the parchment, secure it with tape or by stapling the ends of the parchment, and place it on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Unroll the cake, spread with your preferred filling staying within 1 inch of the edges; then roll it up again, but this time use the parchment only to lift and guide leaving it on the “outside’ of the cake roll. Place the roll in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Pistachio Swiss Roll by DinnerInVenice

Pistachio Swiss Roll

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or ½ tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 shot orange liqueur
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • whipped cream
  • powdered sugar to decorate

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line the base of a 10 by 15-inches jelly roll pan with parchment, brushing the sides with butter and dusting with flour.

In an electric mixer, whisk the eggs with the sugar and salt until light and frothy, and then add the zest or vanilla extract; start sifting in the flour and baking powder, gradually, a bit at a time.

When the mixture is well combined, pour into the prepared pan, and bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cake is a bit springy and the edges have shrunk a little from the sides.

Spread out a large sheet of parchment on a counter and dust it evenly with powdered sugar to prevent any sticking. Invert the pan onto the parchment, and then carefully remove the pan and parchment from the cake.

While the cake is still warm but not hot, dust it with powdered sugar, cover it with another parchment sheet and roll it up in a spiral leaving the parchment sheet on the inside and outside. secure with tape and allow to cool on a wire rack for about one hour.

Coarsely grind the pistachio. Combine the whipped cream with 1 or 2 tbsp powdered sugar, the orange liqueur or extract, and the pistachios.

When the cake is cool, unroll it and carefully remove the parchment; spread the whipped cream sparingly over the cake, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll up again, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Dust with powdered sugar to finish.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/05/14/pistachio-and-cream-swiss-roll/

 

Passover Almond Custards – Scodelline

6250 Scodelline

6250 Scodelline

While eating matzah (unleavened bread) during Passover is a commandment, eating too much of it could turn into a curse. I won’t go into details here, but by the time you serve dessert at the end of the seder, you will be praying for a break. I will always be thankful for the fact that most Italian Passover sweets are not made with matzah meal (ground matzah).

These lovely almond custards from Leghorn, in Tuscany, are called “Scodelline” (little bowls) or “Tazzine” (little coffee cups) because of how they are served in individual portions. They are small and elegant, just what you need to end a holiday meal on a sweet note without overdoing it. They are also gluten-free, and easy to prepare with wholesome ingredients (isn’t it nice, when you are having all this sugar, to know that there is something nutritious mixed with it, like almond and eggs?) The Jews of Leghorn, drawing from their Spanish-Portuguese origins, make several interesting sweets with these, including the elaborate Monte Sinai, a macaroon-like almond cake covered with egg threads fried in syrup.

For the recipe, I turned to my friends Lea and Anna Orefice, mother and daughter, two inspiring generations of fabulous cooks. From her kitchen in Leghorn, Lea – who is 92 and still in charge of making dessert for the family seder – answered all my questions via email in real time while I was stirring my custard in New York City.  Here is the result, and the detailed recipe, including Anna’s microwave version in case you are in a hurry…..

6244 Scodelline

Passover Almond Custards – Scodelline

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

40 minutes

serves 8-10

serves full espresso cup or half-full tea cup

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature
  • a little over 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom or rosewater, OR fresh lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup water (less if using the microwave)
  • grated cinnamon to decorate, if liked

Directions

Place the sugar in a small pot, barely covered by water (more or less the same amount of water and sugar). Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until it starts simmering and turns into a dense syrup. Do not allow it to brown and turn into caramel: as soon as it melts and thickens into a thick syrup, add the almonds and the flower water (or lemon zest), stir a couple more times and remove from the heat. In a separate bowl (I like to use pyrex) whisk the yolks until frothy. It will be easier with an electric whisk or mixer. Slowly pour the whipped egg yolks into the syrup until the mixture is smooth. Cook the mixture on very low heat in a double boiler (you can use the pyrex bowl on top of a pot filled with some water), stirring continuously until it begins to thicken (about 20 minutes) and the surface turns shiny, almost glaze-like. To save time, Lea’s daughter Anna uses a microwave instead of the double boiler: use about 25% less water; once everything is combined, place the pyrex bowl with the mixture in the microwave, and cook on medium for 4 minutes uncovered. Stir, and cook for 3 more minutes. Whether you used the double broiler or the microwave method, once the custard is cooked allow it to cool down, stirring occasionally, and once it’s lukewarm pour it into individual espresso cups (full) or tea cups (half full), and dust the top with some grated cinnamon. Serve accompanied by some fresh fruit. Using 6 yolks, you will make about 8-10 espresso-cup sized "scodelline"

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/19/passover-almond-custards-scodelline/

Vintage pictures of the old synagogue of Leghorn (destroyed in WWII and replaced by a new one)

My Leghorn-Style Red Mullet and some history

The Mount Sinai Cake with threaded eggs

Emiko’s Chickpea Cake, Leghorn’s beloved Street-Food

Bocca di dama with Orange Caramel

almond cake BOCCA DI DAMA.HD

almond cake BOCCA DI DAMA.HD

Whenever I bite into this delicious almond cake, I can’t help but wonder about the origins of its name: Bocca di Dama means “Lady’s Mouth” in Italian. Was a romantic baker in love with a beautiful customer? Or is the cake so sweet, soft and moist that it reminded someone of a passionate kiss? This Passover dessert, popular among the Jews of Leghorn and in several other Sephardic communities, is so ancient that nobody really knows. The only thing that’s certain is that, just like kisses, it’s highly addictive, and you probably won’t be able to stop at the first bite. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: if it’s just you, and the cake, you are set for failure. Surround yourself with lots of guests. My husband once made the whole thing disappear overnight. In this version, the tanginess of orange complements the mild and buttery texture and flavor of the almonds: use organic fruit for the best results.

sedertable1867livorno_500px

A Passover Seder in Leghorn (1867 haggadah)

Bocca di Dama with Orange Caramel

Ingredients

  • 2 small/medium organic oranges
  • 2 cups (250 gr - a little over ½ lb) almond meal or freshly ground blanched almonds
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 gr - a little over ½ lb) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks (add 1, if medium eggs )
  • 7 large egg whites (add 1, if medium eggs)
  • 1/8 cup or 3-4 tbsp matzah flour. For GF, use GF matzah or potato starch.
  • oil or margarine, and parchment paper, to prepare the pan
  • FOR DECORATING
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ orange cup cooking water (see instructions)
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced almonds (toasted if liked)
  • zest of one of the oranges
  • *** if you don't feel like making the caramel, just use orange marmalade and sliced almonds to decorate
  • (I like to use an 8 x 11" baking pan or a 10" springform round pan. You can vary the dimensions, but the baking time will change also)

Directions

Grate the zest of an orange and set it aside. If planning to decorate with the caramel, place the peeled oranges in a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes, covered (skip this step if decorating with orange marmalade).

Beat the egg yolks and 2 whites with the sugar and the salt until frothy. Add the ground almonds and the matzah meal, the zest of one orange , the liqueur if using, and combine well. In a separate bowl beat the whites with an electric whisk until stiff; gently incorporate them into the batter with a spatula, using an upward motion. Grease the sides of a baking pan and dust with matzah meal, and line the bottom with parchment.

In a pre-heated oven, bake at 350 F f(on a regular – NOT convection – setting) for 30 minutes, then lower the heat slightly (to 335 or 340) and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes (50-60 total), checking periodically with a toothpick until the cake is moist but not liquid inside. Once the top is golden, you may want to cover it with foil for the last part of the cooking. Once the cake is done, turn off the oven setting the door slightly ajar and allow the cake to rest inside for an extra 15 minutes (similarly to what you would do with a cheesecake!). Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely. In the meantime, melt the remaining ½ sugar with 1/2 cup of the water in which you boiled the orange. You can double the dosage for a thicker layer. Make sure to use low heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a caramel. Stir in the remaining shredded zest of the first orange, and brush on top of the cake. Decorate with sliced or slivered almonds. If you don’t feel like making the caramel, you can just glaze the top of the cake with about 4-5 tablespoons of orange marmalade diluted with 2 tbsp hot water.

* For those of you who love oranges, there is also a version of this cake that incorporates the boiled pulp of the 2 oranges into the batter. The recipe is pretty much the same, except that you should use only 4 yolks (beaten with the sugar), and 4 egg whites (beaten stiff). After removing most of the white membranes, place the cooked oranges into a blender, and add them to the batter. Other than that, proceed in the same way. Because the cake will be much more "orangey", you can decorate it with simple powdered sugar.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/12/bocca-di-dama-with-orange-caramel/

Rebecchini – Fried Polenta Sandwiches

Rebecchini- Fried Polenta Sandwiches
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Rebecchini- Fried Polenta Sandwiches

Maize polenta is creamy, delicious and filling, and for centuries represented the main staple in the poor, everyday cuisine of a large part of Northern Italy. Once it cools off and hardens, it can be recycled into a variety of dishes, from a “pasticcio” with meat or cheeses, to a cake, to these savory fried sandwiches (a classic Jewish Italian recipe, and perfect for Hanukkah). If you don’t like anchovies ( I LOVE them!), you can replace them with smoked cheese.

If you have never made polenta before, check out these detailed instructions on one of my favorite Italian food blogs in English, Memorie di Angelina.

  • 1 cup polenta (finely ground or quick cooking)
  • salt (about 1 tsp)
  • water to make polenta (follow instruction on the package, or about 3 cups)
  • 12 anchovies (salt packed is better, but oil-packed is OK))
  • 4-5 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil to make anchovy paste
  • 1 clove garlic (whole)
  • dredging flour
  • 3 eggs
  • olive oil for frying

 In a large heavy pot, boil water and add salt. Pour in the corn meal in a thin stream whisking vigorously (use a whisk, not a spoon, to avoid clumping) and cook for about one minute or two before switching to a wooden spoon as the polenta thickens. Keep stirring until the polenta is fully cooked  (about 30 minutes for regular polenta, and 3-5  minutes for “instant” polenta). Pour onto an oiled marble surface or cookie sheet or parchment paper. Spread out flat in a layer that’s about 1/4-inch thick, and allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, rinse the anchovies (removing any bones). Heat olive oil in a small skillet on medium heat with the garlic clove. When the garlic is light brown, discard it and add the anchovies, stirring until they melt into a paste. Set aside.

Pour about 2” oil into a heavy-bottomed wide pot with tall sides (I use my le Creuset Dutch oven) or into your deep fryer. Heat the oil until it forms many tiny bubbles around a piece of bread or cracker thrown into the oil. If you have a candy thermometer, or are using a deep fryer, the right temperature is about 355 to 365 F.

Using a knife or a cookie cutter, cut the polenta into regular triangles or rounds about 2” wide.

Spread half of the polenta pieces with the anchovy paste and cover with a second piece, making “sandwiches. Dredge the sandwiches in flour and then in the slightly beaten eggs, and fry for about 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, making sure to maintain the temperature of the oil and to flip them only once (if you keep turning them, they absorb more oil).

Drain on a triple layer of paper towel and serve hot.

Fried Chicken Cutlets, Italian-Jewish Style – by Jayne Cohen

Jayne 214

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Today I have a very special surprise for you: a guest post by my friend Jayne Cohen, a food writer and expert whose passion for Italy and its cuisine should earn her an honorary Italian passport. Among many other accomplishments, Jayne is the author of one of my most treasured cookbooks, Jewish Holiday Cooking, which includes 200 tasteful, elegant and special recipes for the holidays. My personal favorite is her hamantaschen with dates and pistachios (yum!).

Visit her blog, Beyond Brisket, on JWI Magazine! For Hanukkah, Jayne is sharing her version of Italian Fried Chicken, and her memories of Casale Monferrato: enjoy!

A Hanukkah Story from Casale Monferrato

Text and recipe adapted from Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations by Jayne Cohen(print and e-book, John Wiley & Sons)

Like most travelers, we were lured by the taste of Barolo, the scent of truffles and extraordinary hazelnuts, but what we will remember most about Piedmont is the synagogue we found in Casale Monferrato.

The small Jewish community in Casale, located about fifty miles east of Turin, most likely began with the refugees Ferdinand and Isabella expelled from Spain in 1492. Although there were periods of crisis and some restrictions, life under the Italian Gonzaga dukes was relatively calm for the Jews, even prosperous for some. The synagogue was built in 1595.

But when the French House of Savoy annexed the district, conditions quickly deteriorated. In 1745, Jews were crowded into a ghetto around the synagogue. Contacts between Jews and Catholics were limited, and at night they were strictly forbidden. Not until 1848 were the Jews of Piedmont granted full rights.

