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!).

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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!

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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?

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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).

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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

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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!

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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:

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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.

9807 Torta cioccolato e pistacchi-HD

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).

Recie_Amman_JJF_0003

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/

Jota – Saurkraut, Potato and Bean Soup

Jota – Saurkraut, Potato and Bean Soup (Parve or Meat)

Jota – Saurkraut, Potato and Bean Soup (Parve or Meat)

I know that most people might not immediately associate sauerkraut with Italy – but that’s only because they have never been to the North-Eastern regions! For example, sauerkrauts are actually the main ingredient in Trieste’s signature soup, the Jota (pronounced yota, from the Latin term for soup). Trieste is the largest Italian port city on the Adriatic and was for a long time the trade crossroads between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Western Europe. It also boasts a rich and fascinating Jewish history. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Jews fleeing from German lands settled here to make a living as moneylenders, bankers, and merchants. Even women practiced money-lending in Trieste, an unusual custom at the time. More Jews arrived in the following centuries from Spain and the Ottoman Empire, and finally in the late 18th century from Corfu. Trieste in general, and Jewish Trieste in particular, was cosmopolitan and cultured, and the local dishes give us a little taste of such flair . James Joyce, who lived in Trieste for 16 years and at one point fell in love with his Jewish Triestine student Amalia Popper, would probably agree.

Jota – Saurkraut, Potato and Bean Soup (Parve or Meat)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dried beans (“lamon” or “borlotti” variety, soaked overnight)
  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 1/2 lb. fresh sauerkraut, or high quality canned sauerkraut (rinsed)
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of cumin powder
  • (optional) some beef sausage
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Soak the beans overnight, drain and cook in a large pot of water for a couple of hours until tender. Add the sausage if using.

Add the cubed potatoes (Some people cook them separate. Some people also mash 1/3 of the beans.).

Heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic and cumin and cook until the garlic is golden.

Add the sauerkraut and cook for 10 more minutes.

Discard the garlic clove, add the bay leaf and cover with little water; bring to a simmer.

When the cubed potatoes are soft, combine the sourkrout soup with the potato and bean soup, and allow to simmer for about 45 more minutes, stirring often.

Top individual servings with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground pepper, plus more salt if needed (but the sourkrout tend to be salty).

*** on Parve versus Meat: I like it with a little beef or beef sausage in it, but many people I know prefer the parve version because it’s more digestible: it’s really a matter of personal preference.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/01/01/jota-saurkraut-potato-and-bean-soup-parve-or-meat/

Smoked Fish and Grapefruit Salad

Smoked Fish and Grapefruit Salad (Parve or Dairy)

Smoked Fish and Grapefruit Salad (Parve or Dairy)

Smoked Fish and Grapefruit Salad (Parve or Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of red radicchio
  • 2 cups mache’ salad
  • 1 cup arugola
  • 2/3 pound smoked sable or smoked salmon
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (plus more for the avocado)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
  • salt and pink peppercorns to taste

Directions

Serves 4

Whisk the oil with the lemon juice (and yogurt, if using); add the chives, salt , grated grapefruit zest, and pink peppercorns and mix well.

Peel the grapefruit eliminating all the membranes, and divide it into slices; wash and drain the 3 different types of salads, and cut them into stripes.

Place them with the grapefruit in a large bowl and toss with the dressing.

Peel the avocado, cut it into thin slices, drizzle it with lemon juice (to prevent it from oxidizing). Cut the smoked fish into stripes.

Add the avocado and fish to the salad and serve.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/30/smoked-fish-and-grapefruit-salad/

Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs

Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs
Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs

Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs

My husband and I are almost vegetarian, meaning that we tend to forget about meat and to serve it only when we have guests who expect it. But a few of you have been asking for a winter-appropriate meat dish, and here you go! You are going to love this slow-cooked recipe, because it’s very simple and yet elegant. Perfect for a date! As always with Italian cuisine, don’t skimp on the ingredients. Use a wine that you would actually enjoy drinking – it will cost more, but it’s totally worth it! Just think of this as a special occasion dish. Wines that work well are dry and with a lot of body: Barolo, Chianti, Super-Tuscans, Bordeaux, etc. The meat should be cut into approx. 1″ cubes.

Fragrant Stew with Wine and Herbs

Ingredients

  • (serves 4-6)
  • 2 pounds beef for stew
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 6 cloves garlic, each cut into 4 lenghth-wise
  • 1 carrot
  • a small rosemary sprig
  • a few sage leaves
  • 4-5 juniper berries
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Directions

With a sharp knife, make a small cut in each cube of meat and insert a piece of garlic in each cut. Marinade the meat for 24 hours with the wine, vinegar, garlic, juniper berries and herbs.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a heavy pot, add the sliced onion and cook for 2-3 minute.

Drain and dry the meat, dip it in potato starch, and brown it on all sides.

Remove the meat and set aside; cook the onion on medium/low heat for 10-15 more minutes or until soft, adding a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary to prevent it from burning.

Return the meat to the pot (you can also use a slow-cooker) with at least ½ of the marinade liquid, add salt and pepper, and simmer for at least 3 hours or even longer on low heat. It can take closer to 4 hours, depending on the cut of meat: when it's ready, it will fall apart easily if you test it with a fork.

Enjoy with potatoes or polenta, or some crunchy Italian bread.

Some people prefer to remove most of the rosemary and sage leaves before serving.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/29/fragrant-stew-with-wine-and-herbs/

Cassola, the Ecumenical Pancake

Cassola by DinnerInvenice

Cassola by DinnerInvenice

I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. I had been frying for a couple of weeks already and all my Hanukkah posts were already up. Yet something just felt wrong.

OPS. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t posted anything special for all my readers and friends who are not Jewish and celebrate Christmas. I felt so awful, that I toyed with the idea of attempting a Panettone, the famous Italian Christmas Cake!

However, Panettone is really difficult to make, requiring several phases of exceptionally long rising, and the use of special Italian bread flours that are hard to find. Here is something much quicker, and just as decadent: it’s an ancient Jewish Roman dessert, kind of a cheese pancake, shockingly simple to make, which the Roman Catholic community somehow adopted as the dessert of choice to end their Christmas dinner with (maybe after one too many panettone flops)? ;-) .

The Jews of Rome still make it for Shavuot, but of course it would also work for Hanukkah (after all, according to several food historians, the original Hanukkah pancakes were made with cheese). In spite of its minimalism, Cassola is so tasty that Claudia Roden, in her Book of Jewish Food, tells that she enchanted a whole dinner party of food writers with it, at the Oxford Symposium of Food and Cookery. Cassola is sweet, creamy, and delicate (and naturally low-fat! but you could never tell). May your holiday season be just as delicious!

Cassola, the Ecumenical Pancake (not just Dairy, Very Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese (made from whole milk, without emulsifiers)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 to 1 ½ cup sugar? (depending on desired sweetness)
  • a pinch of salt
  • zest of one large organic lemon (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon? or vanilla (optional)
  • about 2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil, or butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400º F. With a whisk or a hand mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until creamy.

Add the ricotta, salt, lemon zest and cinnamon (or vanilla).

Grease a baking pan (about 9 ½” and springform is easier) with butter or olive oil, dust with flour, pour the mixture in, and transfer into your pre-heated oven.

Bake at 400 F for the first 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 Fand bake for another 25 minutes.

Turn the oven off and allow the cassola to set inside, with the door open, for another 10 or 15 minutes.

It should be firmer and golden brown on the outside and very soft and moist inside, like a pudding. Serve warm.

You can also cook it in a greased non-stick or cast iron pan like a frittata, on the stovetop, flipping it once (this was probably the original version), or cook the bottom on the stovetop and the top in the oven under the broiler.

Serves- 4-6

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/18/cassola-the-ecumenical-pancake-not-just-dairy-very-dairy/

Meatballs, Jewish-Italian Style

Meatballs, Jewish-Italian Style
Meatballs, Jewish-Italian Style

Meatballs, Jewish-Italian Style

We have many versions of meatballs. You can use leftover cooked meat instead of raw meat for an even tastier version! Leftover roast beef or brisket are great! You can add 4 tablespoons of very finely chopped olives for a different flavor. You can add leftover cooked spinach, drained well and chopped (in this case decrease the amount of the bread/broth mixture). You can add plumped currants and pine nuts, and end the cooking with some lemon juice, for a sweet-and-sour Sephardic touch. Also try substituting mashed potatoes for the bread/broth mixture.
Try them all!

Meatballs, Jewish-Italian Style

Ingredients

  • 2 bread rolls or slices, crusts removed (they can be a couple of days old)
  • 2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 salami slices, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef (or a mix of beef and veal)
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine

Directions

Soak the bread in the broth forabout 5-10 minutes).

In a bowl, put 3 tablespoons of this mixture.

Combine with the garlic, parsley, salami, beef, salt and pepper.

Stir in the egg and using wet hands shape the mixture into about 10 or 12 meatballs.

Spread the breadcrumbs into a dish and roll the meatballs in them till they are evenly coated.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the meatballs over high heat till golden on both sides.

Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine and let it evaporate on high heat.

Then add either 1 cup hot broth or 1 cup of salted diced tomatoes in their water, and cook covered over medium heat for 30 minutes, adding liquid if necessary.

Serve with a side of vegetables.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/12/meatballs-jewish-italian-style/

Venetian Rice with Raisins (“Risi e Ua”)

Venetian Rice with Raisins (“Risi e Ua”)

It was probably Sephardic Jews who transmitted to the rest of the Venetian population their passion for rice, after their arrival in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Venetians are still famous for creamy risottos (we call them “all’onda“, with a wave), to which we add pretty much anything, from chicken livers to fish to… stinging nettles. The usual preparation for risotto, adding hot broth a little at a time, releases so much starch that the rice must be eaten right away or it will clump. The pilaf version, besides reminding us of the Sephardic origins of this dish, can be prepared in advance and reheated for Shabbat. “Risi e Ua” (Rice and Grapes, or Raisins) is THE festive rice dish par excellence among the Jews of Venice, and – like most Jewish venetian recipes – it has also been enjoyed by the general population for a very long time. It’s also great for Hanukkah, in case your stomach cannot survive an all-fried menu and you want to start with something a little more digestible…. About the choice between garlic and onion: there are two schools of thought, and, like Hillel and Shammai, they are both right.


Venetian Rice with Raisins (“Risi e Ua”)

Ingredients

  • 1 quart hot vegetable stock
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1/2 an onion, sliced very thin
  • 2 cups Carnaroli (or Arborio) Italian rice
  • ½ cup of plumped raisins or sultanas
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley (optional)
  • salt to taste

Directions

Bring the stock to a boil and leave it to simmer on the stovetop.

Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof pot (non-stick or cast iron), add the garlic or onion, and parsley, and cook for 5 minutes on low heat.

Stir in the raisins, previously softened in hot water and drained well. (If you don’t own an oven-proof pot, start in a regular non-stick pot and transfer into a pyrex casserole or pan before moving into the oven).

Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, until all the grains are coated in oil and “toasted” and make ‘popping’ noises.

Pour in the wine, raise the heat and cook until the wine has evaporated.

Pour in all the hot stock and stir well.

As soon as the stock starts simmering again, cover the pot and transfer to a 365 F oven, where you will leave it alone to cook for exactly 18 minutes.

Take the rice out, add another couple of tablespoons of olive oil (or “oil from a roast beef”, if using in a meat meal), stir, and add salt if needed.

Let it rest covered for another 10 minutes. It can be eaten right away or reheated for Shabbat, as long as it’s not too dry and not left on the plata or warming drawer for longer than a couple of hours.

If the rice was made with vegetable stock and will be used in a dairy meal, you can also add some butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

You can also cook this rice as a risotto, on the stovetop adding one ladleful of hot stock at a time, if you prefer and if you don’t plan on reheating it.

If you don’t digest garlic or onion well, use slightly pressed whole cloves instead of minced garlic, and discard them after they have browned well, and before adding the rice.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/11/venetian-rice-with-raisins-risi-e-ua/

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey

The festival of Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem, which had been looted and desecrated by the soldiers of Syrian-Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BCE. Mattityahu, a Jewish priest, and his five sons, led a successful rebellion against Antiochus, which resulted in the rededication of the Temple by Mattityahu’s son, Yehudah the Maccabee, in 166 BCE. The Talmud reports that the menorah in the Temple was required to burn every night, but there was only enough oil for one night left: however, the menorah burned for eight days on that little oil, giving the Jews enough time to procure more. The oil used for lighting the menorah was pure, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, which may explain why Hanukkah resonates so deeply with Italian Jews, inspiring them to create a deluge of mouthwatering recipes :-)

While the miracle of the oil is described in the Talmud, the Book of Maccabees makes no mention of it, stating only that an eight day celebration was proclaimed upon re-dedication of the temple: therefore, a number of historians believe that the reason for the eight day festival was simply that the first Hanukkah was a belated celebration of the harvest holidays of Sukkot and Shemini Azeret, which the Jews had not been able to observe during the war.  Obviously, the two explanations are not mutually exclusive, and Hanukkah can very well celebrate the miracle of the oil while also absorbing the previous holiday.

In this spirit, here is a delicious fried treat that incorporates the oil, and the honey (a recurrent symbol that appears on our tables from Rosh haShana to Shemini Azeret): for holiness, and sweetness.  And Sambuca… just for fun!

