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 mashed pumpkin, 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 yet was thinking 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/