Now there are no longer enough Jews to make a minyan in Casale, except on the High Holidays, when Jews from other communities attend the services.

From the narrow little street, La Sinagoga degli Argenti looked  like one of the apartment buildings, but inside was one of the most exquisite synagogues we have ever seen. It was late afternoon in July, and light filtered through the windows of the sanctuary highlighting for us the subtle pastels, gilded carved symbols, and gold filigree work. Our guide–who like one we had had years ago in Venice, was not Jewish but extremely knowledgeable about the synagogue and Jewish life–pointed out the beautifully painted ceiling, a fresco of sky and clouds, whose panels announce in four Hebrew words, “This is the Gate to Heaven.”

There is also an impressive museum, showcasing art and furnishings acquired from other Piedmont congregations, antique dealers, and private collections, and life-size dioramas of many of the holidays. The basement of the museum, where matzoh once was baked for all the Jews of the Monferrato region, now houses the Museum of Lights, a remarkable collection of menorahs.

The Hanukkah story of the tiny flame that produced a lasting light is the story of Jewish continuity, and the Jewish community of Casale has adopted it as its own. The museum commissions new hanukkiyot from renowned contemporary artists, Jewish and non-Jewish, who, in the museum’s words, “form a bridge between the lights of the past, which must never go out, and those of the future, which must continue to be lit.” One menorah is formed of two sculpted hands, the thumbs entwined to form the shamash, the flames shooting up from the fingertips; another was inspired by the notes people insert into the cracks of the Western Wall.

In the courtyard, our guide told us that for the past several years, the synagogue has invited members of all the other monotheistic faiths in the area when Hanukkah begins. Another Hanukkah story–a miracle too, perhaps–that has particular resonance for Casale.

For it would be dark, of course, when the Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, and Jews gathered to light the menorah candles here between the elegant colonnaded courtyard columns–where once upon a time any contact between Jews and Gentiles after nightfall would have been prohibited.

“Hanukkah,” as Antonio Recalcati, one of the Catholic menorah artists has said, “celebrates life and light after centuries of darkness.”

Fried Chicken Cutlets, Italian-Jewish Style

”The logs of Jerusalem were of the cinnamon tree, and when lit, their fragrance pervaded the whole of Erez Israel.”–Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat

Jews have appreciated sweet-smelling cinnamon since ancient times. Centuries later in Europe even poor Jews usually had access to the spice: inhaling its heady aroma was central to the Havdalah ceremony that ushered out their Sabbath every week.

This fried chicken lightly flavored with cinnamon is a traditional Hanukkah specialty in Italy. Used without any sweetening, the cinnamon acts in concert here with savory garlic and lemon to produce a very fragrant yet subtle marinade. Because of the Havdalah connection, it makes an especially lovely main course on the Saturday night that occurs during Hanukkah week.

To accentuate the delicacy of the dish, I dip the chicken in egg after dusting it lightly with matzoh meal. And I fry each batch with a few pieces of celery–a trick sent in to Cook’s Illustrated magazine by one of its readers–which makes the chicken beautifully golden and more flavorful.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for frying
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken cutlets, trimmed of fat and gristle
  • About 1 cup matzoh meal (use commercially ground–you’ll need a very fine, powdery consistency here)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 or 3 celery stalks, including leaves, washed, dried well, and cut into 4- to 5-inch lengths
  • Accompaniment: lemon wedges
  • Optional garnish: parsley sprigs

In a large bowl or nonreactive baking dish, whisk together the cinnamon, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and marinate for 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator, turning the chicken occasionally. Or marinate the chicken in a large, resealable plastic bag.

Set up a work station near the stove. Spread 1 cup matzoh meal on a large sheet of wax paper or a plate and season it with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Next to it, in a wide shallow bowl or pie pan, beat the eggs with a few drops of water until well blended and smooth.

Dredge the cutlets well with the matzoh meal, rubbing it lightly into the chicken. Make sure each cutlet is covered all over with meal. If necessary, add more matzoh meal, remembering to add more seasoning.

Heat about 1/2 cup olive oil in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot and fragrant but not smoking. Shake a cutlet to remove all excess matzoh meal, then coat it thoroughly with the egg and slip it quickly into the hot oil. Being careful not to crowd the pan, add more chicken, dipping each piece in the egg just before placing it in the pan. Slip a few pieces of celery in between the cutlets as they fry. Using two spatulas (tongs would ruin the delicate egg coating), carefully turn the chicken when it is light golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Sauté the other side for 2 to 3 minutes longer, until cooked through. Turn the celery pieces when you turn the chicken. Transfer the cutlets to a platter lined with paper towels so they can drain. Discard the cooked celery. Keep the chicken warm in a 200 degree F oven until the remaining pieces are done. Continue frying any remaining chicken in batches, in the same way, adding fresh celery to the pan with each batch. Wipe out the skillet and replace the oil if some of the coating falls off and burns.

Serve the chicken right away, accompanied by the lemon wedges and garnished, if you’d like, with fresh parsley. It really needs no sauce.

Pagine Ebraiche- Italian Jewish Publication

Pagine Ebraiche (in Italian)

Pagine.ebraiche.Dec.2012

Thanksgiving Cornmeal Cake from the Veneto

Torta di Polenta (Corn Meal Cake)

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It was eight years ago, just a few months after moving to the City, that I experienced my first Manhattan Thanksgiving: ironically, I ended up celebrating the quintessential American holiday at an Italian friend’s home. Daniela had arrived in New York one year before me, and was so smitten with it that she scored higher on the Time Out Magazine test “Are You a Real NewYorker?” than all our American friends. It was her idea to throw an Italian-style Thanksgiving dinner, incorporating the various traditional foods of the holiday into Italian recipes. Given that she is a superb cook, carrying the extraordinary legacy of three different Jewish Italian culinary styles – the Piedmontese, the Venetian and the Ferrarese –  it’s no surprise that the meal was an absolute masterpiece. I had the impression that for the American guests, eating these Italian delicacies instead of the classic turkey with cranberry sauce also felt a little naughty! While I can’t replicate the special atmosphere of that night, after Daniela moved to Israel I adopted her tradition of remembering the Pilgrims with the regional dishes from my own country.

I’m used to cooking around symbolic foods for Passover and Rosh haShana: turkey and pumpkin, the most recognizable Thanksgiving ingredients, also appear on my Rosh HaShana table, and again on Sukkot. The connection with Sukkot runs even deeper, as both holidays are harvest festivals: some historians have gone so far as to trace the roots of Thanksgiving in Sukkot, based on encounters the Pilgrims supposedly had with Sephardic Jews in Holland before they left for the Americas.

But whether or not this story is true, Jews celebrate Thanksgiving Day with an intensity usually reserved to our most sacred holidays: it’s easy for us to empathize with the pilgrims, who had to flee religious discrimination and persecution and travel across an ocean to find freedom – and with their sweat and faith, fought against illness and scarcity, finally turning America’s wilderness into their “Promised Land”.

While the turkey and pumpkin are symbols of bounty, one food on the table is meant to remind us of the harsh winter before the first harvest, when the pilgrims barely had enough to eat. It’s the corn, as it is said that at one point there was so little food that each person was given only five kernels of corn per day. Corn bears a similar type of double-symbolism in Italian history: when it found its way to Italy from the Americas, it immediately spread through the North, and landowners started reaping huge profits by feeding their workers only maize polenta – creamy, delicious and filling, but so poor of vitamins and protein that it caused an epidemic of Pellagra, the same deficiency disease that spread in the American South during the great Depression, leading to deterioration and death. Somehow, native Americans had avoided it because they added wood ashes and lime to cornmeal, correcting its nutritional imbalance.

Cranberries can also be read as a symbol of suffering: of course we combine them with a lot of sugar to make them palatable, but their nature is extremely sour. This reminds me of the symbolism of sweet and sour dishes in Jewish Italian Cuisine, in which the sugar or honey represent the need to appreciate our present and future, while the vinegar or lemon keeps us rooted in our people’s past suffering.

While giving thanks for the plentiful new crop, and the many blessings that we enjoy each year, we also remember those who didn’t make it through that terrible first winter. 
Have a meaningful Thanksgiving!

Ingredients

  • 1 scant cup (150 gr) cornmeal maize (for polenta) or 2 cups cooked polenta (cooked dense, not liquidy)
  • 3 tbsps grappa or brandy
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup candied fruit (mix of orange and lemon or citron) (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 organic lemon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup of sugar (about 85 gr)
  • 1 scant cup flour (about 100 gr)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder (10 gr)
  • 1/4 cup oil (mild olive oil , vegetable oil or coconut oil)
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prepare the polenta with one scant cup of maize according to instructions on the package, using only about 1 1/4 cup boiling water (traditional polenta tastes better than instant, and you can make it quickly using a pressure cooker… however, instant is OK! Beretta makes a nice product). The polenta has to be on the thick side. 
When cooked, pour it over a large cutting board or platter in a wide and low heap and allow it to cool (feel free to pop it into the fridge).
 Plump the cranberries or raisins in the grappa or brandy. Dice the candied fruit very small. Discard the film that has formed over the polenta. Cut the polenta into pieces and place it into a food processor. Process it with the eggs, salt, sugar, oil, sifted flour with baking powder; add the raisins in their liqueur, the candied fruit, pine nuts, and the lemon zest and mix well. If the batter is so thick that it’s hard to pour into the pan, you can add just a couple of spoonsfuls of water or non-dairy milk.
Grease a 9″ springform pan and dust it with corn meal. If you have parchment, you should line the bottom of the pan before greasing it: this type of batter is very sticky. Pour the mix into it and bake in a pre-heated 400 F oven for about 15 minutes until it forms a golden crust, then lower the heat to 350 and bake for another 30-45 minutes (the cake should bake for 45-60 minutes total). Allow to cool before turning out. Serve warm, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

Baccalà Mantecato – Salt Cod Mousse

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This article and recipe appeared in The Jewish Daily Forward – to read them, click here

Baked Pears with Sorbet and Berries

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Baked Pears with Sorbet and Berries (Parve or Dairy) GF

My grandmother used to serve a lot of simple, not-too-sweet fruit desserts such as baked fruit and compotes. After the spread of commercial bakery products, many of us have forgotten about this option: it always seems easier to buy a box of cupcakes… however, when you start feeling like you’ve had way too much sugar, and you need a break, it’s time to go back to the good oldies! While you may choose them mostly because they are waistline-friendly (especially if you are switching from cupcakes), cooked fruit desserts have the added bonus of  vitamins and fiber, and many find them more appealing than raw fruit on cold fall and winter nights.

Buon appetito!

  • 4 ripe pears
  • 1 cup lemon sorbet
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, or other berries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • peel of one organic lemon
  • a teaspoon of unsalted butter, or nut oil for a non-dairy/parve version (almond, coconut)

Wash the pears and cut of a small slice from the bottom so they can stand straight.  Without peeling them, place them in a  parchment-lined pan. Sprinkle them with brown sugar, and a few flakes of butter (or brush with the almond or coconut oil).
Bake in a pre-heated 350 F oven for about 30 minutes or until soft, but still firm.
Allow to cool off for a few minutes. When they are still warm, but not hot, slice off the top and core the inside. Fill the cavity with the lemon sorbet and the berries. Put the tops back on and decorate with lemon zest.

* if you don’t feel like anything frozen, you can replace the sorbet with a mix of ricotta, greek yogurt,  and honey.

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.

 

Pumpkin and Radicchio Risotto

RISO ALLA CREMA DI ZUCCA E RADICCHIO

Pumpkin and Radicchio Risotto

How could we possibly welcome fall, and celebrate Thanksgiving, without pumpkin? For me, this also one of the symbols in my family’s Rosh haShana seder and under the sukkah. One of my favorite ways to serve it is in a creamy and delicious risotto!