Hanukkah Treats with Sambuca and Honey (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup Sambuca (or Arak or other Anise liquor)
  • 4 cups pastry or 00 flour (but you can also use all-purpose)
  • 1 package baking powder (16 gr)
  • 1 cup honey
  • mild olive oil or peanut oil for frying

Directions

Beat 4 whole eggs and one yolk with the sugar; add the melted butter (warm), the liquor and a pinch of salt.

Combine the flour with the baking powder, and sift them over the egg mixture, stirring constantly until everything is combined.

Transfer the mixture onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.

Form a ball, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for one hour.

Roll it into a disc about 0.5 mm thick and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Pour plenty of oil in a wide, heavy pan with tall sides – the oil should be at least 3” high, and stop at least 2? from the top of the pan. The oil is hot enough when a piece of bread dropped into the pan is immediately surrounded by many little bubbles, but does not burn quickly.

Fry the shapes in small batches (if you put too much food into the pan at the same time, the temperature of the frying oil will drop, causing the fritters to absorb fat), turning them quickly so that they brown on both sides.

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

Melt the honey in a saucepan with 3 or 4 tablespoons of water.

Arrange the sweets on dessert plates, drizzle them with the honey, and serve.

Serves 6-8

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/08/hanukkah-treats-with-sambuca-and-honey-dairy/

 

Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters (Parve or Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 scant cup flour
  • 3/4 cup milk, unsweetened soy milk or (for a lighter version) water
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley or mint
  • Abundant olive oil for frying. preferably a mild-flavored extra-virgin oil, not too acidic

Directions

Grate the zucchini, season them with salt and place them in a colander in your sink, with a weight on top. Allow them to drain for about one hour.

In the meantime, prepare a batter whisking the milk (or cold water) with the eggs, the cheese (if using), the flour, the pressed garlic, herbs and pepper. Do not add salt to the batter.

Rinse the grated zucchini in the colander, drain them and dry them very well with paper towel.

Add the zucchini to the batter and combine well.

In a deep and heavy skillet pour at least 2 inches of oil or more (if there is too little oil, its temperature will drop when you add the cold batter, allowing the fritters to absorb way too much oil).

Heat the oil over medium/high heat (if using a fryer with a thermometer, the temperature should be about 365 degrees). If you don’t have a thermometer, the oil is ready when a small piece of bread dropped in the skillet forms bubbles all around it.

Drop the batter into the pan using a tablespoon and your index finger. Do not overcrowd the pan with too many fritters, because this would cause the oil temperature to drop, with a greasy result. Fry in batches.

Once they are golden, remove them with a slotted spoon and drop them onto 2 or 3 layers of paper towels to drain.

Do not put paper towel on top, or the steam trapped inside will make the fritters soggy! Paper towel should be only at the bottom. Just turn them after 30 seconds or so to dry the other side.

Continue frying in batches until you have used up all the batter.

After drying with paper towel, sprinkle with salt. You can keep them warm in a 200 F oven, uncovered.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/07/zucchini-fritters-parve-or-dairy/

Sfenz – Libyan Hanukkah Fritters

Sfenz- Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Sfenz- Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Jewish Italian food has been a tradition for over 2000 years – but it still continues to evolve, even in recent times. The Jewish exodus from Libya in the late 1960es brought about 5000 Libyan Jews to Rome, and their earthy dishes  are yet another extraordinary influence on our culinary kaleidoscope. I reached out to my friends at Labna, one of my favorite Italian food blogs, and Jasmine shared these yummy pancakes, a traditional recipe from the Libyan side of her family. Jasmine tells us that in her grandparents’ house the kitchen was usually her grandmother’s realm -she was always the one cooking, and her grandfather only walked in there to obtain coffee. But every year on Hanukkah, Jasmine’s grandfather would wake up early, brave the kitchen and prepare the Sfenz, the traditional water-flour pancakes, like they used to make in Tripoli: a few minutes of easy kneading, a couple of hours of rest, and a dive into the hot oil…. for a most irresistible breakfast. Enjoy Labna‘s special treat!

Sfenz – Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pastry flour or 00 flour (you can use all-purpose, but the result will be heavier)
  • 1 cube fresh yeast, or 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1 cup water, or enough for a soft, elastic dough
  • enough oil for deep frying (peanut or canola)
  • confectioner’s sugar to decorate

Directions

Place the flour in a large bowl or your stand mixer.

In a second bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water, and add the mix to the flour.

Combine well with your hands, or process in the mixer into a soft, elastic, slightly sticky dough.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm area for about one hour.

Now knead again quickly with your hands, and allow to rest for one more hour.

Place the bowl with the dough next to the stovetop, and fill a second bowl with warm water.

Heat abundant oil in a heavy pot with tall sides; when the oil is hot, wet your hands, take a small ball of dough and pull it with your hands into a small “pancake” shape. It’s OK if by doing so you create a few “holes” in the middle.

Wet your hands after making each sfenz, so that the dough won’t stick to your fingers.

Fry the sfenz in the oil, one at a time or in small batches, turning them once.

Remove them with a slotted spoon when they are golden, and drain them on a double layer of kitchen towel.

Serve them hot after decorating them with confectioner’s sugar.

Serves 6-8

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/06/sfenz-libyan-hanukkah-fritters-parve/

Venetian Fritters

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Venetian Fritters (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 scarce cups 00, pastry or AP flour
  • 25 gr active yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ½ cup liquor, such as rhum or grappa
  • 1/2 cup sultana or raisins
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 1 ½ tablespoons candied citron (or lemon)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • abundant oil for frying (a mild olive oil or peanut oil)
  • powder sugar to decorate

Directions

Soak the raisins in the liquor for for 30 minutes, and drain well.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water (never use cold water!); add 1/2 of the flour and allow to rest for 30 minutes in a warm area.

Combine with the rest of the ingredients into a batter just slightly thicker than waffle batter.

Allow to rest for 3 hours.

Heat at least 3” of peanut or mild olive oil in a wide heavy pan with tall sides, and fry by dropping spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil. Do not drop too many spoonfuls at the same time, or they will stick to each other and also cool down the oil, with a greasy and soggy result.

Fry in batches until golden brown, draining on a double or triple layer of paper towel.

Dust with sugar and serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/06/venetian-fritters-parve/

Holy Pumpkin Fritters

Holy Pumpkin Fritters (Parve)

Holy Pumpkin Fritters (Parve)

Pumpkin arrived in Italy after the discovery of the Americas, and Northern Italian Jews liked it so much that in Venice we called it “suca baruca” (holy pumpkin, from the Hebrew “baruch”). When pumpkin made its appearance, Venice in general -and Jewish Venice in particular – was a crossroad of peoples and cultures, in which countless examples of what we would now call “Fusion” cuisine came to life. These fritters, which include spices and candied fruit, are a great example! I also contributed this recipe for a guest post on my friends’ lovely Italian blog Labna, which you should check out (especially if you read Italian!)…. and stay tuned for Labna’s own awesome guest post here, coming tomorrow!!!!!

Holy Pumpkin Fritters (Parve)

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
  • ½ package (8 gr) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, if liked
  • 1/3 cup Raisins or Sultanas
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup candied etrog or lemon (if you don’t like it, skip & increase raisins & pine nuts)
  • Olive oil or peanut oil for deep-frying, at least 3 cups or more
  • Confectioner’s sugar for decorating

Directions

Plump the raisins in a cup of warm water. Chop the candied etrog or lime or lemon.

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.

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

Drain and 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 olive 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 towels.

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm.

Serves 6

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/05/holy-pumpkin-fritters/

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Contrary to popular belief, Italian Jews do not all descend from the Jews who arrived in Rome in the second century b.c.e., and from the Sephardim fleeing Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century. There have also been Ashkenazi Jews living in Northern Italy since as early as the Middle Ages. In Venice, in particular, Ashkenazim (“I Tedeschi”, as they were called)  were the oldest Jewish community in the city. The name of the first Jewish quarter in Venice (and in the world), “ghetto”, possibly derives from the Germanic term “gitter” (iron grill).  Even Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), one of the most famous Italian rabbis in history, was a “Yekkishe Yid”!   (the name Luzzatto is the Italian translation of the German Jewish name Lausitz). A lot of recipes reflect this ancient Ashkenazi influence, and one of my favorite examples is the apple fritters that we make for Hanukkah.  One of the reasons I like them so much has nothing to do with history: since in Italy we also have the famous saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (“Una mela al giorno toglie il medico di torno”), I feel that these must be really good for me even though they are deep-fried, and I indulge in second and third helpings. You can sprinkle them with cinnamon if you like, or serve them with a raspberry sauce for a refined chromatic effect.

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 apples
  • 1 cup pastry flour, or all-purpose flour (heaped)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup moscato or sweet champagne
  • peanut or mild olive oil for frying
  • confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon for decorating

Directions

Place the flour in a bowl, add the egg and start whisking with a manual or electric whisk; slowly and gradually add the wine.

If the batter seems too thick, add a few more tablespoons of wine.

Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Beat the egg whites until stiff, and gently incorporate them into the batter.

Peel the apples, core them without halving them, and slice them horizontally (the slices should be 1/4? to 1/3?max.)

Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Heat abundant oil in a deep-fryer or a large, heavy pan with tall sides. When the oil is ready (365 F, or when a small piece of bread dropped in the oil forms many small bubbles all around), dry the apple slices, dip them in the batter, and fry them until golden in small batches (max. 4 slices at a time, or the oil temperature will drop and they will absorb oil).

Dry them very well on a double or triple layer of paper towel, and sprinkle them with sugar (you can also add cinnamon).

Serve immediately!

Serves 6

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/04/apple-fritters-with-moscato-wine-parve/

Veal Strips in Sweet-and-Sour Sauce with Grapes

Veal Strips in Sweet and Sour Sauce

Veal Strips in Sweet and Sour Sauce

Veal Strips in Sweet-and-Sour Sauce with Grapes

Ingredients

  • (Serves 4)
  • 1 and 1/2 pound veal breast cutlets, cut into strips
  • 1 cluster dark grapes (3/4 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 quart dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup grape juice
  • 1 scallion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 ladlefuls hot meat or chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon potato starch or corn starch

Directions

To make the sweet-and-sour sauce, place the wine, stock, grape juice, thinly sliced scallion, and spices in a saucepan, and bring to a boil.

Simmer uncovered until reduced to one half.

Caramelize the sugar in a small skillet: start on high heat and lower the flame as the sugar starts melting, adding 2 tablespoons of water and the balsamic.

Pour the caramel into the wine broth.

Gradually incorporate the corn starch or potato starch, and allow the sauce to thicken for a few more minutes on low heat, removing any clumps, and the bay leaves, with a slotted spoon.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, and sauté the veal strips, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add the sweet-and-sour sauce and the grapes (halved), and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring continuously.

Serve hot.

**This recipe is great for those who are gluten free

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/01/veal-strips-in-sweet-and-sour-sauce-with-grapes/

Zaleti -Yellow Venetian Cookies

Zaleti- Yellow Venetian Cookies (Dairy or Parve)

Zaleti- Yellow Venetian Cookies (Dairy or Parve)

Zaleti -Yellow Venetian Cookies (Dairy or parve)

Ingredients

  • Makes about 24 cookies
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 oz unsalted butter or margarine (cold), or 2/3 cup of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ tbsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).

Place the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a food processor and combine together.

Add the butter or margarine and pulse.

Add the eggs, the vanilla extract and lemon zest, and process until fully combined.

Lastly, add the raisins.

The texture should be crumbly.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead it with your hands till smooth, then divide it into 4 pieces. Roll the pieces into cylinders (about 1” or 1 ½” diameter).

Flatten the cylinders slightly.

Cut diagonally at about 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) intervals.

Flatten the cookies about 1/3” thick, and make diamond shapes.

Arrange the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for 15 minutes or until a light gold brown color.

Allow them to cool on a rack, then dust with confectioner’s sugar.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/11/27/zaleti-yellow-venetian-cookies-dairy-or-parve/

Potato and Mushroom Timballo

Potato and Mushroom Timballo (Dairy)

Potato and Mushroom Timballo (Dairy)

Welcome the cold season with a warming, decadent dish that elevates a simple food like potatoes to new culinary heights! Potatoes were introduced to Italy only at the end of the 16th century by the Spanish, who encountered them in the Americas: the Italian climate was perfect for their cultivation, and they quickly became a star ingredient (who doesn’t love Gnocchi?). Potatoes and mushrooms are a classic pairing, and one of the reasons why I love fall :-)

Potato and Mushroom Timballo (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds potatoes (I use Yukon Gold)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • (optional) 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 ounces fresh Italian* cheese (Montasio, Asiago, or Fontina) , chopped finely
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (if you worry about saturated fats, skip and just add 4-5 tablespoons of milk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Serves 6-8

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Place the dried mushrooms (if using) in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water.

Set aside for 30 minutes.

Parboil the potatoes for 6 minutes. Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly, using a mandoline. Place them in a bowl filled with cold water until use.

In a skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic clove (slightly pressed).

Add the fresh mushrooms and the dried mushrooms (revived in hot water and well drained), add ¼ cup dry white wine and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until tender and the liquid has evaporated. Season with the rhyme, salt and pepper.

In a bowl, combine the cheeses and eggs with the cream until smooth, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Grease a baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

Dust the bottom with some grated parmigiano cheese, then line the pan with potato slices, both the bottom and sides.

