Venetian Jewish Fish Balls

S 17 00 POLPETTE DI PESCE

S 17 00 POLPETTE DI PESCE

 

In spite of the many tourist traps that give Venice, and many other popular destinations, a bad rep, if you have a chance to spend some quiet days there you will appreciate how the absence of cars has crystallized this city into a different dimension, with a magical sense of time. The pedestrian way of life is not something Venetians are forced to, rather they embrace it – after all, they have access to water buses – but they prefer to leave them to the hordes of tourists. Walking to and from work does not only provide us with a built-in form of daily exercise; it makes it very likely to bump into friends unexpectedly (only 60,000 people live in Venice), which usually results into a stop at one of the city’s bàcari (wine bars) to catch up over an ombra (a “shadow”, or a small glass) of wine or a Spriss cocktail, and cicheti, the signature snacks.  Cicheti is a Venetian term used to describe a wide range of bite-size local treats, from deep-fried seafood and rice croquettes to grilled radicchio and baby artichokes from the nearby island of St. Erasmo; from boiled eggs served with anchovies, to meatballs, to the legendary bacala’ mantecato (stockfish mousse) and sarde in saor (fried sardines marinated in sweet-and-sour onions).

Among my favorite finger foods are these fish balls, which you can also keep cooking in a light tomato sauce after frying them, if you prefer to serve them as part of a meal, on top of polenta. Fish balls, like meat balls, are a staple of Jewish Italian sustainable cooking, and were traditionally made with leftover boiled or roasted fish. However, these are so good that when I don’t have any leftovers I cook some fish in order to make a batch.

Venetian Jewish Fish Balls

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds leftover cooked fish (white)
  • 2 medium/large eggs
  • about 4 slices white bread, crust removed
  • the fish cooking water (where the fish was cooked with celery, carrot, onion), or vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tbsps freshly minced parsley
  • 2 anchovies, salt-or oil-packed, drained and minced (optional)
  • a large pinch of nutmeg and one of cinnamon (optional; or thyme)
  • salt, pepper
  • flour to dredge
  • olive oil for frying

Directions

Soak the bread in the broth or fosh stock until soft. Drain and squeeze. Mash the fish with the bread, anchovies, season with salt and pepper, add the parsley and spices. Taste and adjust the salt if needed. Add the eggs, combine well and allow to rest in the fridge for a few minutes. If it’s still too soft you can add a tbsp of bread crumbs.

With wet hands, form little balls (about 1 to 1 /2” in diameter. Dredge them in flour and deep fry in olive oil, in a deep fryer or in a heavy pot with tall sides. To deep fry, heat at least 2" of the olive oil to frying temperature (you can test it by dropping a small piece of bread in the oil: if lots of little bubbles form around the bread, the temperature is right). 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.

Serve warm.

Serves 6

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/01/14/venetian-jewish-fish-balls/



Fish in Saor – Venetian marinated sweet-and-sour fish

S 87 970 SARDE IN SAOR

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Most American Jews love to mark the end of the Yom Kippur fast with a spread of smoked fish, lox, whitefish, herring, and of course bagels and coffee.

In this spirit, last year I had posted a recipe for a simple fish with raisins, which is served in several Italian communities on the same occasion. However, this year I couldn’t resist sharing with you a more elaborate option, one of my favorites: Fish “in Saor”.

Saor” means  “flavor”, in our dialect, and indeed this sweet-and-sour preparation bursts with such flavor that over the centuries it has become THE signature dish of Venice: it’s served as “cicheti’ (tapas) in the many osterias, and as hoers d’oeuvres in the finest restaurants, or passed from boat to boat under the fireworks at the traditional Redentore festival in July.

Many Italians believe that the raisins and pine nuts in savory dishes (as in our stewed carrots, or our spinach frittata for Passover, and dishes with salt cod) always betray Jewish origins. However, Saor was known in Venice long before the expulsion of Jews from Spain, Portugal and Southern Italy, as witnessed by a recipe in the Libro per Cuoco, compiled by an anonymous Venetian at the end of the 14th century. Obviously it’s still possible that the recipe was introduced by some Jews who passed through venice before the expulsion, but it’s not the only explanation.

Venice after the Crusades (1069-1270) had become the most prosperous city in Europe thanks to international commerce. At the peak of its power, it had more than 3,300 ships: the merchants would bring spices from India and China, olive oil from Southern Italy and Greece, sugar from Sicily, unusual fruit from North Africa, and Venetians in general were experimenting with culinary “fusion” like nobody else in Italy or Europe!

The fact that it made fish last for weeks without refrigeration made the Saor a huge hit with the Venetian merchants/mariners, who spent months at a time at sea. As to the Jews, they might have known it from the countries they had to leave, and may have contributed to its increasing popularity in Venice. Besides featuring some of their favorite ingredients, Saor could be made in advance and eaten cold for Shabbat and the holidays!

HERE IS A STEP-BY-STEP:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb. large sardines, OR small soles; scaled, cleaned, gutted (heads off! :-)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup olive oil for the marinade
  • more olive oil for frying
  • 2 lb. white onion, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

INSTRUCTIONS

Ask your fishmonger to wash the sardines (or soles) accurately, gut them, scale them, take the heads off. At home, rinse them in fresh water and lay them well on paper towel.

Soak the raisins in the wine for at least 30 minutes. Heat oil in a 4-qt. pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until browned, 10–12 minutes. Add vinegar, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until soft, 6–8 minutes. Stir in raisins, nuts, and salt and pepper; let cool.

Drench the sardines in flour (I do this by placing flour in a plastic bag. I add the fillets and shake the bag), and fry them in hot oil for about 3 minutes or until slightly golden. Drain them well on  paper towel and salt them.

When both the fish fillets and the onion marinade have cooled off, start layering them in a serving pan: start with a layer of onions, then a layer of fish), then again onions, fish, etc to end with the onions.

Seal with plastic wrap or foil, and refrigerate for al least 1 or 2 days before eating. It actually tastes even better before 4 or 5 days, and I’m told that with this preparation you could even forgo the refrigeration……

Shabbat Meals: Red Mullet Livornese-Style

4103 TRIGLIE ALLA MOSAICA

… and the Cosmopolitan Cooking of the Jews of Livorno.

This article and recipe appeared in The Jewish Forward.

Click here to view it.

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Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

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

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

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

Tartara di Pesce (Raw Fish Tartare)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Buricche

Buricche
Buricche

Buricche

Buricche

Ingredients

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

Directions

1 - FISH BUREKAS (Parve)

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

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

2 - MEAT BUREKAS

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

3 - VEGETARIAN

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

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

TO MAKE THE PASTRY:

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

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

Divide the dough into 4 pieces.

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

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

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

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

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/

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/

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/

 

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 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.

Tuna Loaf

Tuna Loaf
Tuna Loaf

Tuna Loaf

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

Tuna Loaf

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna
Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Blot dry with paper towels.

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

Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

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

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

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

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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

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