Those who were born in the Veneto region, like me, also celebrate red radicchio and like to incorporate it into many different recipes. While a similar type of lettuce was already grown in North-Eastern Italy before the 16th century, the exact kind  we eat today, with its white-veined leaves, was engineered in the late 1800s by a Belgian agronomist. The different varieties are named after the Nothern Italian regions where they are cultivated: the easiest to find here in the United States is radicchio di Chioggia (maroon and round), and sometimes the radicchio di Treviso, which looks like a large red Belgian endive. Its mildly bitter flavor blends beautifully with the sweetness of the pumpkin or squash!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 2/3 head of red radicchio
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano type)
  • 1 medium white onion,  finely diced
  • 1/2 cup dry wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • About 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7 to 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet. Add the pumpkin and half of the onions and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Season with salt,  nutmeg, pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pumpkin is tender, another 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor and puree the pumpkin. Rinse the skillet and heat another tablespoon of oil in it. Add the radicchio (sliced into thin stripes) and cook for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat and keep it hot.
In a heavy pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the remaining onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for a few minutes. As soon as it starts sticking to the bottom, pour in the wine and allow it to evaporate.  Immediately lower the heat and pour in one ladleful of the hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Gradually add more hot stock, 1 ladleful at a time, stirring frequently until absorbed before adding the next. After about 15 minutes, stir in the pumpkin puree and continue cooking, adding more stock, 1 ladleful at a time, until the rice is tender but “al dente” (about 5 to 15 minutes longer, depending on the type of rice). The risotto should be creamy and loose. Add the radicchio, and more salt if necessary. The risotto will be quite loose. Spoon the risotto into warmed soup plates and drizzle with little balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately. Of course if you want to be really fancy and impress your guests, you could also serve the risotto in the pumpkin shell.
*** For a slightly different result, you can also cook the pumpkin with the rice. Just add the pumpkin to all the onion at the beginning, and then add the rice. Try both versions, and see which one is your favorite! In the context of a dairy meal, this risotto tastes delicious with the addition of butter and parmigiano. On the other hand, the creaminess and sweetness of the pumpkin make it very enjoyable as a Parve (non-dairy) dish!

Pumpkin Soup with Pomegranate and the meaning of Sukkot

Pumpkin and Pomegranate Cream Soup (Dairy)

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Sukkot is an eight-day harvest holiday that starts four days after the fast of Yom Kippur; it is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.
In ancient Israel Jews would build huts (Sukkah = hut) near the end of their fields during harvest season, so that they could spend more time in the fields and harvest more efficiently. For us, Sukkot is a reminder of how our ancestors  lived while wandering in the desert for 40 years (Leviticus 23:42-43), moving from one place to another and using tents (sukkot) for temporary shelter. Associated with these two meanings are three  main traditions:

1 – Building a sukkah.
2 – Eating inside it.
3 – Waving the lulav and etrog.

(above, Sukkot seen by Italian artist Emanuele Luzzati)

Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot , those observant Jews who have the space construct a sukkah in their backyards or decks (in cities like Manhattan or Venice with a lot of small apartments, it’s normal to just share meals in the synagogue’s sukkah). In ancient times most people would just “move” to their sukkas for the whole holiday and even sleep there: nowadays few do, especially in colder climates, but it’s still customary to eat meals in the hut, or at least snacks, reciting a special blessing.

 

Since Sukkot celebrates the harvest, there is a custom of waving the etrog and lulav: (a kind of citron, similar to a big lemon/lime, and a bunch of myrtle,willow and palm twigs). The lulav and etrog are waved in all directions representing God’s power over the whole creation. All kids love decorating the sukkah with drawings, and mine are no exception!

 

As a fall harvest holiday, Sukkot celebrates the bounty of the new crops, and its food traditions revolve around seasonal vegetables and fruit. In this sense, some believe that the pilgrims may have come up with the idea of Thanksgiving inspired by the Biblical descriptions of Sukkot: after all, the Puritan Christians had landed on American shores in search of a place where they would finallly be free to worship as they pleased – a recurrent theme in Jewish history. Besides, just like the ancient Israelites, the pilgrims also had to dwell in makeshift huts (built with the help of the Indians) during their first cold winter in Massachusetts!

That’s why so many of you, unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, will immediately notice how Thanksgiving’s culinary themes mirror those of Sukkot.

All kinds of  vegetables and fruit grace our tables, together with stuffed pies and pastries: stuffing one food inside another is in fact another metaphor for abundance. Many of these symbolic foods have already appeared on our Rosh haShana table, often in the form of a seder (served in a specific order and reciting blessings on each one).

Among these seasonal offerings, both the pumpkin and pomegranate stand out: in Venice we like our favorite local variety of pumpkin so much that we call it “suca baruca” (from the Hebrew “baruch”, “blessed / holy pumpkin”); as to pomegranate, it is so important in the Jewish tradition that Torah scrolls are decorated with silver ones – apparently because this fruit contains more or less 613 seeds, the number of the Mitzvot (commandments)  that Jews are given to observe.

Why not combine these two symbols into a super-pretty and super-festive soup?

 

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 lbs cubed pumpkin
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • vegetable stock
  • 1/2 orange (or 1/3 cup orange juice)
  • 1 pomegranate (or 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup pomegranate juice)
  • 3 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons coarsely ground hazelnuts (optional)

Directions

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and allow it to cook until soft (add little water if it starts sticking). Add the pumpkin and allow it to cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the orange zest and 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (you can skip the juice if you prefer a less tangy flavor and a lighter color). Keep cooking until the juice has evaporated, then add enough hot vegetable stock to barely cover the pumpkin, salt and pepper, and cook until very tender. (at least 30 minutes).
Process with a hand mixer; adding more salt and stock as needed, and pour into individual bowls; decorate with the hazelnuts (if using), a few pomegranate seeds and  salt. In the context of a dairy meal, you can decorate it with a little sour cream or Greek yogurt. Serve warm.

BOLLO – FRUIT CAKE TO BREAK THE YOM KIPPUR FAST

Bollo

Bollo is a sweet-but-not-too-sweet bread with raisins, candied zest, and/or anise seeds (depending on which city you live in), served in many Italian and Sephardic communities to end the Yom kippur fast.  Its name means simply “cake” in Spanish and Portuguese, a sign that we need to thank the Iberian exiles for  yet another yummy treat!

In Venice, we are literally handed a slice as we are walking out of synagogue at the end of services, on the steps. Obviously, even a piece of cardbord would taste great accompanied by a tall  glass of lemonade after 25 hours without food or water! However, this cake keeps being served over and over all through the fall holidays, upon entering the sukkah and until Shemini Atzeret. By then, we are usually stuffed, and I still love it – especially with jelly, for breakfast.

The Bollo is also one of the key elements of the “Tavola dell’Angelo” (the Angel’s table), a ritual table setting that several Venetian families prepare on the eve of Yom Kippur in their homes. The table is dressed in white, and decorated with harvest symbols such as pomegranates, flowers and corn. Jewish ritual objects, like prayer books Kiddush cups and candlesticks are also present. Finally, many families use sprouting wheat grains to write auspicious messages such as “Shana Tova”, or to draw symbols (like hands with the fingers spread out for the priestly blessing).

The center of the festive table are always the bollo and a cup or pitcher of water: a tease to humans during the long fast, these treats are in fact strictly reserved to a mysterious “angel”, in case he/she decides to pay a visit: Yom Kippur is, in fact, the holiest day in the Jewish year, the “Shabbat Shabbaton”, and… you never know!

If you happen to be in Venice around the fall holidays, don’t forget to try the bolo from the local kosher bakery, Volpe . You can also pop into the Giardino dei Melograni kosher hotel (by the Hosteria del Ghetto kosher restaurant) and check out their beautiful Angel’s Table.

But back to the Bollo….

  • about 5 cups flour (a little over 1 lb of 00 or all-purpose)
  • 25 gr fresh yeast, or use dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (mix 1/2 cold water and 1/2 very hot water)
  • 1 scarce cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs (if they are quite large, use 3 yolks and 2 whites)
  • 1/2 cup mild olive oil or seed oil
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in warm water or brandy and drained
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp candied lemon or orange zest (optional) OR aniseeds (optional)
  • 1 shot brandy, cognac or grappa
  • 1 egg yolk or more to glaze the surface

In a bowl, combine the yeast with the warm water and only about 1/4 of flour and 1/4 of the sugar . Mix well, cover with foil and allow to rest in a warm place for at least 1 hour (even overnight) or until doubled in size.  If your apartment is cold, you can turn the oven on and then off: once the oven is warm but not scolding hot, place the bowl with the mix inside, covered with aluminum foil.

Once the mix has more or less doubled in size, add the rest of the flour, the sugar, 3 eggs, and mix well by hand or in a stand mixer. Cover again and allow to rest again in a warm place for 2 hours or until it doubles in size again.

Add the rest of the ingredients and knead again for a few minutes, then shape it into two oval breads.

Cover again with a towel and allow to rest and rise for at least 2 more hours or until light and fluffy and doubled in size.

Brush the top with the egg yolk (slightly beaten with very little water). If your oven tends to be dry, you can also spray lightly with a fine mist of ice water (to prevent it from darkening too much), and add a small pyrex pot or pan full of water in the oven, to keep the air moist. Your oven should be preheated at 450F. Bake at this temperature only for the first 5 to 7 minutes, then lower to 360 for another 35 or 40 minutes. Baking time varies depending on your oven.

***P.S. if you are not much of a baker, there are quicker ways to break the fast Italian-style: try quince paste with any simple cookies, or – if you can tolerate alcohol – the Piedmontese “Bruscadela“: layers of toasted challah soaked for a few hours in mulled wine (simmered with cinnamon, cloves and sugar). I had this once and it made me sleep for 13 hours.

Fluffy Honey and Orange Cake

Fluffy Honey Cake (Dairy or Parve)

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In Italy, “Miele” (honey), is classified as compulsively as cheeses and olive oil – by area of origins, type of flower, and depending on whether pieces of honeycomb were included… we have strawberry-tree (corbezzolo) and Eucalyptus honeys from Sardinia, chestnut honey from Piedmont, millefiori (thousand flowers) from Tuscany, orange blossom from Sicily, acacia from the Pre-Alps, and many more. Every fall, I take a trip to Zebar’s or Eataly where I stress out about which kind will grace my cake this Rosh HaShana!

Rather than blaming this on my all-Italian obsession with ingredients, you should try for yourselves! After all, when the Almighty promised our forefathers that they would be freed from Egyptian bondage, the Promised Land was described as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus. 3: 17, etc.) – and not with “milk and sugar”!

In this cake, the orange balances out any excessive sweetness of the honey.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium/large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup oil (canola oil or 1/2 light olive 1/2 almond oil)
  • about 300 gr (3/4 a medium/large jar) liquid honey
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1 1/2 cup 00 or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp orange liqueur (like triple sec) or brandy
  • zest of one organic orange
  • 1/4 cup of the orange juice
  • 1 package (16 g) baking powder
  • a pinch of salt

Directions

Using a hand mixer, beat the yolks with the honey until frothy and thick (about 3 minutes). Very slowly add the oil, and beat until creamy. Add the honey, the potato starch, orange zest and the liqueur. Now add the flour (mixed with the baking powder) a bit at a time, alternating it with the orange juice.

In a separate, clean and degreased bowl, or in your stand mixer, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Now combine the egg whites with the batter, with the help of a spatula, using upward movements.

Pour into a 9.5″ or 10″ Savarin or bundt pan (well greased and dusted with flour). Since honey cakes tend to darken more than sugar-based ones, I prefer these cake pans, with a hole, because the inside will cook faster, before the outside has time to darken. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 F for about 30-35 minutes, or until done when tested with a toothpick. To keep the color lighter, you can cover with aluminium foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.


Quince Paste for Rosh HaShana

Cotognata (Sweet Quince Paste) (Parve)

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Quinces are from the same family as apples and pears. They are much uglier than both, and they taste horrible when eaten raw (I tried!). Feed them to the geese? Think again: as usual, our great-great-great grandmothers were able to turn even this ugly-duckling of a fruit into a delicious treat. So delicious, in fact, that many communities in Italy and elsewhere eat them instead of apples and honey as Tapuach, the first element in our Rosh HaShana seder symbolizing a sweet new year.
(Other Italian traditions begin with dates – in Aramaic,Temareh – for the first blessing, and conclude with figs, apples or quinces).
I hope you try this easy recipe and offer it next to your apples and honey. You will understand why, when quinces were still hard to come by in Manhattan stores, a friend of mine’s 80-year-old Italian grandmother (who shall go unnamed) would be found climbing up the trees in the garden of the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan before Rosh HaShana. We saw her in action and she was quite agile.