Layer about half the mushrooms over the potatoes, then layer cream cheese mixture, more potatoes, mushrooms, cheese, and end with the remaining potato.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Unmold and serve hot (you can also serve in the baking pan: in this case, skip the parchment).

* If you can’t find Kosher Italian cheeses in your area, you can make this recipe with local artisanal cheeses. Choose something as natural as possible, flavorful and that melts easily.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/11/21/potato-and-mushroom-timballo-dairy/

Ricotta and Pumpkin Sformatini

Ricotta and Pumpkin Sformatini (Dairy)

Ricotta and Pumpkin Sformatini (Dairy)

The verb “sformare” in Italian means “to turn out, to remove from the mold”. A Sformato is a kind of savory custard that is thick enough to retain its shape when turned out on a platter, thus making a crust unnecessary. Traditional Sformati are made with béchamel sauce (read: lots of butter!), but you can obtain similar results without wracking your diet if you use ricotta. As filling and creamy as a quiche, at a fraction of the calories, this is basically a savory variant of the Jewish Roman Cassola which I posted in December (I also wrote about it in The Forward) . Ricotta is not technically a cheese, but a by-product of cheese-making: that’s why whole milk ricotta is naturally very low-fat, containing only 5% fat (as opposed to 90% in cream cheese!): no need to go with the low-fat or fat-free varieties, which contain additives and taste bad. Pumpkin is also very interesting from a nutritional point of view, because it’s filling and sweet but very low in calories and sugar, and fat-free. It also contains high quantities of carotene, calcium and phosphorus. Enjoy!


Ricotta and Pumpkin Sformatini (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 pound fresh spinach (optional)
  • 1 pound fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano or grana cheese
  • 4 tablespoons e.v. olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg, if liked
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oven-proof parchment; flour or breadcrumbs to dust the ramekins
  • optional: 1 cup boiled or steamed rice

Directions

Serves 4-6

Cook the pumpkin until soft (the quickest way is in the microwave, covered with plastic wrap leaving just a small opening for the steam, it takes about 10 minutes. Or you can bake it in the oven, covered with foil, it will take almost one hour).

If using the spinach, blanch for two minutes in boiling water (or steam it), drain it, squeeze most of the water out, and dry with paper towel.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan and add the garlic.

Once the garlic is brown, discard it and add the pumpkin.

Cook for about 10 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher, allow it to cool down a little.

Place the pumpkin in the bowl of your food processor (or you can also do this by hand, in a bowl); add the ricotta (well drained of any liquid), the spinach and/or rice if using, the eggs, the parmigiano cheese, the nutmeg, and process briefly.

Line some small ramekins (or a large baking pan) with well-greased parchment paper (grease the paper well ,or they will stick.

You can also dust with some breadcrumbs or flour as an extra precaution, but the sformatini will look less pretty).

Bake in a “bain-marie” (in a lower pan filled with hot water) in a preheated 375 F oven.

When I feel lazy, I just bake them normally without the bain-marie,and they still come out great.

It takes about 20 minutes using small individual ramekins, and 30 minutes in one larger baking pan.

Turn off the oven and allow to set for about 15 minutes with the oven door open.

Turn out on a serving platter, remove the parchment, and serve hot or warm.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/11/06/ricotta-and-pumpkin-sformatini-dairy/

Chestnut and Spelt Soup

Chestnut and Spelt Soup (Parve)

Chestnut and Spelt Soup (Parve)

After last Saturday’s early snowfall, it’s time to put our summer clothes in storage and welcome the cold season (at least in New York)!  Don’t be sad – there are plenty of fun things about fall and winter. One example: hearty soups like this one, which incorporates two  ingredients with a distinguished history, staple foods for thousands of years in some areas of Europe.

Chestnut and Spelt Soup (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 pound dried chestnuts
  • 1 cup Spelt
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Serves 6-8

Wash the spelt well, place it in a pot, cover with water and soak overnight.

The next day, boil the chestnuts in salted water with the bay leaf for 40 minutes.

In a second pot heat 1 tablespoon oilive oil, add the minced onion and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes; add the chestnuts with their water and the spelt (rinsed and drained well), and about 1 qt or more salted water.

Simmer for about one hour, covered, until the spelt is cooked.

Adjust the salt, sprinkle with pepper, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot with toasted bread slices. You can also add a little rosemary.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/11/01/chestnut-and-spelt-soup-parve/

Baked Apple with Hazelnuts, Honey and Yogurt

Baked Apple with Hazelnuts, Honey and Yogurt (Dairy)

Baked Apple with Hazelnuts, Honey and Yogurt (Dairy)

Before the advent of industrial baking products, many of the treats that our grandmothers served during the week included fruit. Compotes and baked fruit are a delicious way to indulge our sweet tooth without overdoing the sugar and the calories, and actually adding nutrients to our diet. Baked fruit, in particular, is easy to make and very comforting in the frosty fall and winter days. 

Baked Apple with Hazelnuts, Honey and Yogurt (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 4 apples, all more or less the same size
  • 1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
  • 10 ounces (about 1 and 1/4 cup) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely ground hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Directions

Cut off the tops from the apples and set them aside, sprinkling the inside with lemon juice.

Core the apples from the top down, using an apple corer or melon baller, taking care not to pierce the bottom (leave about 1/2? pulp on the bottom and sides).

Place the apples in a baking pan just large enough to hold them.

Dice the pulp you extracted from the apples (discarding the hard cores and seeds), and place it in a bowl with little lemon juice, the hazelnuts, the honey and the yogurt, combining well.

Sprinkle the inside of the cored apples with brown sugar, and stuff them with the yogurt/apple/hazelnut mix.

Cover them with the tops that you had set aside, and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes (more if you like very soft apples).

Serve warm.

For a more fragrant recipe, you can stick a couple of cloves into the peel of each apple before baking.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/31/baked-apple-with-hazelnuts-honey-and-yogurt-dairy/

Dolce di Pane e Mele (Bread and Apple Cake)

Dolce di Pane e Mele (Bread and Apple Cake) (Dairy)

Dolce di Pane e Mele (Bread and Apple Cake) (Dairy)

Today, October 24, is Food Day! Americans from all walks of life push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. One of the huge problems we are dealing with is that Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce for consumption, while the number of people without enough to eat continues to rise. A very important Jewish concept, especially relevant today, is Bal Tashchit (do not destroy or waste). Originally, Bal Tashchit refers to the biblical prohibition against the destruction of fruit trees during wartime (Deuteronomy 12:19), but the rabbis of the Talmud extended the concept to the prohibition of destroying and wasting anything needlessly.

Really! Nowadays we should apply this idea to all kinds of waste (do we really need to drive, when we can walk or take the bus?). And of course, let’s start with food. Don’t leave your bread in plastic bags: chances are, it will be covered in green mold before you are done with it. If you keep it in a paper bag or a bread box, on the other hand, it will just dry out and you’ll still be able to use it, soaked in broth, to make delicious meatballs (with leftover cooked chicken), or for this delicious cake!

Dolce di Pane e Mele (Bread and Apple Cake) (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in warm brandy (or warm water)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (scant) cup sugar
  • 1 untreated lemon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 large or 4 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin, drizzled with lemon juice to prevent oxidation
  • about 1/3 pound day-old sliced bread (crust removed)
  • butter to grease the pan
  • Another version of the Bread Cake
  • Ingredients:
  • 1/3 pound day-old sliced bread (crust removed)
  • milk or rice milk for soaking
  • 2 pounds apples or pears
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons rhum
  • 1 package baking powder (optional)

Directions

Serves 4

In a food processor (or with your hand mixer) process the eggs with the sugar till frothy, then slowly add the milk.

Add the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. .

Grease a spring-form pan and cover the bottom with sliced bread, then cover with some of the egg/sugar mix, followed by a layer of apple slices and raisins,

Continue layering all he ingredients, topping with apples and raisins; brush the top with little melted butter and bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 350 F.

Other version of bread cake:

Break or cut the bread into small pieces and soak it in milk or soy milk until very soft.

Drain it and process it with your mixer till creamy.

Add the egg yolks, plumped raisins, rhum, sugar, and the apples (peeled, cored, and diced).

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and carefully incorporate them with a spatula (alternatively, you can avoid separating the eggs in the first place and add a package of baking powder to the mix when you add the sugar).

Pour into a greased spring-form pan and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/24/dolce-di-pane-e-mele-bread-and-apple-cake-dairy/

Tilapia Roll-Ups

Tilapia Roll-Ups

Tilapia Roll-Ups

Often we forget to eat healthy foods just because we are so busy. On top of that, fish can be quite intimidating to people who have never learned how to cook it. This recipe, however, is easy to prepare, looks very pretty, and it tastes great. Tilapia and sole are light, flaky, white-fleshed fish – a perfect low-calorie source of lean protein for those of you who are watching their waistlines or at risk of cardiovascular disease. The extra burst of flavor comes from anchovies, herrings’ “little cousins”: just like their larger relatives they are chock-full of nutrients (for example, they are a rich source of protein, niacin, calcium, selenium, and an extremely high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids), and one of the most beloved ingredients in Italian cuisine.

Tilapia Roll-Ups

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 small tilapia or sole fillets, depending on the size
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 slices of bread, crust removed, diced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 4 anchovies, chopped (salt- or oil-packed, drained and rinsed well, and pat dry)
  • grated zest of one organic lemon
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • flour
  • salt
  • ground pepper to taste

Directions

Soak the diced bread in 4 tablespoons of cold vegetable broth or water for a few minutes; drain well squeezing the liquid out. Combine in a food processor with one tablespoon oil, parsley, capers, anchovies, lemon zest (you can also mix everything together with a fork).

Season the fillets with salt and pepper, dredge in flour shaking off the excess. Put some of the filling on the center of each fillet, roll the fillet around the filling and secure with a toothpick or tie with string (for an ever prettier effect, blanch some chives in boiling water and use them as strings). Repeat with all the fillets.

Heat the remaining oil in a pan and add the fillet, seam down. Cook for about 5 minutes, turn carefully with a spatula; cook the other side for a couple more minutes, and add the wine. Turn up the heat to allow the wine to evaporate, and voila'!

*** if you are really watching your waistline and need to decrease the quantity of the oil, you can just bake these in a parchment-lined pan, brushing the top with a mix of 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon lemon. You can also steam them and drizzle them with little oil and lemon at the end. In both cases, skip the flour.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/23/tilapia-roll-ups/

Fall salad with Grapes and Apples

Fall salad with Grapes and Apples GF

Fall salad with Grapes and Apples

Fall salad with Grapes and Apples GF

Ingredients

  • 4 cups green lettuce (oak leaf lettuce, mache’ or any other type of fresh green lettuce)
  • 1 small cluster red grapes
  • 1 green apple
  • 10 ounces firm cheese (if using Italian cheese, a montasio or asiago; if using a local cheese, a medium cheddar would work).
  • 1 small container plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgine olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon green peppercorns

Directions

Serves 4

Clean and wash the salad and grapes; wash and core the apple, and cut it into very thin slices.

Cut the cheese into small cubes. Peel the garlic, mash it and combine it with the yogurt; add the oil, salt and green peppercorns.

Arrange the lettuce in a large bowl or platter with the cheese, apple and grapes on top, and serve with the yogurt sauce.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/11/fall-salad-with-grapes-and-apples-gf/

Turkey or Veal Roast with a Surprise

Tukey or Veal Roast with a Surprise (Meat)

Turkey or Veal Roast with a Surprise (Meat)

On the holidays, I usually serve dairy at lunch and meat for dinner. This colorful “roast”, which is actually cooked on the stove, usually “wows” guests. It’s much easier than it looks! 
If you prefer, instead of the boiled eggs you can use a thin frittata made with eggs and chopped parsley or spinach. It’s filling, so I would serve it after a vegetable soup or a light broth-based pasta soup.

Tukey or Veal Roast with a Surprise (Meat)

Ingredients

  • 3 slices Hungarian salami and 3 slices good pastrami
  • 1 boneless turkey breast in one piece, about 2 pounds, butterflied (or veal)
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) freshly chopped parsley
  • 2 boiled eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 a medium onion, chopped finely
  • one small carrot, chopped finely
  • one celery stick, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic (one whole, one minced)
  • 1 ripe tomato, completely seeded, salted and drained.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon plain bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (do not use “cooking wine”)
  • salt and black pepper

Directions

Boil the eggs, peel them and eliminate a small white slice from the ends, so that ,when sliced, all the slices will contain some yolk.

With the flat side of a mallet, pound the turkey breast or veal to a ½-inch thickness, and season with pepper.

Grind the cold cuts very thin (best to do this with a food processor), combine them with a tablespoon of bread crumbs, the parsley, the garlic, little pepper, and a touch of nutmeg if liked. Spread the filling over the center of the meat leaving the ends untouched.

With a spoon, thin the filling out in the center to accomodate the eggs.

Add two thin slices of tomato (only the pulp, completely seeded and well drained!) – in absence of a tomato you can use a couple of spinach leaves, or peeled fillets of red roasted peppers.

Fold the edges of the meat over the filling, closing it on all sides, and tie well with kitchen string.

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil (you can use only 2 if using veal, which has more fat, but need more for turkey) in a large sauteuse pan, with a clove of garlic.