Ingredients
– 2 pounds quinces
– 1 and 1/2 pound sugar
– 1 organic lemon
– 4 or 5 cloves

Directions
Clean the quinces, eliminating all the fuzz and any parts that are damaged..
Cook them in a pot of boiling water with half an organic lemon and the cloves.
When they are as soft as boiled potatoes (about an hour) drain them, discarding the lemon and cloves and setting aside about a ladleful of the cooking water.
Halve the quinces and allow them to cool off; then peel them, eliminate the cores, and reduce them into a smooth puree using a food mill or an electric mixer.
Combine this puree with the sugar and 1/2  a ladleful of the cooking water. Cook on low heat for about an hour, stirring regularly. The paste is ready when it sticks to the spoon.
Wet a large cutting board or your countertop, and pour the cotognata on top, forming an even 1/2-inch
layer.. After it has started to dry, you can cover it with parchment paper. After at least 24 hours (48 is better), cut into shapes with cookie cutters.

The Jewish Press: Italian Comfort Food

The Jewish Press

The Jewish Press

Tri-Color Frittata

FRITTATA TRICOLORE

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Frittata is the omelette’s Italian cousin: just like the omelette, it can be a great vehicle for using up any leftovers you happen to have around (even cooked pasta!), but it’s quicker and easier to make.

It tastes great warm or cold, and once cut into wedges it is easily transportable, which is why  in Italy it’s common to take a wedge to work for lunch. Of course it works just as well on your day off, whether you are having a picnic or hitting the beach. Frittatas are usually cooked on the stovetop, but if you dread the flip… feel free to bake yours in a regular oven! They are really quite foolproof, not to mention a quick, easy and inexpensive way to add some protein to any vegetables you have in your fridge and make them into a meal.

In Italy, we don’t usually serve frittatas for breakfast, but at either lunch or dinner. They can be a main course at a light meal, or an appetizer before several other courses. While Italians in general love this kind of food, Italian Jews are particularly fond of them because eggs are “parve”/ neutral, and can be consumed with either dairy or meat (incidentally, frittatas were probably introduced by the Jews exiled from Spain and Portugal, who also brought much more complex egg preparations, especially desserts).

Such a traditional Italian recipe deserved an Italian color theme, which is why we are going with green, white and red.

Ingredients

8 eggs

2 green peppers

1 leek

2 tomatoes or one small basket cherry tomatoes

½ cup diced mozzarella or feta cheese

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons milk

1 handful flat leaf parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Cooking Directions

Slice the leek thinly. Seed the peppers and dice them, or cut them into thin strips. Seed the tomatoes and dice them (if using cherry tomatoes, cut them in half).  Mince the parsley, discarding the stems.

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet. When the oil is hot, add the leeks and the peppers and saute’ until soft (about 3-4 minutes). In a bowl, slightly beat the eggs with 2 tbs of milk, salt and pepper. Combine with the diced tomatoes, the parsley, and the diced cheese.

Pour the egg mixture into the skillet over the peppers. Allow  thbottom of the frittata to cook, using a spatula to lift the sides to allow more liquid to run under. When the bottom is cooked, carefully flip the frittata with the help of a platter, and cook the other side.

If using an oven-proof skillet, you can also transfer the pan into the oven and cook the top under the broiler for a few minutes, to avoid flipping.

Watermelon and Cantaloupe Bruschetta

1300-pane-integrale-grigliato-quark-cetrioli-songino-cipollotto-e-melone-anguria-sale-maldon

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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.

 

Insalata Tricolore (Three Color Salad)

Insalata Tricolore (Three Color Salad)
Insalata Tricolore (Three Color Salad)

Insalata Tricolore (Three Color Salad)

Insalata Tricolore (Three Color Salad)

serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (scarce) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bunches arugula (thicker stems removed)
  • 1/2 pound radishes, thinly sliced (use a mandoline if possible)
  • 1/2 pound green apple, peeled and sliced thin (or hearts of palm)
  • (if liked, 6 ounces goat cheese)

Directions

Wash and dry the arugula, and toss it with the radishes and apple together.

While it’s not very “Italian”, I always crave hearts of palm (it all started with my second pregnancy), and like substituting them for the apple in this recipe.

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, shallot, salt and pepper, and toss the salad with this dressing right before serving.

** If you are not serving this as a side, but having it as a very light summer meal , you could add some goat cheese and serve with warm multi-grain bread.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/07/24/insalata-tricolore-three-color-salad/

Minestrone – Italian Vegetable Soup

S 55 01 STEP 1 MINESTRONE

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The word minestrone derives from the Latin verb  ministrare, which means ‘to administer’.
Maybe because, as any Italian mother can witness, it is the most efficient way to administer lots of healthy vegetables to picky children, with few complaints!

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In many households, minestrone is made at least weekly and (thanks to the fact that it tastes even better when reheated), served several times as a primo piatto (first course) with both dairy and meat meals. I usually serve it plain on the first day; on the second day, I reheat it with some leftover cooked rice, pasta or even spelt. If it’s cold outside, or I’m simply too busy for multiple courses, I just throw in some beans to transform this light soup into an earthy meal. At the end of the week I add a boiled potato and turn the leftovers into a creamy passato (blended soup) with my hand blender.

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Just keep in mind, if you plan on stretching your soup over the course of a week, that you should skip tomatoes or it will spoil too quickly. In Italy we have countless regional and seasonal variations for this soup, depending on the local produce! Just to give you a few examples, the Genoese minestrone is flavored with pesto; my Tuscan grandmother liked to add rosemary, and the Lombard one preferred Arborio rice in it.

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The only key rules are that all the ingredients should be very fresh and the oil high quality; the soup should be cooked very slowly, on low heat; and finally, the vegetables should be chopped very small, Israeli salad-style…. other than that, have some fun!

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Ingredients (serves 8-10 as an appetizer, 6-8 as a main course)

  • vegetable stock, 1 1/2 quarts
  • 2 whole cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 6 leaves of kale or Swiss Chards, chopped
  • 1 large slice of butternut squash or pumpkin
  • 1/2 a small cabbage (1/4 if large)
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 small (or 1 large) zucchini
  • 1 cup peas
  • OR asparagus tips, or green beans
  • 1 small or medium potato (optional)
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil (I use a low-acidic, mild Ligurian or Tuscan)
  • fresh rosemary or parsley, if liked
  • (tip: if you rarely make it to the green market…. it does work even with frozen vegetables!)

Peel the carrots and potatoes with a vegetable peeler and wash and clean all the vegetables, discarding any outer leaves and inedible parts. On a chopping board, cut all the vegetables into regular dice max 1/2″ (except for the peas, obviously). In a large pot with a heavy base, heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and the whole garlic cloves and cook until the onion is translucent. Discard the garlic (if using – I usually don’t),  add the vegetables and little salt, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes on medium/low heat, making sure they don’t burn or change color. Cover the vegetables with the vegetable stock and cook, in a partially covered pot and on low heat, for about an hour or until the vegetables are  soft and the liquid has absorbed all their flavor. If using asparagus tips, add them later, about 15 minutes from the end. If you are pressed for time, you can also cook minestrone in a pressure cooker (it should take less than 15 minutes). When ready, pour into individual bowls, drizzle with some more extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a touch of freshly ground black pepper. It also tastes great with some freshly grated parmigiano on top, if you are in the mood for cheese!.

Grandma’s Eggplant and Apple Jam

S 01 02 I MARMELLATA DI MELE E MELANZANE

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Few things are more American than a PB & J sandwich. However, jelly itself has been a staple all over the world since antiquity, when someone figured out that even quince (a fruit that looks like an ugly apple, and that’s too hard to be eaten raw) could taste delicious when slow-cooked with honey (incidentally, the word Marmalade derives from the Portuguese Marmelo (quince). Unlike our American children, spoiled by constant sugary snacks, it seems that people back then actually PREFERRED fresh fruit, because they didn’t attempt to make jelly with anything other than quince for centuries!

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It was the Persians or the Arabs, who had been producing sugar from cane, who finally came up with the idea of syrup and started using it to manufacture various preserves, experimenting with pectic fermentation and creating the first citrus fruit marmalades. With the conquest of Spain, Portugal and Southern Italy, the Arabs introduced all their confections, changing the European palate forever, much to the joy of children and… dentists.

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Preserving fruit or vegetables in syrup, just like drying or pickling, also prolonged their shelf life; this became critical in the Age of Discovery, starting in the 15th century, for the sailors, merchants and pirates (!) who had to spend months at sea with no access to fresh produce.

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However, jam makes me think of far more familiar adventures, such as climbing up my grandmother’s fig, apple and peach trees as a child. I didn’t mind a scraped knee if I could feel that I was part of our little production line: I picked the fruit, nonna stirred the jam, my mom (the pharmaceutical chemist) jarred it, and my dad kept stealing spoonfuls from the pot.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 pounds small (Japanese) eggplants
  • 3 small golden delicious apples (or 2 large)
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 6 cups sugar

DIRECTIONS:

peel the eggplants, cut them in 2-3 pieces each, and pierce them with a fork. Place them in a bowl of salted water for 1 hour. Rinse and cover with fresh, unsalted water. Let rest for another hour. Drain and lace in a large (it will froth up like crazy) copper or stainless steel pot, with the peeled and sliced apples, and the orange and lemon juice and zest. Add the sugar and 2-3 tbsps water,bring to a boil, and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. remove from the heat and pass through a food mill or sieve 9even a potato masher will do!). return to the pot and simmer for 30 more minutes, or until it has thickened. Pour into sterilized glass jars and close them tightly. Store in a cool, dark place.

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Zucchini and Goat Cheese Salad

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Salad

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Salad

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 head curly endive
  • 1 pound goat cheese (I used Natural and Kosher goat cheese log)
  • pink peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • green peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • chives, finely minced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions

With a wet melon ball cutter or with your wet hands, shape the goat cheese into little balls .

Roll 1/4 of them into the freshly grated green peppercorns, 1/4 into the chives, 1/4 into the pink peppercorns and 1/3 into the grated carrot, then place the cheese balls in the refrigerator to harden.

Wash the pepper and zucchini; cut the pepper into thin strips after discarding the seeds and white membranes; cut the zucchini into thin slices lengthwise (with a mandoline if possible).

Grill the zucchini and peppers on a heavyweight grill pan (I like this ).

Wash the endive and cut it into pieces.

Gather all the ingredients in a large bowl and dress with the olive oil mixed with a little salt and pink pepper.

Stir gently and serve in individual bowls or cups.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/06/25/zucchini-and-goat-cheese-salad/

Edible Mosaic with Yogurt Sauces

Edible Mosaic with Yogurt Sauces

Edible Mosaic by DinnerinVenice.com

Growing up in Venice, I was always fascinated with glass mosaic – an ancient art that can create, through the careful rhythm of colored enamels and gold leaf, a magical world where time seems to stand still.

Edible Mosaic by DinnerinVenice.com 1279

Why not experiment with summer fruit? Your kids will love this project!

Edible Mosaic by DinnerinVenice.com 1287

Edible Mosaic with Yogurt Sauces

Ingredients

  • watermelon
  • cantaloupe
  • white melon
  • mango or pineapple
  • kiwi
  • 3 small containers or 1 large container plain yogurt
  • brown sugar and honey to taste
  • mint, lemongrass or lavender, lemon and lime juice
  • 1/2 container blueberries
  • cocoa and cinnamon to taste

Directions

Dice the different types of fruit into pieces, all the same size. If using white fruit, drizzle with lemon to prevent it from darkening.

Make layers of fruit cubes on a serving platter, alternating the different colors, and even creating patterns if you feel particularly artistic.

Decorate with fresh mint.

Serve with at least 3 different yogurt sauces made by blending yogurt with any of the following:

1) blueberries and sugar; 2) honey and fresh mint; 3) lemon or lime, brown sugar and lemongrass or lavender; 4) cocoa powder, cinnamon and sugar....

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/06/24/edible-mosaic-with-yogurt-sauces/

Mount Sinai with Threaded Eggs

Mount Sinai with Threaded Eggs (Dairy)

Mount Sinai Cake with Threaded Eggs by DinnerInVenice

For years, I had been intrigued by this curious cake from Livorno (Leghorn), a dessert that features sweet egg threads on top – a sign that it was introduced by the egg-loving Portuguese Jews and marranos who were invited to settle in the city by the Grand-Duke of Tuscany in the sixteenth century. With the help of the Jewish merchants, Leghorn became one of the most important port cities in Europe (but also a center of the printing press), and became known as “the city with no ghetto”.

I was already familiar with the local cuisine, and decided to try my hand at this tart, which looked like no other. Unfortunately, the yolk threads proved to be a huge challenge: I didn’t seem to be able to control the flow through the colander (the tool of choice in all the books that listed the recipe).  My Livornese friends couldn’t help either: apparently they had always encountered the same problem and ended up with a sticky blob or with burns… they said that they used to buy the cake for Shavuot and for Purim from a well-known patisserie, but that when the owner died his tricks were buried with him. I had to wait until the blogging and YouTube era to figure this all out, with the help of some non-Jewish foodies from Portugal, where threaded eggs are often featured on Christmas recipes… in particular, thank you chef Fernando Canales for  teaching me that in the 21st century it would be silly to use a colander when most of us have easy access to a pastry syringe (or at least a large syringe to dispense pediatric drops)!

Mount Sinai with Threaded Eggs (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • Cake base:
  • 1 1/3 cup finely ground almonds (200 gr)
  • ½ cup sugar (100 gr)
  • pinch of salt
  • grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 or 4 tbsps candied etrog or lemon peel, finely chopped (optional)
  • Egg Threads:
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsps water (250 ml)
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp lemon or orange juice
  • 1 ½ tbsps orange flower water, if liked (or 1 more tbsp orange juice)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 320 F (yes, it’s very low, but if the temperature is higher the “macaroon” will be too crunchy to cut).

Place the sugar and water for the base in a heavy saucepan and simmer until sticky (I have also skipped this step and used plain sugar instead of making the syrup, with an acceptable result). Add the almonds and zest, stirring with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.

Allow to cool, and when it’s just lukewarm add the egg.

Line the bottom of a 9 to 9” baking pan with wet parchment (squeeze it well) and grease the sides. Pour in the cake mixture and press it down gently with your wet fingertips.

Bake for about 30 minutes and set aside.

For the egg threads, boil the sugar, water and juice in a frying pan (about 10” wide and with tall-ish sides so the syrup doesn’t splatter all over your stovetop), and simmer until the syrup is thick enough to stick to a spoon (coating it).

Slightly beat the yolks in a small bowl and then fill your pastry syringe with as much beaten egg as it can hold.

Now press the yolk out of the syringe and into the simmering syrup, starting at the center and moving the syringe in an outward circular motion so that the egg makes a long spiral thread into the syrup.

When you are done, press the thread down into the syrup with a wooden spoon or a spatula and let cook for a few seconds, until it holds together (but it should still be soft).

Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on a double layer of paper towel.

Repeat the same process with the rest of the yolks.

When all the yolks are cooked and drained, place them in a colander and rinse some of the syrup off with water.

Allow them to dry well.

Invert the almond base into a platter, top it with the candied peel and decorate it with the egg threads. It’s worth it!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/23/mount-sinai-with-threaded-eggs-dairy/

Crostata di Visciole (Sour Cherry Tart)

Crostata di Visciole (Sour Cherry Tart) (Dairy)

Sour Cherry tart - Crostata di Visciole by DinnerInVenice

The ancient Jewish community of Rome maintains many traditions that will never fade. One of its highlights is this double-crusted tart, stuffed with ricotta cheese and sour cherry jam.

If you visit Rome, try it at Boccione’s, the famous kosher bakery in the ghetto! Theirs is made with really fresh sheep milk ricotta, and it’s worth putting up with the long lines….

Sour Cherry tart - Crostata di Visciole by DinnerInVenice

Crostata di Visciole (Sour Cherry Tart) (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 300 gr (22oz) flour (about 2 ½ cups but it’s best to weigh)
  • 125 gr (4 ½ oz) sugar (a little more than ½ cup)
  • 125 gr (1 stick plus 1 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • zest of 1 untreated lemon
  • 1 large egg + 1 yolk (large, not XL)
  • for the filling:
  • 1 pound whole sheep or cow milk ricotta
  • 100 grams (scant ½ cup) sugar, or more to taste
  • (optional: 1 egg and 1 tbsp rhum or anise liqueur)
  • 1 jar sour cherry jam such as Rigoni Asiago (or regular cherry jam mixed with little lemon juice)
  • OR 2 cups sour-cherries and ½ cup sugar

Directions

Place the sifted flour and salt into your food processor, add the cold butter cut into cubes, the sugar, salt, eggs, lemon zest, and pulse a few times until crumbly.

Remove from the food processor and work quickly with your hands (keep them cold by rubbing them on ice cubes) until smooth.

Wrap in plastic and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

If using fresh sour cherries, cook them (pitted) for 25 minutes on low heat with ½ cup of sugar and 4-5 tbsps water.

Combine the ricotta with the ½ cup sugar (and egg and liqueur if using: I don’t).

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease and dust a baking pan (I also like to line the bottom with parchment as an extra precaution).

Cut the dough into 2 pieces: one should be about 2/3 and the other 1/3 of the total volume.

Roll out the larger piece on a lightly floured counter and place it on the bottom and sides of the prepared cake pan; brush the bottom with the cherry jam and follow with the ricotta filling.

Some people do the opposite and spread the ricotta on the bottom, followed by the cherry jam on top: in this case the ricotta becomes colored by the cherries while the pie is baking.

Roll out the remaining dough into a smaller disc and use it to top the pie, sealing the edges (you can also decorate with strips, but the ricotta stays moister if you “close” the pie.

I cut it into a large flower shape, which I felt was large enough for this purpose). Bake for about 45-55 minutes.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/21/crostata-di-visciole-sour-cherry-tart-dairy/

 

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water by DinnerInVenice

The milk and honey are a reference to the divine love described in the Song of Songs; the rose water is linked to the tradition of Shavuot as the Feast of Roses; finally, the rice symbolizes the marriage between God and His people.

Can you find a more symbolic dish than this lovely cake of clear Sephardic origins?

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb Italian rice such as Arborio, Vialone nano or Carnaroli
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cups pine nuts
  • 1 qt milk
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of Rose Water, OR Orange Blossom water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • (*** If you don’t like Rose Water, you can substitute the juice and zest of one orange)

Directions

Pour the milk, sugar and vanilla extract in a pot and bring it to a boil (enameled cast-iron or non-stick pots work best, if you use a steel pot the rice will tend to stick to the bottom and burn).

Add the rice, and cook for 15 to 18 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently.

When the rice has absorbed all the milk, remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.

Once the mixture has cooled off, add the eggs one at a time, the pine nuts, the butter (softened at room temperature and cut into small pieces), and the rose water (or orange blossom water, or orange juice and zest).

Mix well with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients have blended together.

Grease a cake pan with butter and dust it with flour, and pour the mixture into it (you can use a Bundt pan, or any cake pan with a nice shape. I like to use one that looks like a flower).

Bake for about 30 minutes in a 400 F oven.

Let it cool on a rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/15/rice-cake-with-pine-nuts-and-rose-water/

Rotolo di Spinaci e Ricotta

Rotolo di Spinaci e Ricotta

ROTOLO DI SPINACI E RICOTTA by DinnerInVenice

Shavuot commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and Jewish communities around the world have developed special culinary customs to give due honor to the holiday.

Meals are characterized by dairy dishes, as the Bible itself compares the Torah to milk and honey (“honey and milk shall be under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Some commentators add that, before the revelation at Sinai, the Jews were allowed to eat meat that was slaughtered normally, but after the Torah was given on Shavuot, they became obligated to follow the rules of kasherut . Until the end of that first festival,  they had no alternative but to indulge in dairy foods! Mystics also like to mention that  the numerical equivalent of halav ( Hebrew for milk) is forty – the number of days Moses waited on Mount Sinai.

Another tradition is eating foods that are rolled, to remind us of the shape of the Torah scrolls that are read in synagogue. Among Ashkenazi jews, the most popular Shavuot food incorporating both customs is cheese blintzes.  However in Italy, it’s all about pasta, creamy ricotta and aged parmigiano cheese! Buon appetito….

Rotolo di Spinaci e Ricotta

Ingredients

  • Fresh Pasta
  • 2 pounds of spinach (or a bag of chopped, frozen spinach)
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese (regular, do not use fat-free!)
  • salt and peper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 5 teaspoons grated Parmigiano cheese (grated, not shredded)
  • 1 whole egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in hot water and drained (optional)

Directions

Make fresh pasta (I like the recipe here http://www.lacucinaitalianamagazine.com/recipe/pasta_fresca ) and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic.

Put two pounds of spinach in a pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 whole cloves of garlic. Salt and sprinkle with very little water.

Cook covered for about 5 minutes, then uncovered until soft and until most water has been absorbed (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Once the spinach has cooled off, drain it through a colander (you can line it with cheesecloth if the holes are too wide), squeezing most of the liquid out.

Chop the spinach and mix it with the ricotta cheese, the egg, salt, spices and parmigiano.

If you like, you can also add raisins and pine nuts. Set aside.

Roll the pasta out into a thin sheet and cut a rectangle of at least 10’ x 20” or wider.

Lay the pasta sheet over a cheesecloth or a sheet of parchment.

Spread the spinach/ricotta mixture over the pasta and roll up tightly.

Wrap the roll in the cheesecloth and tie it with twine at both ends, like an oversized piece of candy.

Boil it for 35 minutes in a large pot of salted water, drain and slice.

Arrange in one layer in a baking tray, dress with sage butter (butter melted with sage leaves till golden brown) or a tomato sauce, and extra grated parmigiano. If you added pine nuts and raisins to the filling, sage butter is preferable.

***EASY ALTERNATIVE: if you don’t have time to make the pasta from scratch you can cook dried Barilla or De Cecco lasagna (the regular tipe, NOT the “No-boil”) sheets in salted boiling water for 5 minutes, making sure they don’t break. After draining, lay the lasagna sheets on paper towel, stuff with filling and roll up. Put in a baking pan with either marinara sauce or sage butter on the bottom and on top. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and bake at 400 F for 40 minutes (no convection or they will dry out).

Slice after baking with a sharp knife.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/13/rotolo-di-spinaci-e-ricotta/

“Masconod” – Sweet Cheese Rolls

“Masconod” / Sweet Cheese Rolls (Dairy)

Masconod - Sweet Cheese Rolls by DinnerInVenice

One of the most traditional Italian pasta dishes for Shavuot has ancient roots and a mysterious name: “Masconod”. The original recipe features parmigiano mixed with sugar and cinnamon (the same unusual combination used to dress gnocchi in some areas of North-Eastern Italy), although the less adventurous palates replace the sugar and cinnamon with black pepper. The pasta is rolled-up manicotti-style, but tighter, like Moroccan cigars: since Shavuot commemorates God’s giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, it’s customary to eat some “rolled” foods, resembling Torah scrolls. This is also true of Simchat Torah (which marks the conclusion of the annual Torah reading cycle and the beginning of the next), but the rolls of Shavuot are usually filled with cream or cheese, since “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11)….

While Masconod is traditionally made with fresh lasagna sheets, this  year I’ve tried it with crespelle (Italian crepes) and it was love at first taste! Move over, blintzes! Here are both options:

“Masconod” / Sweet Cheese Rolls (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • (serves 6)
  • fresh lasagna sheets OR crespelle (Italian crepes) (double the amount in the crepes recipe)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (to taste)
  • 3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano, Grana or Parmigianito
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, or to taste

Directions

Make fresh pasta, cut into 25-30 5-inch squares, cook in boiling salted water a few at a time, drain and dry on an old towel.

If you prefer, make the (round) crespelle following the recipe, and cook in a non-stick skillet.

Combine the cheese with the sugar and cinnamon (or with simple black pepper if you don’t like sweet and savory combinations).

Brush each pasta square or crepe with melted butter, and sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of cheese mixture.

Roll up like tight manicottis and arrange in one single layer in a buttered baking tray.

Brush the rolls with more melted butter, and top with the remaining cheese mixture.

Depending on the size of your baking dish, you can make a single layer or a double layer.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/09/masconod-sweet-cheese-rolls-dairy/

Delicate Salad

Delicate Salad

Delicate Salad

Delicate Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow or red pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 cup cooked fava beans
  • pink and green peppercorns, coarsely ground (or you can use black pepper)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Serves 4

Cut the lettuce into thin stripes.

Seed the pepper, remove the white membranes and cut it into strips.

Slice the carrot and the zucchini length-wise, into very thin slices (you can use a mandoline, or a potato peeler).

Gather all the ingredients in a large bowl, add the fava beans, and dress with the olive oil mixed with the lemon, the salt and the pepper (if using pre-washed packaged salad and it’s a little dry, add a tablespoon of water).