Add the meat and allow it to brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine and let it evaporate. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery ,one cup of hot water, salt and pepper, and cook covered on medium/low heat for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, then uncover and allow the sauce to thicken.

Transfer onto a platter, slice, and serve with the sauce.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/10/tukey-or-veal-roast-with-a-surprise-meat/

Etrog or Lemon Risotto

Etrog or Lemon Risotto (Dairy)

Etrog or Lemon Risotto (Dairy)

The Etrog, one of the symbols of Sukkot, is a special fruit, which looks like a giant lemon and grows on very delicate trees, in warm climates. Some Hassidim actually prefer the Etrogs from Italy (from the region of Calabria), probably because of a tradition that says that Moses used one from there.  After Sukkot, a lot of us like to use them to make jelly or other specialties. In the movie Ushpizin the protagonists use its juice to dress a salad, but here is another fun idea (and you can make this recipe any time using regular lemons):

Etrog or Lemon Risotto (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups boiling hot vegetable stock
  • 2 shallots, or 1/2 a large onion, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups Italian Rice (Vialone nano, Arborio or Carnaroli type)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime or etrog
  • grated zest of 2 organic lemons or one etrog
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
  • 1/2 cup ricotta (ricotta is naturally low-fat, do not use low-fat or fat-free ricotta)
  • (you can substitute mascarpone for the ricotta for a creamier version)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a pot, heat the stock until it boils, and keep it simmering.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot (enameled cast iron or non-stick), add the onion, and cook over medium/low heat until soft.

Add the rice, and mix well, raising the heat to “toast’ the rice for a minute or two. Stir in the wine and allow it to evaporate.

Add a couple of ladlesful of the hot stock to the rice and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cook the rice until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring often to prevent it from sticking to the bottom

Add more hot stock, one or two ladles at a time, until the rice is tender but firm, what we call “al dente“.

Don’t allow the rice to dry out, in Venice we want to present our risotto “all’onda” (wave-style – meaning creamy and moist, not too solid). If in doubt, add more hot stock.

Stir in the lemon juice and zest, mix, and the ricotta, salt and pepper to taste; turn the heat off and cover. Allow to rest for 1 or 2 minutes.

Decorate with the chives and serve immediately, accompanied by the grated parmigiano cheese.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/09/etrog-or-lemon-risotto-dairy/

Fish with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Fish with Pine Nuts and Raisins (Parve)

Fish with Pine Nuts and Raisins (Parve)

This simple and easy  fish dish is served in many Italian cities during the meal that follows the Yom Kippur fast. Raisins and pine nuts appear in  many Jewish Italian dishes of Sephardic origins, and offer a lovely contrast to the vinegar. For this recipe, Roman Jews use red mullet, but I’ve tried it with other types of white fish and it still works. You could substitute a branzinoorata, striped bass, grouper, snapper, and so forth. Just don’t use a fish that’s too fatty like sea bass or soft like sole and tilapia. (And don’t even think of salmon ;-) )

Fish with Pine Nuts and Raisins (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 1 large red mullet or other fish (or 2 smaller fish), cleaned and gutted, rinsed and pat dry
  • extra-virgin olive oil, 3 to 4 tablespoons
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of white or red vinegar
  • 2/3 cup raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

Heat half the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet on the stove, add the fish and sauté’ for one minute or two on each side.

Combine all the other ingredients, including the remaining olive oil , and pour them over the fish. Cover and cook on low/medium heat for about 20 to 30 more minutes, or transfer into a 350 F oven and bake covered.

If you prefer, you can make this dish with fish fillets. In this case the cooking time will be more or less 10 minutes.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/10/04/fish-with-pine-nuts-and-raisins-parve/

Roasted Fish with Fennel

Roasted Fish with Fennel

Roasted Fish with Fennel

Another very common symbol on the Rosh HaShana table is the head of a fish, with the prayer “that we be a head and not a tail”.  We don’t actually eat the head (yikes), just present it as a symbol; but we do eat the rest of the fish and here is a great easy recipe.

If you didn’t use fennel for the previous symbol, Roviah, but green beans or beans, try adding it to the fish instead – it’s a delicious combination! Some people do not like using lemon on Rosh HaShana (in the spirit of eating only things that are sweet, and not sour): if that’s your case, add only the peel/zest, without the pulp.

Roasted Fish with Fennel

Ingredients

  • (serves 6-8 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course)
  • 2 branzinos (a type of bass) or other white fish, about 2 pounds each - scaled, gills removed, gutted and rinsed
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced very thinly (I use a mandoline)
  • 1 medium onion or leek, sliced thinly
  • one lemon, sliced thinly, seeds removed
  • fresh rosemary
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and white pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts into the skin of the fish, on each side about 1/4-inch deep diagonally three times on each side.

Season the inside with salt and white pepper.

Stuff the inside with just a few slices of fennel, onion and lemon and a sprig of rosemary.

Brush a baking pan with extra-virgin olive oil (I prefer a milder extra-virgin oil for fish, like a Ligurian oil); on the bottom of the pan layer fennel, onion and lemon, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Drizzle with the olive oil.

Place the fish on top of the vegetables, sprinkle with little salt and drizzle with more olive oil, and transfer into the oven for about 18 minutes or until cooked (cooking time depends on the size of the fish – to make sure the fish is cooked check if it’s flaking from the bone).

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/25/roasted-fish-with-fennel/

 

Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils

Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils

Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils

For Rosh HaShana I usually serve a fresh pasta soup in chicken broth before the main course: it’s easy to make (make or buy pasta; make chicken stock; cook the pasta and serve with the broth). But I wanted to offer something different for those of you who do not have a seder before the meal, and prefer a more filling first course. As a bonus, this pasta recipe includes pumpkin, one of the holiday symbols in some Italian Jewish communities, including Venice (see my post on “Zucca Barucca” above).

Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils

Ingredients

  • (serves 4)
  • 3/4 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle (Italian wide egg noodles)
  • 1 cup pumpkin or butternut squash (diced into small cubes)
  • 2 cups boiled lentils (or you can use a can)
  • 1 small zucchini
  • fresh sage
  • bay leaves
  • 1 small onion, minced very fine
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onion, 2 sage leaves and 1 bay leaf.

After a couple of minutes dd the diced zucchini, the drained lentils and the cubed pumpkin.

Cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add a ladleful of hot water to the vegetables, salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes or more, until soft but not mushy.

Cook the tagliatelle in a large pot of salted boiling water.

While the pasta is cooking, transfer the vegetables into a bowl and put the rosemary sprig in the hot skillet where you cooked the vegetables, roasting it for a couple of minutes in the oil left over. Discard the rosemary and toast the breadcrumbs for 2-3 minutes in the same skillet.

Drain the pasta, dress it with the vegetable sauce and the toasted bread crumbs, and serve.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/22/tagliatelle-with-pumpkin-and-lentils/

Stuffed Goose Neck for Rosh HaShana

Stuffed Goose Neck

Stuffed Goose Neck

Kosher goose is nowadays only available in the US and in Italy through a few select butchers, or only at certain times of the year. But just a few centuries ago, starting in the Middle Ages and continuing through the Renaissance, goose had become the main source of meat for most Jewish communities in Western Europe, from German-speaking countries to the Italian peninsula. Goose was to the Jews what pork was to Christians: where the Gentiles used lard, the Jews cooked with goose fat; the meat was eaten roasted and stuffed or used to prepare sausages, salamis and kosher “prosciutto“.  It was the “Kosher Pig”! 

Several versions of this dish are still a popular Rosh HaShana main course in different Italian cities, of course only those years when we can get our hands on a goose. 

(A widespread variation is a turkey meatloaf enclosed in the turkey skin, which I will add later.)
On a personal note,  while I’m obsessed with this recipe, I am not going to serve it for Rosh HaShana this year, because the last time my husband (who is squirmy about meat in general) saw me stitch the neck with the trussing needle, he went 100% vegan for two weeks. 

Stuffed Goose Neck for Rosh HaShana

Ingredients

  • The skin of one goose neck
  • 1 and 1/2 lb ground goose meat
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 small day-old rolls, crusts removed (or 2 slices bread, crusts removed) and cubed
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • chicken or meat broth
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice (if liked)
  • 6 very thin slices Hungarian salami (or goose “prosciutto“)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak the bread in 1/2 cup of broth.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the onion until soft, adding one or two tablespoons of water if necessary to prevent it from sticking or burning.

Allow the onion to cool down, discard any liquid or oil (you can place it in a cheesecloth or large piece of paper towel and squeeze the liquid out into your sink).

Also drain as much liquid as possible out of the bread, squeezing it well.

Now place the onion and bread in a large bowl and add the ground meat, egg, parsley, spices, salt and pepper and 1 or 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs, or just enough to give the stuffing the right texture (you can always add more later).

Combine everything together, mixing gently but thoroughly; on the other hand, don’t overdo it: it’s not Challa! My grandmother used to say that meatloaves and meatballs come out too hard if you handle the meat for longer than necessary.

Use this stuffing to fill the neck of the goose (yikes, I know), previously lined with some thin salami slices. It’s easiest with a spoon, and don’t stuff too hard because the stuffing expands during cooking and it can break the skin!

Now sew the opening close with a trussing needle and white cotton string.

Prick a few small holes in the skin with a skewer or kitchen knife, to prevent it from bursting during the cooking.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an oven-proof skillet or sauteuse pan.

Add the neck and brown well on all sides.

Transfer into the oven and roast for at least an hour, turning it and basting with the liquids from the cooking at least 4 times at regular intervals.

To test for doneness, prick with a skewer or toothpick and make sure the juices run clear.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/20/stuffed-goose-neck-for-rosh-hashana/

 

Zucca Barucca (“Holy” Pumpkin or Butternut Squash)

Zucca Barucca (“Holy” Pumpkin or Butternut Squash) (Parve)

Zucca Barucca (“Holy” Pumpkin or Butternut Squash) (Parve)

Pumpkin or Butternut Squash is an important part of our Rosh haShana Seder. While the symbolic foods of the Pesach Seder are meant to internalize the memory of Passover, the symbols of Rosh haShana point to the future to wish us a good New Year. The Aramaic term for squash/pumpkin is  ’Kerah“. Because of its resemblance to the Aramaic root “Kara” (to cut), when we eat this vegetable we pray that any of our bad deeds will be cut out of the Book of G-d’s Judgement. Pumpkin arrived in Italy after the discovery of the Americas, and was such a hit with Northern Italian Jews that in Venice we call it “Zucca Barucca” (Holy Pumpkin – from the Hebrew “Baruch“). 

Different communities and different families prepare it in different ways, but here are a sweet-and-sour version, plus my favorite (but not very photogenic) Venetian version, mashed.

Zucca Barucca (“Holy” Pumpkin or Butternut Squash) (Parve)

Ingredients

  • SWEET AND SOUR PUMPKIN (or Butternut Squash)
  • 1 pound butternut squash or pumpkin (weight peeled and seeded)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced or minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey or sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
  • MASHED PUMPKIN (Zucca Disfatta)
  • 2 pounds butternut squash or pumpkin, diced (weight peeled and seeded)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • 1 medium onion, very finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (in Ferrara they even add candied Etrog)

Directions

SWEET AND SOUR PUMPKIN (or Butternut Squash)

Peel the squash and discard the seeds.

Cut into wedges, about 1/2” thick.

In a skillet or wok, heat the olive oil over medium/high heat.

Add the squash and cook until soft inside and golden brown on the outside (8 to 10 minutes).

Discard most of the frying oil, and put the skillet back on the stovetop with the squash.

Drizzle with the vinegar and add the salt, pepper, sugar (or honey), garlic and mint.

Cook for about 10 more minutes on low heat, stirring gently.

It can be eaten warm or at room temperature.

MASHED PUMPKIN (Zucca Disfatta)

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onion in it, adding a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary.

Add the diced pumpkin, parsley, salt and cook it on low heat, covered, stirring often, until it’s so soft that it can be mashed easily.

At this point, mash it with a fork or potato masher.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/20/zucca-barucca-holy-pumpkin-or-butternut-squash-parve/

Pomegranate Chicken

Pomegranate Chicken

Pomegranate Chicken

This roasted chicken is a perfect main course for Rosh HaShana, since the Pomegranate (Rimon) is the sixth of the symbols on our holiday table,  eaten with the prayer ”May our merits/good deeds be as numerous as the seeds in a pomegranate”. Apparently the Sages took the time to count the seeds in a lot of pomegranates, and decided that they average 613, the number of Mitzvot Jews are bound to observe – which is also why silverRimmonim (pomegranates) are used to decorate Torah scrolls.


Pomegranate Chicken

Ingredients

  • Serves 4-6
  • 1 chicken, cleaned (I buy Kosher, organic, grass-fed and it makes a difference!)
  • 2 pomegranates or 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, slightly pressed
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut the pomegranates in half and using a citrus reamer scoop out the seeds.

Set 2 tablespoons of the seeds aside and press the rest through a food mill or potato masher, gathering the juice in a bowl. .

Heat the olive oil with the garlic in an oven-proof pan or sauteuse; add the chicken and brown it on all sides.

Add salt and pepper and the white wine and allow the wine to evaporate.

Transfer the pan into your oven and roast for an hour at 350 F, turning it and basting it with its own juices a couple of times.

When you notice that the garlic is becoming dark, discard it.