Toss gently and serve.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/06/delicate-salad/

Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana (Dairy)

GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA by Dinnerinvenice.com

Gnocchi alla Romana (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • (serves 4-6)
  • About 8 tbsps butter, or more to taste
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 large eggs (use only the yolks)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • ½ teasp of grated nutmeg (if liked)

Directions

Heat the milk in a saucepan with 5 tbsps of butter and ½ teaspoon salt.

When the milk is hot, pour in the semolina slowly, whisking continuously (use a whisk and not a spoon to prevent clumps); cook for about 15 minutes, or until cooked; as the mixture becomes too thick for a whisk, switch to a wooden spoon.

Remove the mixture from the heat, add salt if needed, and add half the grated cheese and all the egg yolks, combining well.

Pour and spread the semolina mixture onto a tray or counter lined wet parchment.

With the spatula, spread it to a thickness of about ½” to a maximum of 2/3, and allow to cool.

Cut the cold semolina into circles with a round cookie cutter.

Arrange the gnocchi in a buttered baking pan, slightly overlapping, and top with some butter flakes, the remaining grated cheese, a touch of grated nutmeg and a little black pepper.

Bake in a pre-heated 425 F oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden-brown.

You can dress and bake the trimmings in the same way; I serve the nicely round gnocchi to guests and enjoy the trimmings on my own the next day!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/06/gnocchi-alla-romana-dairy/

Ezekiel’s Olive Chicken

Ezekiel's Olive Chicken
Ezekiel's Olive Chicken

Ezekiel’s Olive Chicken

What’s with chicken and prophets? Several Jewish Italian recipes for poultry have Biblical names. Here is one of the most popular examples, which appears in different variations in most cooking books on the topic, from Vitali Norsa, to Servi-Machlin to Joyce Goldstein. It’s not a surprise, because chicken cooked with this technique stays moist and juicy and keeps well for Shabbat! It’s a variation on the basic “pollo in umido”, which Americans call “chicken cacciatore”. The classic recipe is made with a cut-up whole chicken, but if you are in a rush or if you prefer boneless meat, boneless thighs also work well. When I cook boneless meat, I always add the bones to the pot (wrapped in a cloth) and discard them at the end. The bones add tremendous depth to the flavor. You can also add a couple of (koshered) chicken livers.

Ezekiel’s Olive Chicken

Ingredients

  • (4 servings)
  • one chicken, cut into serving pieces 3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, slightly pressed or minced (depending on your tolerance ;-)
  • 1/3 cup green or/and black olives, pitted
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons mix of freshly chopped herbs (sage, rosemary and basil or mint or parsley)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 or 3 peeled tomatoes (I use the canned type),
  • 1/3 cup dry wine, red or white

Directions

Rinse the chicken and pat dry.

Heat the olive oil , add the chicken and saute until golden.

Add the salt, pepper, olives, garlic, and herbs, and the chopped (and drained) tomatoes.

Cook for 2 minutes, stirring, then lower the flame and cook covered until tender (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Now uncover, add the wine, and allow it to evaporate it on high heat.. It's delicious with a side of steamed potatoes or polenta.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/28/ezekiels-olive-chicken/

Roman Lamb Roast

Roman Lamb Roast (Meat)

AGNELLO AL FORNO

The Jewish community of Rome dates back to the second century BCE. Its history is known from several Latin and Greek sources, the Talmud, and inscriptions found in the catacombs. “Rabbinical” Judaism, whose core thoughts are collected in the Babylonian Talmud, originated towards the end of the first century CE, after the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed. Its center was the academy of Yavneh, which in theory was also in charge of the Jews in the Diaspora. We know from the Talmud that at the beginning of the 2nd century CE, a certain Rabbi Matthias was sent from Yavneh to Rome. However, the Romans did not always accept his authority: the Talmud reports that the leader of the Roman community, Theudas, refused Yavneh’s instructions to modify the way the Passover lamb was butchered.  We gather from these passages that in Judaea the ritual must have been changed after the destruction of the Temple. In most communities around the world, the custom of eating lamb at the seder was eventually abolished “until the Temple will be restored”. However, because of Theudas’s  refusal to follow the dictates from Yavneh, the Roman community continued to prepare the Passover lamb as always (until even Yavneh gave in and accepted the difference). To this day, Roman Jews (who are very proud to be neither Ashkenazic nor Sephardic) serve lamb at their Seder.

Roman Lamb Roast (Meat)

Ingredients

  • (serves 6-8)
  • 1 leg* of lamb or lamb shoulder ( about 3 to 4 pound)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • pieces of lemon peel, or chili peppers, or sun dried tomatoes, if liked
  • 5 tablespoons dry white wine (pinot gris, riesling or chardonnay)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

*Lamb shoulder is more widely available than leg, because of how labor intensive removing the sciatic nerve is (a requirement of Jewish dietary laws). One of the few kosher butchers in the US who carry lamb leg is Bisrakosher in NY (and their lamb is grass-fed).

Preheat oven to 400 F:

Rinse the lamb, dry with paper towel, and make some small incisions into the meat with a small pointed knife. This technique has a not-so-kosher name, itâ??s called â??lardingâ?? the lamb.

Remove the leaves from 2 of the rosemary sprigs and cut the garlic cloves into 4 parts length-wise.

Cut the lemon peel or sun dried tomatoes into pieces if using.

Insert 3/4 of these rosemary needles, garlic and the lemon or tomato into the cuts.

Combine the remaining 1/4 with about 1/2 cup oil and some pepper.

Brush the lamb all over with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 4-5 tablespoons dry white wine (or a mix of lemon and wine), and place in a roasting pan.

Roast for about 1/2 hours or until cooked inside and golden-brown on the outside.

In general, lamb should be roasted for about 25 minutes per pound, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the roast reads 150.

Turn the lamb halfway through the cooking, and baste every 15 minutes with the herb/oil emulsion and the pan juices.

Remove the lamb from the oven and allow it to rest covered for at least 15 minutes before serving.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/26/roman-lamb-roast-meat/


Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

My husband lived in Japan for one year and is obsessed with sushi. When we got married, I  introduced him to Italian raw fish dishes such as crudocarpaccio and tartara.

Many cultures like to serve the freshest fish raw, and it’s very quick and easy to prepare – but it’s vital to use only the best, sushi-grade fish, purchased from a fish monger you trust. As an extra precaution you can also freeze your fish for 1 hour before you use it. Salmon, in particular, is very susceptible to parasites.

This is a simple recipe, but it requires (besides very fresh fish!) very good olive oil and organic lemon and lime.

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Ingredients

  • (serves 4-6)
  • 1 lb fish fillet, sushi-grade (choose your favorite: branzino, yellowtail, salmon, halibut…)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup high quality extra-virgin olive oil (I prefer a mild Italian oil from Liguria)
  • 1 lime and 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Directions

Chop the fish very fine. Your fish monger might be willing to do this for you. If not, store the fish in the freezer from 30 minutes before chopping: it will make it easier!

Grate the lemon and lime zest, and squeeze the juice. Set aside.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and form individual patties.

Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/25/tartara-di-pesce-raw-fish-tartare/

Tortino d’Azzima – Matzo Pie

Tortino d’Azzima (Matzo Pie) (Meat or Parve)

Tortino d’Azzima (Matzo Pie) (Meat or Parve)

This recipe was my contribution to my friend Tori’s Passover Potluck project 2012. Check out the more detailed intro and my step-by-step pictures on her blog, here (you will also love all her yummy recipes!).

Tortino d’Azzima (Matzo Pie) (Meat or Parve)

Ingredients

  • MATZO PIE INGREDIENTS
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • 2 boxes (about 10 oz. each) matzo (more or less)
  • 2 lbs. cleaned Swiss chard or baby spinach
  • 2 lbs. artichoke hearts (frozen is ok)
  • 2 lbs. asparagus or mushroom, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 quarts cold chicken broth (for soaking the matzo- sub vegetable broth for vegan mod.)
  • 3 eggs (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • SUGO D'ARROSTO (ROAST JUICE) INGREDIENTS
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Rosemary
  • 4 oz. ground meat (optional)
  • 1 piece marrow bone (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Clean the vegetables, discarding the tougher parts of the artichokes and asparagus.

Cut the asparagus into small pieces, slice the artichokes very thinly (if using frozen, partially defrost first), and chop the spinach.

Blanch the spinach for about 5 minutes in a covered pot with a few tablespoons of water (you can also do this in a covered platter in your microwave).

Allow to cool down, then drain and squeeze the liquid out by pressing it into a colander in your sink.

Prepare three separate skillets on your stovetop, with at least 2 tablespoons of oil in each.

Heat the oil and add 2 whole cloves of garlic to each skillet.

Place the artichokes in one skillet, the asparagus or mushrooms in another, and the spinach in another.

Add 1/2 cup of white wine each to the artichokes and the asparagus/mushroom skillets and salt to taste.

Turn heat on those two skillets to medium. Allow the vegetables to simmer in the wine till it evaporates.

Add 1/3 cup of water to the artichokes, and cover both the artichokes and the asparagus.

Turn heat to low.

Salt the spinach skillet to taste (do not add any wine). Turn heat to low.

Cook all 3 vegetables separately on low heat until very moist and tender, adding some water if they start sticking to the skillet, or if they dry out. Cooking times may vary between 15 and 20 minutes.

Discard the garlic cloves and set the three vegetables aside. If they feel too dry, add a few tablespoons of broth.

Make sure you have some “sugo d’arrosto”* (roast juice) ready, or make some following my instructions at the bottom of this recipe.

Soak the matzahs in cold chicken broth. For a prettier result, soak them briefly (about 10 minutes), a few at a time, not allowing them to crumble (if you soak them for a short time, they might still split in 2, but they will be easy to “re-compose” in the pan).

For a softer, kugel-like texture, soak the matzahs for at least 40 minutes until very soft, break them down with your hands into a “mush” and then squeeze the liquid out (some people prefer this texture and they don’t mind the fact that it looks less “pretty”).

Line the bottom of a baking pan with about ¼ of the soaked matzah. splitting some in ½ or 1/3 as needed to completely fill the perimeter.

Brush or drizzle with a little “sugo di arrosto” and with about 1/3 cup broth (if you mush the matzah you will need to use less broth; whole matzahs, more broth), and then layer most of the spinach (reserve about ¼ for the top); follow with a layer of matzah, a little more “sugo d’arrosto” and broth, and the artichokes (set aside ¼ of all the vegetables) ; again matzah, roast juice, broth, and the asparagus. You can just top with the asparagus or make a final layer of matzah and top with roast juice.

Break the eggs and whisk them with 1 cup leftover broth.

Pour the mix over the pie slowly, trying to cover it evenly and allowing it to penetrate down the sides (if you are serving this dish as a side and prefer a lighter version, or if you are making a vegan modification, you can skip the eggs).

Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Half-way through the baking, check the pie, and if it feels too dry, add some more broth, concentrating it on the perimeter of the matzahs. You can also cover it with foil for the second half of the baking.

TO MAKE SUGO D'ARROSTO (ROAST JUICE)

Roast some beef with olive oil, garlic and rosemary leaves.

When the meat is done, remove it and strain the pot juices, which you will add to the matzah pie (if it’s not Passover, the roast juices also make an awesome pasta sauce!).

If you don’t need to make a whole roast beef, you can make a “fake” roast juice sauce by heating some olive oil in a skillet, and cooking a small amount of ground meat in it with a few whole cloves of garlic, some rosemary, salt and pepper. And if you are vegetarian or vegan, just heat the oil with garlic and rosemary and skip the meat!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/22/tortino-dazzima-matzo-pie-meat-or-parve/

Fennel Soup

Fennel Soup (Parve)

Fennel Soup (Parve)

We all overeat every once in a while, and end up feeling bloated or with a stomach ache: what a Jewish Italian mother would prescribe in such cases (backed up by Maimonides’ medical treatises) is a nice bowl of fennel soup. Fennel (Anise) is one of those ingredients that until the late 1800s were shunned by non-Jews in Italy and considered lowly and vulgar. By the time this delicious vegetable was accepted into general Italian cuisine,  Jews had already discovered countless ways to prepare it, raw or cooked, as an appetizer or side.

Fennel soup is to indigestion what chicken soup is to a cold, and it’s also said to help with bloating, detoxify the liver and even increase lactation. Just as your Bubbe did with the chicken,  we use all parts of the fennel: we eat the bulbs, we make tea with the leaves, and we use the seeds as a spice. Curious fact: fennel seeds have such a powerful digestive effect that in (non-kosher) Italian cooking they are often used to enhance the least digestible of meats (pork)! 