When the chicken is cooked, transfer it to a serving bowl; add the pomegranate juice to the roasting oil/juice in the pan, and heat it on the stovetop, allowing it to simmer for about 3 minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds, and serve this sauce as an accompaniment to the chicken.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/18/pomegranate-chicken/

Leek Frittata

Leek Frittata

Leek Frittata

One of the most popular ways to serve this Siman (Symbol) in our Rosh HaShana Seder: inside an earthy frittata (with or without the addition of spinach). Frittatas can be prepared in advance.

Leek Frittata

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg, if liked

Directions

Preheat the broiler (if using). Heat the olive oil in a 10? nonstick skillet.

Add the leeks, some salt, and cook on medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk the eggs with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper (and nutmeg, if liked) in a bowl.

Add egg mixture to the leeks in the skillet and fold gently to combine.

Cook over medium heat until almost set. If you are brave, flip over with the help of a platter, and cook the other side. If you are unsure, transfer the skillet under your (preheated broiler for about 2-3 minutes.

If you decide to use the broiler, make sure your skillet is oven-proof and doesn’t have a plastic handle.

Cut into wedges and serve.

*Many people make this frittata with leeks and spinach together.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/13/leek-frittata/

 

Vegetable Saute with Pistachios

Vegetable Saute with Pistachios
Vegetable Saute with Pistachios

Vegetable Saute with Pistachios

A quick and delicious way to add some vegetables to your diet. Pistachios were first brought to the Roman Empire from Syria during the reign of Tiberius. Through history, they were considered a refined delicacy worthy of kings and queens (the Queen of Sheba is said to have been a fan!).  

I also love the delicate flavor added by celery. It was not until the Middle Ages that celery’s use started expanding beyond medicine and into food. Always choose celery that looks crisp and snaps easily, with leaves that are free from yellow or brown patches. Sometimes Also separate the stalks and look for brown or black discoloration, a sign of a condition called “blackheart” that is caused by insects (yikes). If you are storing cut or peeled celery, make sure it’s dry, as water can drain some of its many nutrients. The optional touch of soy sauce was inspired by my friend Allaya Fleischer, Kosher Asian chef and writer for Bitayavon magazine.

Vegetable Saute with Pistachios

Ingredients

  • (serves 4)
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 2 small/medium carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1/4 pound haricot verts or green beans
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1/3 cup coarsely ground pistachios
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • (optional) 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

Peel the carrots. If the outside of the celery stalk has fibrous strings, remove them by making a thin cut into one end of the stalk and peeling away the fibers.

Clean and cut the spring onions.

Cut the asparagus, carrots and celery into sticks.

Trim ends and strings off the green beans and cut them into pieces.

Toast the pistachios for one minute in a skillet or wok then set them aside.

Heat the oil in the skillet, then add the spring onions; cook them for about one minute on medium/high heat.

Add the rest of the vegetables and some salt, and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes on medium/high heat, stirring.

If liked, you can add some soy sauce and cook for one more minute (if not, just sprinkle with black pepper).

Add the pistachios and serve.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/08/vegetable-saute-with-pistachios/

 

 

Buricche di Bietole (Chard Burekas)

Buricche di Bietole (Chard Burekas) (Parve)

Buricche di Bietole (Chard Burekas) (Parve)

Another Symbol in my Rosh HaShana Seder is Swiss chard. We identify Swiss Chards (or, in Venice, just their ribs) with the Aramaic term “silka” (other communities use beets). A similar Hebrew word, siluk, means “removal”: therefore, when eating Swiss chards (or beets)  we pray that our enemies will be removed. In Venice we often present only the white ribs of the chards, parboiled until soft and then drained and stewed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper for at least 30 minutes.  But if you have time to make Buricche, your guests will ask for seconds!

Buricche di Bietole (Chard Burekas)(Parve)

Ingredients

  • For the DOUGH
  • (but if you are pressed for time you can buy frozen puff or filo dough and the result will still be nice)
  • - 1 cup olive oil
  • - 1 cup warm water
  • - 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • - 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or as needed)
  • - 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • For the FILLING
  • 1 onion, chopped very finely
  • 1 lb Swiss chard or kale, already cleaned
  • 2 cloves garlic, slightly crushed or minced
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 5 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

For the DOUGH

In a large bowl, combine oil, warm water, salt.

Gradually add the sifted flour (you will need between 5 and 6 cups for the dough to be workable – the dough should feel elastic.

Knead well, cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 20 minutes.

Divide into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece at a time with a rolling pin, as thin as possible, and cut out rounds with a 3? or 4? cookie cutter or cup.

Place some filling on the center only of each round, fold into a half-moon and pinch the edges well to seal.

Place the rounds on a greased baking sheet lined with parchment paper; brush with the egg yolk, beaten with 1 1/2 tablespoons of water.

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

For the FILLING:

Cook the greens in a pot of simmering water (if kale, cook for 12-15 minutes. If using Swiss chards, cook for 4-5 minutes).

Drain the greens, squeeze most of the liquid out with your hands and dry them with a towel. Chop them finely.

In a large skillet or sauteuse pan heat at least 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Add the chopped onion and the garlic and cook on medium/low heat till soft, adding a tablespoon or two of water if necessary to keep them from burning and sticking.

(some people also add a handful of dried mushrooms, plumped in warm water and drained).

Add the greens, salt and pepper to taste, and cook on medium/low for about 30 minutes or until very soft.

Check often and add a few tablespoons of water if necessary to keep it from burning, but allow the water to evaporate.

Set aside in a large bowl and allow to cool off.

Add the eggs, the bread crumbs, more salt and pepper if needed, and use this filling to stuff the Buricche, which you will bake as per directions above (under “Dough”.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/07/buricche-di-bietole-chard-burekas-parve/

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Sauce

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Sauce (Dairy)

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Sauce (Dairy)

This is one of my favorite recipes when I really need to force some vegetables into my kids!

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Sauce (Dairy)

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound spiral-shaped pasta, such as eliche, fusilli or gemelli
  • 6 spoonfuls milk
  • 5 ounces goat cheese (a small log)
  • 1/4 pounds swiss chards, boiled, drained, squeezed, and chopped
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly pressed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly grated Italian Parmigiano cheese (or Argentinian Reggianito)
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta in abundant salted boiling water. In the meantime, heat the oil in a skillet and add the slightly pressed garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, discarding the garlic before it starts smoking. Add the swiss chards (boiled, drained, squeezed, and chopped), stir well, salt and cook for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and combine well with the goat cheese, milk. and about 1/2 a ladleful of the pasta cooking water. When the pasta is "al dente", drain it and dress it with the swiss chard sauce; add some grated parmigiano, et voila!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/04/pasta-with-swiss-chard-and-goat-cheese-sauce-dairy/

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

Meatballs and meatloaves are a staple in Jewish Italian kitchens: I would go as far as to say  that every family has a different version (and every son swears that his mother’s is the best!).

For many centuries most Jews in Italy were poor, and had only sporadic access to meat: one of the ways they found to make use of cheaper cuts was grinding the meat and stretching it with different ingredients – bread, eggs, and countless vegetables. The result included not only delicious meatloaves and meatballs, but also a variety of stuffed vegetables and pasta. These dishes are great for Shabbat and the holidays when food needs to be prepared in advance and reheated, because they don’t harden and actually taste better the day after.
If you choose one of the versions that incorporate cooked, chopped vegetables (spinach, leeks, zucchini, eggplant… the options are endless!) you might also be able to sneak some greens into the diets of the most irreducible picky eaters.

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey (if you are on a low-fat diet, ask for white meat only)
  • 1 scallion, very finely minced
  • 1 slice of bread, crust removed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup of white unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup warm chicken or vegetable stock, or water (you can also use parve, unsweetened soy milk)
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs or as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/3 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

(prep time: 20 minutes; total time: 1 hr and 15 minutes)

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and cook the scallion or onion in it until translucent, adding a little salt and water if needed to prevent it from sticking or turning brown.

Drain the onion from the oil and let it cool down.

In the meantime, soak the bread slices in warm broth or water till soft, then remove them, squeezing the liquid out, and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the ground turkey with the cooked scallion, the salt and pepper, parsley, bread (drained of the excess liquid), nutmeg, egg; mix everything together, working well with your hands until all the ingredients have combined. (if you are not on a low-sodium or low-fat diet you can also add two slices of a natural salami, very finely minced).

Let rest for two minutes so that the bread will absorb some liquid making the mixture easier to shape.

Shape into ping-pong size meatballs. If the mixture is so soft that you are having a hard time forming meatballs, you can add a teaspoon of bread crumbs, but don’t overdo it – your meatballs should not have the texture of real ping-pong balls

Roll the meatballs into a dish filled with the plain breadcrumbs.

Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper.

Brush or spray the parchment lightly with a small amount of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil (do not use baking sprays! Just transfer a good olive oil into a spray bottle).

Arrange the meatballs on the parchment in one layer and lightly spray or brush the top with a little more olive oil.

Bake until golden (about 30 minutes) in a preheated oven at 425 F. Enjoy!

*** ALTERNATIVES: If you prefer, you can cook the meatballs in a light tomato sauce. Start a tomato sauce by cooking 1/2 an onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil till translucent; add a can of peeled Italian tomatoes (just break them down with your hands), add salt and pepper and a small pinch of sugar; cook for about 10 minutes then add the meatballs, and cook on medium/low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring slowly and often. You can also use the same mixture to prepare one meatloaf: in this case the baking time will need to be increased by at least one third.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/01/oven-baked-turkey-meatballs/

Venetian Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin Stew
Pumpkin Stew

Venetian Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin seeds started arriving from the Americas in the 16th century, probably brought by the Conversos that had settled in the New World. Since the official start of the Spanish Inquisition was in 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, it’s not surprising that many Jews and Conversos would see this as an opportunity to leave Spain!

In Northern Italy pumpkins grew particularly well, and local Jews were among the first to add them to their dishes, usually with impressive results. I have already given you some of my favorite recipes for sweet-and sour or mashed pumpkin, and pumpkin fritters, and more…. but here is a stew that will warm up your winter days or nights.

While Italians can be kind of clueless about how to grill a steak (with the exception of Tuscans), we have a long tradition of stewing and braising meat, which culminates in our special-occasion dish, brasato, slowly braised beef, veal or lamb. This particular recipe can also be made as a brasato: just replace the cubed meat with a single cut of beef shoulder – whatever your butcher recommends for braising – and use the same ingredients but cook much longer (over 2 hours) covered and on very low heat. Of course you can also use a crockpot, so you can head off to work, set it and come back home to find that dinner is done and ready to serve.

Venetian Pumpkin Stew

Ingredients

  • (serves 4-6)
  • 2 pounds cubed veal for stew
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash or pumpkin
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or more (to taste)
  • 1 cup white wine or marsala
  • sage leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, whole
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Heat 1/2 of the the olive oil in a heavy pot over high heat, add the meat and brown it on all side. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside.

Add the rest of the oil to the pot, and when it's hot add the garlic, onion and sage, and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent.

Remove and discard the garlic cloves.

Add the meat, the pumpkin (or butternut squash), and the wine. Increase the heat to allow the wine to evaporate.

Add a little salt, , cover with hot water or broth, bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is so soft that you can cut it with a fork, and the pumpkin has dissolved into a mash.

Add a touch of pepper and serve with polenta or fresh bread.

If you don't like veal you can use beef: of course beef takes much longer to cook, and you may want to use a slow-cooker.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/09/01/venetian-pumpkin-stew/

Caponata

CAPONATA - SICILIA

CAPONATA

Caponata

Ingredients

  • (serves 4)
  • 2 Italian or Japanese eggplants
  • 2 peppers
  • 2 onions celery sticks
  • 1 cup black olives
  • 2 tbsps capers
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup raisins or currants, plumped in warm water
  • 3 tbsps white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Dice the eggplants, salt them and drain them for 30 minutes in a colander to eliminate their bitter juice.

Rinse and pat dry.

Sprinkle with flour and deep-fry in olive oil in a skillet until golden on both sides.

Drain and set aside.

Discard most of the olive oil from the pan, leaving only about 4 tablespoons, add the diced onion and celery and cook for 5 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables (all diced), the fried eggplant, salt and pepper to taste, the olives, capers and pine nuts, the vinegar and sugar, and cook until soft (20 to 30 minutes).

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature as an appetizer or side.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/08/30/caponata/

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel)

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel)
Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel)

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel)

Fennel (Anise) is one of those vegetables which until the late 1800s were avoided 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 is said to be a digestive and detoxifier.

Besides eating the bulb, we use the seeds to flavor meats and sausages, and the fronds/leaves for tea and soups. Fennel tea is even said to increase milk production in nursing mothers!

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel)

Ingredients

  • (serves 6)
  • 4 large bulbs of fennel
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, slightly crushed but whole
  • 6 tablespoons of parmigiano cheese (for a DAIRY dish), OR plain bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a touch of nutmeg

Directions

Boil the fennel in salted water till tender but not mushy (10 to 20 minutes).

Drain, dry, slice, and arrange in one layer in a greased baking pan.

Dress with the oil, salt, pepper, cheese or breadcrumbs (or a mix of both, but cut the amounts in half), and nutmeg..

(For a decadent, creamy dairy version, you can also add bechamel sauce).

Place the cloves of garlic somewhere around the pan. If making a dairy version you can add a few flakes of butter.

Bake for about 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F.

Discard the garlic and enjoy!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/08/28/finocchi-gratinati-baked-fennel/

Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

The combination of spinach and pine nuts appears in a variety of  festive Jewish Venetian dishes of Iberian and Turkish origins, from marinated fish to braised carrots, to meat stuffings for vegetables. 
You can use the leftovers to make an unusual frittata.

Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds baby spinach
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots, or 1/2 an onion, minced
  • 1 whole clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins or currants, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 oil-packed anchovies, minced (optional)
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg
  • (optional) a sprinkle of Parmigiano, if serving in a dairy meal.

Directions

Wash the spinach well, discarding the stems (Italian Jews used to save them for a different preparation that required longer cooking).

Cook in a covered pot over medium heat with a little salt and a couple of tablespoons of water, for about 5 minutes.

Drain well.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the shallots or onions (and anchovies, if using).

When they are translucent, add the pine nuts, raisins, spinach, salt, pepper, spices, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until ready.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/08/15/sauteed-spinach-with-raisins-and-pine-nuts/

Halibut in Grape and Red Currant Sauce

Halibut in Grape and Red Currant Sauce

Halibut in Grape and Red Currant Sauce

 

Sweet and Sour is not an everyday combination in general Italian cuisine, but it’s definitely a recurrent theme in Jewish Italian households. Besides the fact that it tastes quite interesting, there is a symbolic value to combining sweet with sour, bitter or salty: while rejoicing for our freedom we should also remember our exile. After all, even at our weddings we break a glass to symbolize how joy is always mixed with sadness!
Several of our traditional dishes incorporate the “Agro” (sour) flavor, through the use of vinegar or lemon juice. This fish recipe blends the sweetness of the grapes with the mild sourness of the lemon and red currants, and the marked saltiness of the capers.  I like halibut because it’s a sustainable fish, but other types of mild, flaky white fish will also work.

Halibut in Grape and Red Currant Sauce

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 fillets of halibut (or other types of flounder)
  • 1 leek
  • 1 cup fresh red currants
  • 1 small cluster grapes
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 slices of bread, crust removed

Directions

Rinse the fish fillets and pat dry. Clean the leek, eliminate the green and hard parts, and slice it thinly. Heat the oil in a skillet, add the leek and capers, and cook until translucent. Add the fish and cook briefly on both sides (time depends on the thickness), paying particular attention not to break them. Drizzle with the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Remove the cooked fish from the pan and set it aside, keeping it warm. Add the grapes and red currants to the skillet, and cook them in the leek sauce until the sauce thickens. The fruit should cook a little, but not so much that it starts falling apart. After a few minutes return the fish fillets to the skillet, and allow to cook with the sauce for 3 or 4 more minutes. Toast the bread slices in the oven, and place one in each individual plate. Arrange the fish fillet on each slice, and pour the grape and cranberry sauce on top. Serve immediately.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/08/07/halibut-in-grape-and-red-currant-sauce/

How to make the Perfect Pasta

How to make the Perfect Pasta
How to make the Perfect Pasta

How to make the Perfect Pasta

My friends at CookKosher just posted my special tips on How to Cook the Perfect Pasta, including when you need to reheat it for Shabbat!

Are you ready to start eating like a Real Italian? Click here!

Cheese and Pepper Pasta

Cheese and Pepper Pasta (Dairy)

Cheese and Pepper Pasta (Dairy)

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

Cheese and Pepper Pasta (Dairy)

serves 4-6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

How Venetians Shop for Fish

 

Many of us love eating fish in restaurants and are aware of its health benefits, but have no idea of how to cook it at home. Actually, the challenge is not so much cooking fish, as shopping for it! The key is finding a good, clean fish market or counter and getting to know the fishmonger, who will help you find the freshest fish available and will clean it for you if you can’t stomach doing it yourself.

LOOK HIM IN THE EYE! (the fish, not the fishmonger)
A fresh fish should look alive! Its eyes should look clear and stick out, they should not be opaque and sunken. Its gills should be wet and bright red (if they are brown or grayish, your friend was frozen); the skin, flesh and fins should be firm and bouncy, and the scales shiny.
It should smell like the ocean, but not TOO fishy. If you are buying fillets, be aware that brown edges or red streaks show age and should be avoided. You should always prefer a smaller fish over a larger one, because it will have more delicate flesh (one exception, I believe, is Turbot). I avoid fish that is sold already wrapped in plastic. If you have to buy it, at least rinse it very well and pat it dry with paper towel before cooking. However, it’s best to buy fresh fish, or even frozen. Most frozen fish nowadays is frozen fresh and can taste great if you let it thaw slowly in your fridge, rinse and dry it, and then cook it immediately.
What you should avoid at all costs is fish that was frozen but is being sold as fresh, because its texture will be unnaturally mushy.

Bean and Onion Salad

Bean and Onion Salad
Bean and Onion Salad

Bean and Onion Salad

Italian cuisine is one of the best for vegetarians. There are so many delicious options and all are simple to make. Meat used to be a rare treat for most people, and legumes the main source of protein. This salad is a staple in Tuscany, and while minimalistic in terms of work, it’s very satisfying. However, never skip soaking the onion! This easy step removes the sting, sweetens the flavor – and allows you to still have a social life ;-)

I have seen elaborate versions of this dish, with additions of cheese, pesto, hummus, the works. Trust me, and don’t go there.

Bean and Onion Salad

Ingredients

  • (serves 4 as a side, or 2 as a main course)
  • 1 red or white onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cannellini (white) beans (or 1 can)
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

Place onion in a bowl, cover with ice water, and allow to rest for at least 1 hour.

If using the dried beans: in a large saucepan cover beans with water by 2 inches and add salt. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding more hot water if necessary to keep beans covered, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until tender (but not mushy).

(if using the canned beans, drain and rinse them well)

Place beans in a large bowl, drain onions and combine.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and dress the bean salad.

Serve at room temperature

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/07/10/bean-and-onion-salad/

Tomato Sauce, and My Pet Peeves

Tomato Sauce, and my Pet Peeves

5857 salsa di pomodoro

For a while I resisted the idea of writing about tomato sauce. In fact, as a typical Italian living in the US, I’m often annoyed when Italian cuisine is identified exclusively with tomato and cheese-laden dishes. But then the spring arrived, persuading me to break the ice, and to use this post as an opportunity to dispel some myths!

Tomatoes first arrived in Italy for the first time during the 1500s. They were brought by the  the Spanish, who had encounterd them in the Americas. In particular, Jewish or conversos merchants of Spanish or Portuguese origins brought them to Livorno (Leighorn), and from there to the rest of Europe. However, at the beginning tomatoes were met with suspicion: after all, even in the Americas they were still considered poisonous, and enjoyed solely as a decorative plant. It’s not clear how long it took for people to realize what they were missing on: all we know is that for a while these myths about the poison lingered, or were replaced by others about magical or aphrodisiac powers. But without a doubt, nobody was thinking yet of pizza margherita!

The fact that in Italy the local Jews, always adventurous with vegetables, were among the first to bite into this forbidden fruit is suggested by the fact that many traditional Livornese recipes with tomato are named  ”alla mosaica” (Moses-style) or “alla giudia” (Jewish-style). Meanwhile, the general population was also starting to experiment with the “pomidoro” (from the Latin “golden apples”), at least in some regions, and with the exception of the aristocracy, which waited much longer. (In France, au contraire, tomatoes were served at the Royal Court). In any case, it took a while to arrive at today’s dishes: the first written record of a recipe for pasta with tomato sauce only dates back to 1837!

Historical digressions aside, one of the reasons I’ve been wanting to write this post is to state clearly that pasta sauce is a dish, not an ingredient. It’s something that you can make easily and quickly to dress your pasta. It should not be used to add flavor to your brisket, or (my pet peeve!) to pizza. You are going to cook/bake your brisket and pizza anyway, so what’s the point exactly of adding a pre-cooked sauce? Use simple strained tomatoes and they will cook with the food. Trust me, nobody in Italy would ever put jarred marinara sauce on their pizza. For a realistic, minimalistic and perfect version of pizza margherita, check out the recipe and video by Mario Grazia for Academia Barilla.

And now on to the pasta sauce, in a couple of variations. You will notice that I use canned tomatoes. That’s because I live in Manhattan, and I find that the varieties that are sold here tend to be quite firm and have a lot of seeds: they are much more suitable for salads than sauces. Even when I was growing up in Venice we used canned tomatoes imported from the San Marzano area near Naples. However, if you are lucky to live in an area where the tomatoes are soft and juicy, go ahead and use fresh!

5878 Salsa di pomodoro

Quick Tomato Sauce - SouthernItalian Style

Ingredients

  • 1 large can strained tomatoes (simple pureed tomatoes)
  • 2 whole cloves garlic
  • 4 basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 1large pinch baking soda (or sugar) to reduce the acidity
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Heat the oil, add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring.

Add the tomato, the basil, salt, sugar or baking soda, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with pepper, discard the garlic and dress your pasta, which should be ready by now!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/06/30/tomato-sauce-and-my-pet-peeves/

Slow-Cooked Tuscan Pommarola

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs fresh plum tomatoes, cored and cut into pieces, OR 1 large can peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • fresh basil or fresh parsley to taste, chopped
  • sea salt, about 1 ½ tsp or to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 4 to 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or to taste

Directions

Place the olive oil in a large, non-reactive heavy pot. Add salt and basil or parsley. Cook covered on medium heat stirring occasionally until the vegetables and tomatoes fall apart (this should take about 1 ½ hr with fresh peeled tomatoes and at least 1 hr with canned tomatoes).

Remove the pot from the stove and pass through a food mill, discarding the skin and seeds. It should be nice and thick (if too liquid, cook uncovered for about 15 more minutes). Adjust the salt and pepper, and enjoy!

You can pasteurize both types of sauce and store in clean mason jars for up to 1 year.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/06/30/tomato-sauce-and-my-pet-peeves/

Tomato-lovers should also check out:

My Pappa col Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Soup)

My Leghorn-Style Red Mullet

Silvia’s Pizza

Frank’s How To Buy canned Tomatoes

Smitten Kitchen’s Slow-roasted Tomatoes

Academia barilla’s Tomato Focaccia

Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce

Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce

Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce

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

Tagliolini in Lemon Sauce

serves 4-6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

All About Olive Oil

Olive Oil
Olive Oil

Olive Oil

BUILD AN OLIVE OIL WARDROBE
Oils and fats do not just add texture, but flavor in Italian food; that’s why, if you want to eat like a REAL Italian, you should use different ones depending on the type of food you are cooking and the result you are trying to achieve. Butter and seed oils are more traditional than olive oil in Northern Italian cuisine (goose fat used to be popular as well!); and in general, for risotto, for frying fish, and for desserts, some people prefer sunflower oil, grapeseed oil or even canola. Some dishes like risotto taste best with butter, but you prefer to limit saturated fats you can start with a canola or sunflower oil, and just add some butter at the end with the parmigiano, to give it flavor and sheen.
Most generic Italian olive oils, even when extra-virgin, are made with blends from different regions (by the way, always buy extra-virgin for the best flavor: plus they are cold-processed and therefore do not require a hechsker according to most authorities). This makes them too strong for certain dishes, and not always pleasant to the palate.
I prefer to have a few extra-virgin  oils on hand: a very delicate one from Liguria (Imperia or Alghero, in the North-West) for fish; a medium Tuscan (slightly bitter) or Umbrian (fruitier) for salads, vegetables and meat dishes. For earthier dishes like pastas or specialties containing a lot of tomato, garlic and spices, a stronger oil like a Sicilian or Pugliese can be recommended.
If you can only get one bottle, pick an oil from Tuscany or Umbria, which will go with most dishes, and a smaller bottle of Ligurian oil, which will taste wonderful drizzled on steamed fish.
I always buy one bottle of extra-virgin olive oil labeled “Olio Novello”, “Di Frantoio” (fresher oil, from the mill); this is more expensive, but of much higher quality. For cooking, I use my regular-quality extra-virgin olive oil; before serving the food, I drizzle it with a few drops of the higher-end Olio Novello, to add depth to the flavor!
Please don’t buy any ‘light’ or ‘blended’ kind, but look for EXTRA-VIRGIN, COLD-PRESSED olive oil. This is the only type that is unprocessed (and naturally kosher – according to most authorities, it doesn’t need a hechsher because it’s made by simply pressing cold olives).
Make sure it’s labeled ‘EXTRA’-virgin, not just ‘virgin’. Virgin oils are still extracted without chemicals, but after repeated pressings of the olives- which makes their acidic levels higher, and their taste more pungent.
If it doesn’t even say ‘virgin’,  don’t buy it! It has been produced by chemical heat pressing, which makes it  harsher-tasting, less healthy, and not kosher unless certified.
Olive oil is not just meant to grease up foods: it makes food taste better. If you really shudder at the idea of pouring abundant quantities of oil directly from a bottle into your pots and pans, you can always put it into a spray bottle. But remember that consuming olive oil may reduce your risk of heart disease and make your skin look great, not to mention the fact that it will remind you of the Hanukkah miracle, making you smile.

Bigoli in Salsa

Bigoli in Salsa

Bigoli in Salsa

Bigoli are a kind of thick, hand-made whole-wheat spaghetti typical of Venice, my hometown. This delicious white sauce with onions and anchovies has Jewish roots, but has become popular across the religious spectrum. This recipe can also be made using regular whole-wheat spaghetti.