In the Jewish Italian tradition we also add them to many different kinds of dishes,  and of course cookies and biscottis – which acquire that special exotic flavor. I have mixed feelings about making biscottis more digestible, because my husband and kids already polish them off as they are and do not need any encouragement, but you should try at least once! 

Back to the soup: it’s light, parve, gluten-free if you skip the toast, and literally takes only minutes to make. Here you go.

Fennel Soup (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed /span>
  • 4 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • (optional) 8 slices toasted baguette or ciabatta bread

Directions

Serves 4

Clean the fennel, slicing them thin (I use a mandoline) and place them in a pot.

Cover them with water, drizzle with the oil, add the crushed garlic and half of the parsley.

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat , salt, and allow to simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Discard the garlic, sprinkle with black pepper, and serve hot with toasted bread.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/18/fennel-soup-parve/


Easy Passover Soup with Frittata (“Dadini in Brodo”)

Easy Passover Soup with Frittata (“Dadini in Brodo”) – (meat)

Easy Passover Soup with Frittata (“Dadini in Brodo”) – (meat)

A great matzah-free option if the first Seder has left you feeling stuffed like a Passover turkey and you need a break! You can also serve this at the seder as an alternative to your matzah balls for gluten-intolerant guests.

Easy Passover Soup with Frittata (“Dadini in Brodo”) – (meat)

Ingredients

  • Serves 6
  • 4 eggs
  • a tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 4 slices Hungarian salami, very finely chopped (optional)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil or to taste
  • salt, and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg (if liked)
  • 3 quarts (or to taste) chicken or beef broth

Directions

In a bowl stir together the eggs, the parsley, salt, pepper, the salami, and the nutmeg.

Heat some olive oil in a non-stick skillet, pour the mixture in, and once one side is cooked flip it over and cook the other side.

If you prefer and if the skillet is oven-proof, you can also cook the second side by broiling in the oven (if you are nervous about the flip!).

Let it cool down and cut it into small cubes that you will place into a bowl and cover with steaming hot chicken or beef broth.

Instead of making a thicker frittata and cutting it into cubes, some people like to prepare very thin ones (crepe-like), and slice them thinly to resemble fettuccini.

Enjoy!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/18/easy-passover-soup-with-frittata-dadini-in-brodo-meat/

Pistachio Amaretto Crostata with Chocolate and Berries

Pistachio Amaretto Crostata with Chocolate and Mixed Berries (Parve, GF)

amaretto-frutti-pesach-group.001

If you like macaroons, this indulgent and festive tart will become your favorite way to welcome Passover. If you are celiac and need to follow a gluten-free diet, you have a great excuse to make it much more often! Remember that nuts are very sticky, and it’s always best to line your baking pan with parchment.

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Pistachio Amaretto Crostata with Chocolate and Mixed Berries

Ingredients

  • CRUST
  • 1 heaped cup (6 oz) blanched pistachios or almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 large beaten egg white, or a little more as necessary
  • 1/4 tbsp amaretto liqueur or almond extract
  • matzah meal for dusting (GF matzah meal for a GF version)
  • FILLING
  • 8 oz high quality bittersweet chocolate, grated (or chocolate chips)
  • 3 tablespoons almond or seed oil (or 1/2 stick margarine)
  • 2 small baskets of fresh mixed berries
  • a few tbsps of raspberry or blueberry preserve

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 9 inch springform pan with aluminum foil or parchment (you can also use a disposable aluminum pan).

Grease the parchment and the sides of the pan with margarine or oil, and dust with matzah meal.

Grind the pistachios (or almonds), then add the sugar, almond extract and salt in a food processor. Add the egg and blend.

Remove from the food processor and knead with your hands until the mix holds together (it will still be very crumbly), adding a spoonful or two more egg white if necessary.

Press the dough onto the bottom of the pan with your fingers or knuckles.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and press it down quickly again with a ball of paper towel or the back of a spoon (it will be too hot to touch), trying to make it slightly concave .

Put it back in the oven and bake for another 3-4 minutes Take out again, press down again, and allow it to cool down and harden.

Remove the parchment or aluminum lining, put the crust back into the pan.

Melt the chocolate chips in a bain-marie (or in your microwave) without letting it boil or burn, and add the oil or margarine; stir until smooth, pour the mixture on top of the crust, and refrigerate for at least 2 hrs. The crust and filling can be made several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

A few hours before serving brush the chocolate top with a little preserve and arrange the fresh berries on top.

Leave out of the fridge for at least one hour before serving to make it easier to cut, and use a sharp knife.

*** Tip: this type of crust can be hard to cut, so don’t serve the cake in a delicate platter unless you pre-slice it!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/15/pistachio-amaretto-crostata-with-chocolate-and-mixed-berries/

Malachi’s Chicken

Malachi's Chicken
Malachi's Chicken

Malachi’s Chicken

Malachi’s Chicken

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of chicken cut in pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine

Directions

Place the chicken in a large skillet or pot in 2 tablespoons of hot olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste and the wine, and cook for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally..

In a different pan cook the chopped onion and the chopped rosemary in 2 tablespoons of hot olive oil.

When the onion is turning translucent, add a mixture of the flour and chicken stock (be careful to avoid lumps) and cook stirring for 5 more minutes..

Pour the mixture of onion and rosemary cooked in oil with the broth and flour mixture on the chicken, and add the tomato paste.

Cook on medium heat for about 20 more minutes (or till cooked), stirring occasionally.

Decorate with a few leaves of fresh oregano.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/12/malachis-chicken/

Sweet Almond Liqueur

Sweet Almond Liqueur (Parve)

Sweet Almond Liqueur (Parve)

There is a rabbinic commandment stating that on Purim, one should drink until they can’t tell the difference between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai. Instead of gobbling down glasses and glasses of wine, you can get a bit tipsy more efficiently with sweet Italian liqueurs, which also happen to pair really well with all the cookies and confectionery we end up inhaling on this gluttonous holiday. My paternal grandmother was a pro at making these, with lemons or rose petals, chocolate or coffee, and she called them “liquori da signorine” (“young ladies’  liqueurs”) as they were very sweet, which always cracked my dad up because they are actually as strong as a good scotch. Here is my favorite:

Sweet Almond Liqueur (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 750 ml bottle of Everclear (grain alcohol) or high-end, unflavored vodka, or 50/50)
  • 1 ½ cup blanched almonds
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 1 stick vanilla or cinnamon, to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup water

Directions

In your food processor, process the blanched almonds with the sugar.

Mix this almond paste with the alcohol or vodka, pour into a jar or vase, add the vanilla (or cinnamon) stick, close/seal well, and set aside for two weeks.

It’s best to shake the combination every couple of days.

After three weeks, transfer the combination into a bottle or pitcher, straining it well with cheesecloth or a filter, and add the water.

Shake well, close the bottle and allow to rest for two more weeks.

Once again, strain through a cheesecloth or filter, and your sweet almond liqueur is ready!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/06/sweet-almond-liqueur-parve/


Montini and Palline Purim Bon-Bons

Almond Paste Bon Bons (Parve)

Purim Almond Bon-bons

According to the detailed descriptions in many Italian Purim songs from the 16th and 17th centuries, Purim at the time was quite a production! In particular, the wealthier Jews hosted over-the-top banquets, which included up to 30 courses, alternating savory and sweet dishes. But the highlight was always the desserts! Among the prettiest Purim sweets, perfect for gifting, are these almond paste-based confections popular in several cities, including Venice and Trieste. Almond paste was introduced to Northern and Central Italy by the Sephardic Jews fleeing from Spain, Portugal and Sicily, where they had a long tradition of making elaborate confections with it.

Purim Bon-bons

These scrumptious sweets are easy to make as they don’t require cooking, and can be served in mini paper cups or wrapped individually like candy, which makes them great gifts. On Purim we are required to give charity to the poor, and food gifts (משלוח מנות‎, pronounced Mishloach Manot”) to friends and relatives, consisting of two different types of food, and who wouldn’t like these? They are even gluten-free!

Purim.BonBons.001

Almond Paste Bon-Bons (Parve)

Ingredients

  • MONTINI (Bicolor Cone-shaped confections)
  • 1/2 pound granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound blanched almonds (this is the traditional version, but they also taste amazing made with pistachio)
  • 4 tablespoons packaged egg whites, or more as needed (you could also just use fresh egg whites, which is what we do in Italy, where we like living dangerously…. But the packaged stuff is pasteurized, which makes it safer since we are not cooking it)
  • 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1/2 cup chocolate chips)
  • 1/3 cup candied orange or etrog peel
  • CHOCOLATE BON-BONS
  • 1/2 pound granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound blanched almonds (this is the traditional version, but they also taste amazing made with pistachio)
  • 4 tablespoons packaged (pasteurized) egg whites (or more as needed)
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1 cup chocolate chips)
  • GIANDUJA BON_BONS
  • ½ pound blanched/peeled hazelnuts
  • ½ pound sugar
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (¾ cup chocolate chips)
  • 3 tablespoons packaged (pasteurized) egg whites, or more as needed
  • 4 tablespoon sweet liqueur (hazelnut, cherry, or rum)

Directions

MONTINI (Bicolor Cone-shaped confections)

Make the almond paste base: place the blanched almonds and the sugar in your food processor with a blade attachment, and process until the almonds are ground and combined with the sugar. Add the egg whites and process more.

Remove from the food processor and knead with your hands until it feels like a smooth dough. If even after kneadingthe paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Now melt the chocolate (you are supposed to do it in a bain-marie but I cheat and use the microwave).

Divide the marzipan into two portions: one should be slightly larger than the other – roll this larger portion into cylinders about 1/3” or max ½” in diameter.

Combine the slightly smaller portion to the melted chocolate, kneading until smooth. Use the chocolate portion to make more cylinders, of the same diameter as the white cylinders.

Attach the cylinders length-wise in couples, one white one dark, and cut into 1” long bicolor pieces.

Shape them into cones with a flattened top, arrange on a platter, and decorate with pieces of candied fruit on top.

*You can also make plain almond Montini without the chocolate, and decorate them with multicolored sprinkles.

CHOCOLATE BON-BONS

Make the almond paste base: place the blanched almonds and the sugar in your food processor with a blade attachment, and process until the almonds are ground and combined with the sugar. Add the egg whites and process more.

Remove from the food processor and knead with your hands until it feels like a smooth dough. If even after kneading the paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave. Using your hands, frorm small balls (1” diameter) with the almond paste.

Dip the bon-bons in the melted chocolate using a fork. Arrange on a parchment-lined platter and allow to dry.

GIANDUJA BON_BONS

Grate the chocolate or grind it in a food processor with a metal blade.

Grind the hazelnuts. Add sugar, egg white and liqueur to the hazelnuts and chocolate. If even after kneading the paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Shape into small balls (1” diameter). Roll in the granulated sugar (or you could go with colorful sprinkles!).

Et voila!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/04/almond-paste-bon-bons-parve/

Orecchie di Amman (Hamman’s Ears)

Orecchie di Amman (Hamman’s Ears)(Dairy or Parve)

Orecchie di Amman (Hamman’s Ears)

Read my article in The Forward about the history of Purim among Italian Jews (click here).

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Orecchie di Amman (Hamman’s Ears)(Dairy or Parve)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 ¾ cups flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons grappa, rum or marsala
  • 3 tablespoons milk (or rice milk or orange juice for a parve version)
  • ¼ cup butter (or 3 tablespoons very mild olive oil or seed oil for parve)
  • mild olive oil or seed oil for frying
  • confectioner’s sugar to decorate

Directions

Sift the flour with salt and form a well on your working surface.

Add the softened butter, the eggs, the sugar and the liqueur.

Knead well with your hands until smooth and elastic. If it’s not soft enough, add little milk or juice; if it’s too soft, add a little flour.

Allow to rest covered for 15 minutes.

Roll very thin with a rolling pin (you can also use a pasta machine to make sheets of dough).

With a sharp knife, cut into rectangles about 3”x5”, and pinch the two top corners together to give them the shape of a pointy animal ear.

You can also simply cut the dough into tall triangles with slightly curved sides, like a donkey’s ear, or make thinner stripes (about 1” x 5”) and twirl them slightly to shape into a more human-looking ear.

Heat abundant oil in a large pan with tall sides, and wait until when a small piece of bread dropped into the oil begins to sizzle.

Fry the “orecchie” in several batches, few at a time, until light gold, approximately 1-2 minutes.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on triple layers of paper towel.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve accompanied by a sparkling white wine.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/01/orecchie-di-amman-hammans-earsdairy-or-parve/

Swiss Chard Ravioli

Swiss Chard Ravioli (Dairy or Meat)

Swiss Chard Ravioli

Concealed identities and hidden truths are the markers of the Jewish holiday of Purim, both in its exterior celebrations (the costumes) and in its deeper meaning.  Much like a Shakespearean Comedy of Errors, on the surface the Megillat Ester is deceivingly simple and seemingly random in its sequence of events. The protagonists are assimilated, “comfortable” Jews living in a foreign land (Persia), afraid to reveal their identity, and it is the only book in the Tanakh (Bible) that makes no reference to God. Purim is the plural of the Persian term Pur (lots),those lots that Haman had cast to determine the fate of the Jews – as if to imply that our fate is a game of chance. On the other hand, this story seemed so relevant to our sages that it was included in the Biblical Canon, while the heroism and miracle of Hanukkah were left out. One of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, Rambam (Maimonides) even maintains in his Code of Jewish Law that in the Messianic Age “All the books of the prophets and the sacred writings in the Bible will be annulled, with the exception of the Book of Ester” (Hilkhot Megillah 2:18).

The story of Purim is not easy to decipher: adding to the tease is the fact that the Queen’s name itself, Ester, comes from the word “saiter”, ‘conceal’, while the name of the book, Megillah, derives from the root “galal”, which means ‘to roll’, since we read it in a scroll, but also “to reveal”, as if to say that the very act of wrapping, concealing, was really meant to reveal some mysterious truth. Talking about concealments: even the Hebrew name for ‘World”, olam, comes from “alum“: ‘hidden’. The traditional interpretation is that all these apparent riddles playing with the idea of concealment are meant to remind people that it’s up to them to discover the true miracle of God’s presence in apparently random events and everyday things. In this sense, Ester’s fasting and finding the courage to reveal her identity to the king and ask him to save her people – was just as big a miracle as the parting of the Red Sea.  The fascination with this motif was always so strong that Jewish culinary traditions all over the world have mirrored it in their holiday dishes, creating foods that hide (usually pleasant) surprises below the surface.

One of our Italian answers? Of course… ravioli! I am posting a version with ricotta both because I always prefer dairy, and because there is a custom to skip meat on Purim: the Talmud relates that that was what Queen Ester had to do in the palace of Ahasuerus, since she had no access to kosher meat (her husband the king was not Jewish). However, the carnivores among you can just scroll down toward the end of the recipe, and see how to make a meat version.

 

Swiss Chard Ravioli (Dairy OR meat)

Ingredients

  • Serves 4
  • Filling
  • 1 lb swiss chards or a mix of greens
  • ½ lb whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt
  • nutmeg to taste
  • To dress:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • a few sage leaves
  • freshly grated parmigiano to taste :
  • To make the fresh pasta
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs

Directions

Discard the stalks or any white parts from the chard, and cook it for 2 or 3 minutes with a few tablespoons of water (you can also microwave it on high on a covered platter for 1 minute): drain, squeeze to remove excess liquid, and chop finely.??

Heat the olive oil in a pan, add a clove or two of garlic, cook for one minute, add the chard and a little salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Place the ricotta in a bowl, add the chard and the parmigiano, the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add a walnut-size amount of ricotta and chard filling at regular spacings on your fresh pasta sheet. Press around the filling with your fingers and seal with the tongs of a fork. Since it’s Purim, cut the ravioli with a fun-shaped cookie cutter leaving the filling in the center of each.

You can also cut the dough into triangles (in honor of Haman’s Star-Treck ears) with a sharp knife.

Cook the ravioli for about 5 minutes in a large pot of salted boiling water; drain with a slotted spoon and serve drizzled with butter cooked for one minute with a few leaves of fresh sage, and grated parmigiano to taste.

*** to make the pasta, shape about 2 ½ cups of 00 or all-purpose flour into a well on your work surface; . add 3 eggs in the center and knead into a smooth dough. Allow torest for about 20 minutes covered in plastic wrap. Roll the dough into a thin sheet with a rolling pin or pasta machine.

*** for a meat version, replace the ricotta with about 8 ounces ground veal or beef (or a mix). While you are blanching the chard, heat a little oil in a pan and add a “soffritto” (“mirepoix” of minced 1/2 carrot, 1/2 onion, 1/2 celery stick); cook briefly, add the meat and little white wine, cook for a minute or two, add the chard and cook for a couple more minutes.

Allow to cool, “tie” with a couple of eggs, flavor with nutmeg and little salt, and use this mix to fill the ravioli.

Skip the parmigiano, and instead of dressing with butter, stick to a rich sugo d’arrosto (roast meat sauce).

Buon Appetito!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/02/29/swiss-chard-ravioli-dairy-or-meat/

 

 

 

“Orzotto” with Vegetables – Barley “Risotto”

“Orzotto” with Vegetables – Barley “Risotto” (Parve or Dairy)

“Orzotto” with Vegetables – Barley “Risotto” (Parve or Dairy)

I just gave a demo on healthful and elegant Italian cuisine at the JCC Manhattan during their Fitness for EveryBODY Fair. One of the ingredients I presented was barley, a grain with many beneficial properties. Unlike wheat, it contains a high amount of soluble fibers (betaglucans), which have a positive effect on cholesterol and provide an immediate sense of satiety, which will be appreciated by those of you who are trying to keep their weight in check. It also contains many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and has been shown to help liver and kidney function. What’s not to like? This way of cooking barley, with the same technique that Italians apply to rice in risottos, is typical of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in the North-East, and I learned it during my year in Trieste.

“Orzotto” with Vegetables – Barley “Risotto” (Parve or Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 a large onion, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups pearl barley
  • ½ cup dry white wine (optional)
  • 6 cups hot vegetable stock or as needed
  • 1 cup total diced vegetables (you can use 3 or 4 of your favorites, such as carrots, peppers, asparagus, zucchini, green peas, corn…)
  • about ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano or Grana cheese (optional, for a dairy version)
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy-bottomed or non-stick pot over medium heat.

Add the onion, and sauté until translucent, adding a tablespoon of water if it starts sticking to the bottom.

Add any of the vegetables that require a longer cooking time, such as carrots, peppers or potatoes, and cook stirring for 4 minutes.

Add the barley, and cook for 2 minutes on higher heat, stirring .

Add the wine, and allow it to evaporate.

Season with salt and pepper, and begin adding the hot stock ione or two ladlefuls at a time, stirring frequently, and adding more stock as soon as the liquid is absorbed.

After about 10-15 minutes add the diced zucchini and/or asparagus (or any quick-cooking vegetables) and keep cooking, stirring and adding hot stock, until al dente, about 30-35 minutes.

It should be creamy and not too thick: add enough liquid.

When cooked, remove from the heat, season with more salt and pepper, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of your best extra-virgin olive oil.

If you are eating dairy, add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmigiano or grand cheese, and serve immediately.

(At the JCC I made this dish with onions and fennel, added at the start, and an exotic touch of saffron)

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/02/20/orzotto-with-vegetables-barley-risotto-parve-or-dairy/

Buricche

Buricche
Buricche

Buricche

Buricche

Ingredients

  • Pastry:
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or as needed)
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Directions

1 - FISH BUREKAS (Parve)

chop 1/2 pound cooked leftover fish (or cook 3/4 lbs. white fish fillets in some extra-virgin olive oil and garlic till opaque, and salt); add 4 chopped anchovies (oil- or salt-packed, and rinsed) 1 large egg yolk, a touch of nutmeg and a tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley, pepper to taste and more salt if necessary. You can add a small amount of breadcrumbs, only if the mixture is too soft and doesn't hold together. If too dry, add another 1/2 egg yolk.

Fill the discs of pastry with this mixture, fold them, seal them, and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

2 - MEAT BUREKAS

cook 3/4 lbs of ground beef or lamb in olive oil with 1 small chopped onion (cook the onion first until soft before adding the beef). With the beef, add salt, pepper, 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, a clove of garlic. When cooked, discard the garlic and let cool. If you like, you can add 1/4 a cup of pine nuts and 1/4 cup of raisins (soak the raisins in hot water or brandy for 30 minutes and drain before using). Add a beaten egg, and if necessary some bread crumbs and more salt. Stuff the burekas with this mixture and bake for 30 minutes at 350 F.

3 - VEGETARIAN

cook 1 chopped onion in 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 1 lb chopped eggplant (previously salted and drained in a colander for an hour, rinsed, and patted dry), 1/2 lb of peeled and diced tomatoes, well drained (canned are fine), salt and pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon of freshly minced parsley. Cook until the vegetables are so soft that they fall apart. Break down further with a fork or use your mixer.

Let it cool and add some bread crumbs if the mixture is too liquid. Fill the burekas and bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes (if making a dairy meal, you can add 4 tablespoons of grated parmigiano to the filling).

TO MAKE THE PASTRY:

In a large bowl, combine the oil, warm water, salt, and gradually the flour (you will likely need between 5 and 6 cups to end up with a workable dough).

The dough should be elastic. Knead well, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece at a time, as thin as possible, and cut out rounds with a 3" cookie cutter or cup.

Place 1 tablespoon of filling on each round, fold into a half-moon and pinch the edges to seal. Place the rounds on a greased baking sheet lined with parchment paper; brush with the egg yolk, beaten with 1 or 2 tablespoons of water.

Bake at 350 F in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes or till golden.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/02/06/buricche/

Pappa col Pomodoro – Tuscan Bread & Tomato Soup

Pappa col Pomodoro (Tuscan Bread & Tomato Soup) (Parve)

Pappa col Pomodoro

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; followed by rides on the carousel in Piazza della Repubblica for our two kids! The food in Florence and in all of Tuscany is fantastic, simple and elegant, and justly famous. If you are not planning a trip any time soon, why not try this easy and delicious soup in your own kitchen? Pappa col Pomodoro is 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 love Tribeca Oven.

For tons of authentic Tuscan recipes, and cooking classes in Tuscany (with vegetarian options), visit Giulia at  http://en.julskitchen.com/

For kosher cooking classes in Florence, email my friend Chiara at Chiara105@gmail.com

 

Pappa col Pomodoro (Tuscan Bread & Tomato Soup) (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 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!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/02/05/tuscan-bread-tomato-soup/

Kamut Soup with Pumpkin and Saffron

Kamut Soup with Pumpkin and Saffron (Parve)

Kamut Soup with Pumpkin and Saffron (Parve)

Have you ever tried KAMUT? It’s a long grain with a brown cover – it looks similar to brown rice, but it’s related to wheat and has a velvety, nutty flavor. It’s richer in protein than wheat, and contains several vitamins and minerals. Perfect for a winter soup!

The other main ingredient of this “minestra” is saffron, the star ingredient in Italy’s favorite risotto Milanese, and in many festive Sephardic dishes. Saffron, one of the most highly prized spices since antiquity, and a native of the Southern Mediterranean, is now cultivated in many countries. However, some the best in the world is said to be produced in the Abruzzi region of Italy, a couple of hours east of Rome – a legend says that it was first smuggled here by a dominican monk in the 13th century, and the production has been thriving ever since. In order to maintain the intense aroma of their saffron, the locals uproot the bulbs yearly, and select them for size. The perfect soil and climate conditions do the rest, and every fall the flowers are harvested.

About 80,000 crocus flowers are needed to produce a meager pound of saffron – in case you wondered what makes it the most expensive spice in the world! To justify the extravagant expense, remember that saffron has been used as a medicinal botanical on many continents throughout history, and some recent research has demonstrated that one of its components shows promise as an anti-cancer agent.

Kamut Soup with Pumpkin and Saffron (Parve)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound kamut, soaked overnight (or at least for 3 hours) and rinsed
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 15 to 25 saffron stigms
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 cup cubed pumpkin or butternut squash
  • ½ a medium onion
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Brew the saffron in a few spoonfuls of hot water.

Chop the onion, celery and carrot finely (we call this mix “soffritto”).

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook this vegetable mix in the oil for 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the cubed pumpkin, a little salt, and cook for 3 or 4 more minutes, Add the kamut, cover with the vegetable stock, and bring to a boil;

Cover and allow to simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the saffron and allow to cook for about 10-15 more minutes, or until the kamut is cooked “al dente”.

Drizzle with a little more olive oil, add a dash of pepper and some minced parsley, and serve.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/01/22/kamut-soup-with-pumpkin-and-saffron-parve/