Bigoli

Ingredients

  • (serves 6):
  • . 1 pound package whole-wheat spaghetti (I like De Cecco or Barilla)
  • - 5-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • - 2 large white onions, minced thin
  • - a 3-ounce can of oil-packed anchovy fillets (even better, 10 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed), minced
  • - half a cup of dry white wine, like a Pinot Grigio or Riesling
  • - salt, pepper
  • - toasted bread crumbs, if desired.

Directions

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta 'al dente'.

Meanwhile, in a saute' pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame.

Add the minced onions and a couple of tablespoons of water and lower the flame.

Let the onions cook, stirring, till translucent, adding little water if they start to dry out.

In the meantime, you will have minced the anchovies; once the onions are translucent add the anchovies and wineto the onions and keep cooking on low heat, stirring, until they 'melt' completely into the sauce.

Add black pepper to taste, and use this sauce to dress your spaghetti.

Some like to add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (in a dairy meal), or toasted bread-crumbs and parsley; but the classic Venetian way to eat this pasta is without any additions.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/06/12/bigoli/

 

Savory Beet Pie with Ricotta, Radicchio and Leeks

Beet Radicchio Leek and  Ricotta Pie
Beet Radicchio Leek and  Ricotta Pie

Beet Radicchio Leek and Ricotta Pie

Beets are native to the Mediterranean, but for a very long time people ate only their leaves, while the root was used in medicine to treat a variety of ailments. It was only in 19th century France that the beet’s culinary potential was discovered, while at the same time the Germans proved that it could produce sugar , making it an easy local alternative to the tropical sugar cane.

Beets are in season from June through October , but they are easy to find throughout the year because, like other root vegetables, they store well. Their flavor is deep, sweet, hearty and rich, making them ideal for cold-weather recipes like this one. Cooking the beets whole is the best way to retain most of their flavor and nutritive value. In particular, roasting intensifies the flavor, and makes the peels easy to remove. Just cut off any greens, (you can cook them and eat them separately), scrub the beets clean, place them on a large piece of aluminum foil, fold and close the foil,  and bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for 25 minutes to 1 hour (depending on the size).

Beet radicchio Leek and Ricotta Tart

Savory Beet Pie with Ricotta, Radicchio and Leeks

Ingredients

  • One puff pastry or brisee' pastry sheet, home-made or frozen
  • 1/2 pound whole milk ricotta (it's naturally very low-fat, don't get the fat-free type, the texture is funny)
  • 1 large beet, baked (you can also use the pre-cooked kind but they are less flavorful)
  • 2 small leeks, cleaned and sliced very thin
  • 1 head of red radicchio, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small or medium egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Bake the beet till soft . In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, add the leeks and cook the leeks for about 5 minutes.

Set 1/2 of the leeks aside, and add the radicchio to the pan.

Cook most of the radicchio (save a little for decorating) with the remaining leeks for about 10 minutes, adding 1/4 cup of red wine if it's sticking to the bottom (or drizzle with little balsamic vinegar).

Process the cooked beet with 1/2 the cooked leeks, the ricotta, egg, cooked radicchio, salt and pepper to taste, and one tablespoon olive oil.

Pre-heat your oven to 360 F; grease a baking pan or line it with parchment; roll out the pastry, cut it in a circle about 1.5" wider than the pan and place it in the pan.

Fill the pastry with the mix of ricotta and vegetables, and add the remaining cooked leek on top. Fold the edges over, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden.

Before serving decorate the top with the remaining radicchio.

* For an even richer flavor you can add 2 tablespoons of grated parmigiano to there filling.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/06/05/savory-beet-pie-with-ricotta-radicchio-and-leeks/

Risotto Primavera

Risotto Primavera
Risotto Primavera

Risotto Primavera

We don’t know for sure how rice made its way to Italy, if through the Arabs of Sicily, the Crusaders, or Venetian merchants (or all of them independently).

In any case, after its arrival it was considered for centuries not a food, but a costly medicinal spice used for making digestive teas. 
In the fourteenth century the use of rice started expanding to desserts, but it was still uncommon and imported from abroad. Its cultivation was forbidden, due to the fear of diseases like malaria, linked to stagnant water. It took a long series of famines and the devastation caused by the great plague (1348-1352), which almost exhausted the production of traditional staples (spelt, millet, barley, etc), to persuade the local governments to invest in the production of this new cereal, which in Asia was already the main source of nourishment for millions of people.

Together with corn and potatoes – which were introduced after the discovery of the Americas – rice was critical to the rebuilding of human life and activities in Europe after the tragedies of the late Middle Ages. By the end of the fifteenth century its cultivation was blossoming, especially North of the Po river, in the Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto regions.  It’s not clear at which point someone came up with the idea of cooking rice with the patient and gradual addition of hot liquid, resulting in “al dente” grains enveloped in a mouthwatering, thick starchy sauce that gives the illusion of cream. In any case, once risotto was invented, it became to Northern Italy what pasta was to the South: the signature recipe that could make any ingredient, from vegetables to fish, from meat to cheese, into a perfectly satisfying meal!

Risotto Primavera

Ingredients

  • (serves 4-6)
  • ½ large onion or 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 to 1 ½ pound total mixed spring vegetables diced (such as carrots, zucchini, peas, green beans, and if liked artichokes and asparagus)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2/3 pounds Italian rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 to 2 qt hot vegetable broth
  • 3-4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup (or to taste) grated Parmigiano or Grana cheese

Directions

Dice all the vegetables into small pieces (max 1/3”). If using artichokes, keep them in a bowl of water acidulated with lemon juice.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat; add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring.

Add the vegetables (except for the asparagus tips), and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the rice, and add the white wine.

Let the wine evaporate completely as you continue to stir.

Start adding the hot broth one ladleful at a time (the rice should almost absorb all the broth between additions), and cook the rice, stirring continuously.

After about 10-12 minutes add the asparagus tips, and keep cooking until the rice is al dente and the mixture still moist and creamy (cooking the rice takes between 18 and 30 minutes, depending on the type).

Stir in the butter and allow to rest covered for 3 minutes. Adjust the salt, stir in the cheese, and serve

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/05/29/risotto-primavera/

Tartines with Blue Cheese and Red Grapes

Tartines with Blue Cheese and Red Grapes
Tartines with Blue Cheese and Red Grapes

Tartines with Blue Cheese and Red Grapes

Italian Jews have always enjoyed a wide variety of cheeses, both as a simple accompaniment to bread, and as an ingredient in our recipes. Ashkenazi Jews, on the other hand,  historically had access to only a couple of kinds of the soft variety, and never developed a cuisine around them – or a real taste for them. In recent years, however, the kosher marketplace in Israel and (to a lesser degree) in the US has expanded to include an ever-increasing range of options.

The newer generations, in particular, have even learned how to appreciate more complex flavors. In this context, a reader emailed me last week to ask how she could serve blue cheese to her friends at a casual Golden Globes get-together, and the quick, easy recipe below (learned from a friend in Modena, who makes it with Gorgonzola) would be perfect for that type of party.
It also gives me the chance to chat about cheese pairings, which are a lot of fun because the possibilities are almost endless. Depending on their texture and flavor, cheeses can be accompanied by fresh fruit, dried fruit, vegetables, herbs, fruit preserves and compotes, and honey. Fruit and cheese, in particular, are a match made in heaven, because they highlight each other’s characteristics: the juiciness and fresh fragrance of fruit complements the creaminess and deep flavor of cheese, and vice versa.

Obviously, this perfect balance derives from the essence of these two foods – one, fat-free and sugar-based; the other, virtually sugar-free and full of fat, sort of a culinary Yin/Yang.
Some ideas of pairings with not-too-hard-to-find cheeses:
- Soft, creamy cheeses with strong, sharp flavor (like Brie, Camembert) with canteloupe or grapes;
- Soft, fresh cheese with bland, milky flavor (Cottage, Mozzarella): fresh tomatoes or oranges;
- Medium-hard and medium-strength (Asiago, Gouda, Edam, Cheddar): pears, apples, berries;
- Hard, strong (Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano, Cheddar): pears, red grapes, dried fruit, honey, preserves, fruit chutneys.
And now…..

Tartines with Blue Cheese and Red Grapes

Ingredients

  • 8 to 12 slices of crunchy bread, depending on the size (pugliese, Ciabatta or Baguette)
  • ½ pound blue cheese
  • 1 ½ tablespoons mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • a small cluster of pale red grapes

Directions

Remove the crust from the bread slices (optional) and toast them in the oven or on a grill until crunchy.

In the meantime, cut the blue cheese into small pieces and mash it with a fork. It works perfectly on its own if it’s creamy. If it’s drier and crumbly, you can add a couple of tablespoons of greek yogurt or ricotta to it.

Spread the toasted slices with the blue cheese, and decorate with the sliced grapes.

Blend the mustard with the honey and drizzle over the top; end with a touch of black pepper.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/05/22/tartines-with-blue-cheese-and-red-grapes/

Traditional Pasta Sauce

Traditional Pasta Sauce (Meat)

Traditional Pasta Sauce (Meat)

A quick and traditional pasta sauce used for Shabbat in many communities in Northern Italy is the juice
left over from roasting lean cuts of meat.

Use high-quality Italian olive oil, a couple of garlic cloves (whole), rosemary, salt and pepper.

Serve some of this sauce with the roast meat, but use what’s left to dress egg noodles (tagliolini or fettuccine).

A cold version of this pasta is the Agresto, or Bagna Brusca, in which lemon juice and egg are added to the meat juices after the pasta has been allowed to cool off. In this case, serve at room temperature.

Riso Giallo del Sabato (Yellow Rice for Shabbat)

Riso Giallo del Sabato (Yellow Rice for Shabbat)
Riso Giallo del Sabato (Yellow Rice for Shabbat)

Riso Giallo del Sabato (Yellow Rice for Shabbat)

The usual preparation for risotto, adding hot broth a little at a time releases so much starch that the rice must be eaten right away or it will clump. This pilaf version, on the other hand, can be prepared in advance and reheated, and is a traditional Friday night dish of Sephardic origins in both Venice and Ferrara. This dish can be made Parve, Dairy, or Meat.

Riso Giallo del Sabato (Yellow Rice for Shabbat)

Ingredients

  • (serves 6-8)
  • 1 quart hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 small packages of saffron powder, or a few stems
  • 2 cups Carnaroli type rice (or you can use long grain)
  • ½ cup of plumped raisins (OPTIONAL)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • salt to taste

Directions

Bring the stock to a boil and leave it to simmer on the stovetop

Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof pot (non-stick or cast iron), add the onion and 2 tablespoons water and cook for 10 minutes on low heat.

Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, until all the grains are coated in oil and “toasted”

Pour in the wine, raise the heat and cook till the wine has evaporated.

Stir in the raisins, previously softened in hot water, if using.

Stir in the saffron, revived in 2 tablespoons hot water.

Pour in all the hot stock and stir.

As soon as the stock starts simmering again, cover the pot and transfer to a 350 – 375 F oven where you will leave it alone to cook for exactly 18 minutes.

Take the rice out, add another couple of tablespoons of olive oil of “oil from a roast beef”, stir, and add salt if needed.

Let it rest covered for another 10 minutes. It can be eaten right away or reheated for Shabbat.

If the rice was made with vegetable stock and will be used in a dairy meal, you can add some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/05/11/riso-giallo-del-sabato-yellow-rice-for-shabbat/

Tuna Loaf

Tuna Loaf
Tuna Loaf

Tuna Loaf

Move over, Gefilte Fish! In Italy, we have our own not-so-refined and yet delicious comfort appetizer…
Tuna Loaf. I don’t know if I can call this recipe historical, because it’s made with canned tuna ;-) but it’s been around long enough that a couple of versions are included in a G. A. Vitali-Norsa’s “classic” ‘La Cucina nella Tradizione Ebraica” (1970).  Of course, many more variations are enjoyed often – especially in the warm seasons – on countless Jewish Italian tables. Here is mine:

Tuna Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cans (about 9 ounces) Yellowfish Tuna, packed in olive oil, plus 2 anchovies
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of nutmeg (if liked) OR 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley
  • * if you don't follow the Sephardic prohibition against mixing fish and dairy, you can add a couple of tablespoons of grated parmigiano reggiano

Directions

Drain the tuna very well and pulse it in a food processor till smooth

Add the eggs, the bread crumbs, spices (and cheese if using)

Shape it into a long loaf, and wrap it tight in a cheesecloth, tying it at the ends with kitchen string

place it in a wide pot of boiling water (enough water to just cover it) and cook for 25 minutes

Allow to cool, unwrap, slice, and serve with mayonnaise or any other lemon-y or tangy sauce

(if you prefer a crunchier version, you can bake it for 30 minutes at 200 F instead of boiling it)

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/05/01/tuna-loaf/

 

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato

Chocolate Salami - Salame Cioccolato (parve)

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato 

Obviously, this is not only for Passover! Ask any Italian child and they will probably name chocolate salami as their favorite dessert, any time, anywhere.

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons water (or oil, for a softer texture: almond oil or coconut oil taste best)
  • 8 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate, grated (or semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • a few drops of vanilla or almond extract (you could also use a couple of tablespoons of a sweet liqueur such as Amaretto, but your kids will really want to eat this!)
  • 1 cup shelled walnuts, or pistachios or hazelnuts
  • 1 cup broken Passover cookies such as Mandelbrot (skip and add more nuts for GF option)
  • 2 tablespoons candied orange (optional)

Directions

Melt the chocolate with the sugar in your microwave or in a bain-marie.

Add 4 tablespoons hot water or oil and stir until smooth.

Add the cookies, nuts, liqueur or extract, candied peel.

Taste and add a couple of spoonfuls of honey if you would like it sweeter, and one or two more tablespoons hot water if it’s hard to stir.

Allow to cool. When it’s lukewarm, shape it into a salami and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminium foil.

Let it rest in the refrigerators for at least 6 hours. About 30 minutes before serving, unwrap and cut into slices.

For a softer texture, replace the water with oil.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/04/13/chocolate-salami-salame-cioccolato-parve/

Italian Charoset

Italian Charoset

Italian Charoset

Charoset is one of the symbolic foods that we eat during our Passover seder: its name comes from the Hebrew word cheres (חרס), which means “clay.” Charoset is a dense fruit paste that represents the mortar used by the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt to make bricks. Because Passover celebrates freedom, a small amount of charoset is placed on the seder plate as a reminder that we were once slaves and we should not take our freedom for granted.

There are many different versions of Charoset in Italy. Let’s start with the one I usually make for my Seder, a recipe from Padova (Padua), near Venice:

Italian Charoset

Ingredients

  • 1 pound apple slices, peeled
  • 3/4 pound boiled chestnuts, peeled
  • 1/2 pound walnuts, shelled
  • 1/2 pound pitted dates
  • 1/2 pound dried apricots
  • 1/2 pound raisins
  • 2 small bananas
  • 1 small seedless orange, only the zulp
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves (if liked)
  • Charoset from Livorno (Leighorn), courtesy of my friend Lea,
  • (who also taught me how to make Tuscan Cous-Cous):
  • 2 or 3 apples, depending on the size (peeled, cored and chopped)
  • 1 pear (peeled, cored and chopped)
  • 4 dates, chopped
  • 2 dried figs, chopped
  • 4 dried prunes, chopped
  • 2/3 cup blanched almonds, whole or split in two
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or blanched hazelnuts)
  • 1/4 cup pistachios (or walnuts)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 cloves (if liked)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoons cinnamon, or to taste
  • Charoset from Acqui Piemonte – very easy, it doesn’t require cooking!
  • 2/3 cup blanched almonds
  • 6 pitted dates
  • 1 matzah
  • 1/2 a cup or more Marsala or sweet wine, or grape juice for a non-alcoholic version
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • cinnamon powder to taste

Directions

Padova (Padua):

Put everything in the blender and process until combined, but it shouldn’t be too smooth..

Cook on a low flame for 15 minutes, stirring. Add some sweet wine or grape juice right before serving.

Charoset from Livorno (Leighorn):

Combine all ingredients except for the sugar and spices in a heavy or non-stick saucepan, add about 1/2 cup water and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Add the sugar and spices, and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Charoset from Acqui Piemonte:

Coarsely grind the almonds, the dates, and the matzah. Combine with the sugar and add the wine or grape juice, adding the liquid slowly until the desired texture is desired. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/04/10/italian-charoset/

Stuffed and Fried Zucchini Flowers

Stuffed Fried Zucchini Flowers (Dairy)
Stuffed Fried Zucchini Flowers (Dairy)

Stuffed Fried Zucchini Flowers (Dairy)

Stuffed and Fried Zucchini Flowers (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 12 zucchini flowers
  • 1/2 cup of COLD dry white wine (120ml)
  • 1 large Italian mozzarella ball, cut into strips
  • 3 tablespoons parmigiano cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup pastry flour (best) or all-purpose flour
  • extra virgin olive oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Check inside the flowers for bugs and shake them out.

Wash the flowers very carefully or they will break.

Dry well with paper towel without rubbing. leave for a few minutes on paper towel so the inside will dry out as well.

Stuff each flower with a strip of mozzarella. If you eat fish with dairy (**many Jews of Sephardic and Italian origins do not) add an anchovy fillet.

If you don't, salt the mozzarella and add a touch of parmigiano cheese and maybe nutmeg.

For the batter, mix eggs, all purpose flour and wine together until smooth and even (a whisk works best).

Heat up the extra virgin olive oil in a deep pot, at least 3" deep, until hot; test it by throwing a small piece of bread in it - lots of small bubbles should form around it, but it should not burn.

Gently coat the stuffed flowers with batter.

Fry until golden brown. Place on several layers of paper towel to absorb the excess oil and immediately season with salt.

The flowers can also be fried in the same batter without stuffing, sprinkled with sugar and served as a dessert (a delightful idea for Purim and Hanukkah!)

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/03/30/stuffed-and-fried-zucchini-flowers-dairy/

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna
Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Ingredients

  • (serves 4)
  • 2 medium/large eggplants
  • 4 ounces anchovies (salt- or oil-packed)
  • 1/2 cup capers (salt- or oil-packed)
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted
  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 10 mint leaves
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions

After washing the eggplants, cut them lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices , arrange them in a colander in your sink or on a platter, and cover them with kosher salt on both sides.

Allow them to rest and 'weep" the bitter juice out for one hour.

Keeping the eggplants in the colander, rinse them well under cold running water to eliminate all traces of bitterness and salt.

Blot dry with paper towels.

Arrange the eggplants on a wide tray and cover them with a mix of oil, vinegar and salt, and freshly chopped mint leaves.

Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the tuna (drained), olives, capers (drained and rinsed), and anchovies (rinsed) in a food processor until they form a smooth, creamy paste.

Grill the eggplants on a heavyweight grill pan, turning them and brushing them with the marinade, until cooked through.

Allow to cool for a few minutes, then spread the tuna mixture on one side of each eggplant slice, roll up and secure with a toothpick.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: Eggplant in Italy was apparently abhorred by non-Jews until the end of the 1800s. Its Italian name, Melanzana, is said to derive from the Latin "Mela Insana" (Bad Apple) because it was believed to be poisonous and cause fevers that would make people lose their minds. But in the 20th century the purple fruit took the country by storm, and is now the star ingredient in some of the most popular and world-famous Italian dishes.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/03/29/eggplant-roulades-with-tuna/

Chestnut and Leek Soup

Chestnut and Leek Soup
Chestnut and Leek Soup

Chestnut and Leek Soup

Chestnuts were central to the traditional Italian diet, especially in the mountains and among the poor. This simple soup is extremely satisfying when it’s cold outside, especially if you accompany it with a nice glass of a dry, fruity white wine. For an ever richer soup, you can substitute half the vegetable stock with milk. 

Chestnut and Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • (serves 4)
  • 2 leeks
  • 1/3 pound fresh chestnuts (or 1 cup
  • cooked and peeled chestnuts)
  • ½ pound potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter, or olive oil
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Blanch the chestnuts for about 15 minutes and peel them (you can also use pre-cooked and peeled chestnuts, but you will lose some flavor).

Clean the leeks, discarding their outer leaves and green parts, and slice them thinly.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into small dice. In a skillet, heat the butter or oil, and saute’ the leeks for 5 minutes;

add the chestnuts and potatoes, salt, and add the wine.

Allow it to evaporate, then add the stock, and bring to a boil; lower the heat, and cook for 45

minutes to one hour, or until the chestnuts and potatoes are fully cooked.

Puree’ the soup with an immersion blender or your food processor. Add more salt and pepper if liked, and serve hot.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/03/24/chestnut-and-leek-soup/

 

Potato and Leek Soup

Potato and Leek Soup
Potato and Leek Soup

Potato and Leek Soup

Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • (serves 4)
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (if making a dairy meal, you can add 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmigiano cheese)

Directions

Clean the leeks, discarding the harder green parts (you can use them to make a vegetable stock, with carrots, celery and onions).

Wash the celery,, eliminating any fibrous parts.

Slice both the leeks and celery.

Peel and dice the potatoes. Heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy or non-stick pot, and add the leeks.

Cook for 3 minutes, lowering the heat and adding a tablespoon of water if needed to prevent them from burning.

Add the celery and potatoes, season with salt, and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Add the hot vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

Simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Process with a hand mixer till creamy. Before serving, add the parsley, sprinkle with pepper and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

In the context of a dairy meal, you can also add about 1/2 tablespoon per person of freshly grated parmigiano cheese.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/03/01/potato-and-leek-soup/

 

Fava Bean Soup with Peas and Arugola

Fava Bean Soup with Peas and Arugola
Fava Bean Soup with Peas and Arugola

Fava Bean Soup with Peas and Arugola

Fava beans , also known as known broad beans, have been part of the human diet from time immemorial. They were probably one of the staples in ancient Israel, since they are mentioned more than once in the Mishnah. Archaeologists even found charred samples in Israel near Nazareth, dating back to 4900 BCE! They were also cultivated in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and remained for a long time the only bean available in Europe – until other types were brought from the Americas in the 1500′s.
In Central and Southern Italy, fava beans announce the warm season, and people wait excitedly for their arrival at the local markets. When purchased fresh, the beans need to be removed from their pods, blanched, and then popped out of their skins, which is something I look forward to doing while watching the latest Mad Men episode. If you are not so patient, you can skip all these steps by buying them frozen. I never ate fava beans at home in Venice, they were always a treat  that I enjoyed when visiting my grandmother in Tuscany: she gave them to me right out of the shell and dipped in olive oil, accompanied by a slice of fresh Pecorino cheese – a match made in heaven! In the winter, Nonna would also make a puree from dried fava beans with escarole, which she served with simple Tuscan bread.

Fava Bean Soup with Peas and Arugola

Ingredients

  • (serves 4)
  • 12 oz peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 12 oz fava beans (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 packed cup arugola
  • 1 qt vegetable stock
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 red onions
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Mince one onion.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pot and cook the onion in it for 2 minutes.

Add the peas and fava beans and the chopped arugola.

Cook for 2 more minutes, add the stock and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the second onion into thin slices and sauté' them in the remaining oil until slightly crunchy. Serve the soup hot, drizzle with more oil to taste, and decorate with the sautéed onion and some fresh arugola.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/02/28/fava-bean-soup-with-peas-and-arugola/

Gratinated Tomatoes

Gratinated Tomatoes
Gratinated Tomatoes

Gratinated Tomatoes

Gratinated Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • (serves 6)
  • 8 medium tomatos, firm
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 heaped tablespoons plain bread crumbs
  • 4 tbsps freshly chopped parsley, or 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2-3 minced anchovies (oil-packed or salt-packed and rinsed)(optional)
  • salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon or less)
  • black pepper
  • pine nuts to decorate

Directions

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, scoop out the seeds and pulp, sprinkle the inside with salt and drain for 30+ mins. Save the pulp.

In a bowl, mix the plain breadcrumbs, with the parsley (or oregano), olive oil, minced anchovies, salt and pepper to taste, and enough of the pulp that you saved to make a smooth and moist filling (it should be about as firm as ground meat).

Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture and bake for 40 minutes in a 400 F oven.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/02/20/gratinated-tomatoes/

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

The Jewish New Year for Trees falls on the 15th of the month of Av – February 8th this year. There is a wide-spread custom of eating several different kinds of fruit, mindfully and in a specific order (the ‘seder’), with the idea that they symbolize different aspects of the world – which we need to understand in order to come closer to God. This custom originated in Isaac Luria’s  Kabbalistic circles in old Safed, and was first described in detail in the manual ”Pri Etz Hadar,” [“The Fruit of the Majestic Tree”], published in Venice in 1728. Not only was Venice one of the main centers of Jewish learning and Hebrew printing at the time, but also of the kabbalistic movement. While several authorities condemned the pamphlet (kabbalah was wide-spread, but still quite controversial!), it continued to be widely circulated and published. Fast-forward to our time: many Jews all over the world still celebrate this ancient agricultural festival by gathering a bunch of friends and family together, and serving as many different fruits as possible, making sure to include the 12 fruits “of Israel”, to which we attribute a symbolic meaning. And of course there are cups of wine, and it all ends with great desserts! Try this cake, which incorporates two of the symbolic fruits: dates and almonds.

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

Ingredients

  • Dough:
  • 2 (scant) cups sifted pastry flour or all-purpose
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 heaped tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 stick of butter or margarine, or 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 large egg
  • Filling:
  • 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2/3 stick butter or margarine, or 1/4 cup almond oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cup coarsely ground toasted almonds
  • 1 heaped cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 coffee spoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cups pitted dates

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the sifted flour with the cocoa powder, 4 tablespoons warm water, salt, sugar, and the butter or margarine, softened and cut into pieces.

Knead and shape into a ball, cover it and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, Prepare the filling: grind the dates, and melt the chocolate in the microwave with the butter (or margarine, or oil).

Add the powdered sugar, ground almonds, dates, and cinnamon.

Combine well and allow to cool.

Roll the dough into a thin rectangle over a large sheet of plastic wrap or parchment; brush the top with melted butter and spread with the filling.

Roll the dough over the filling helping yourself with the plastic wrap, then shape this “salami” into a ring and arrange it into a baking pan (previously lined with parchment, or greased and floured) . Brush with a little more butter or oil, and bake for 350 F in a preheated oven for about one hour. Serve cold, dusted with cinnamon, cocoa and powdered sugar.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/02/01/chocolate-cake-with-dates-and-almonds-dairy-or-parve/