- 1 lb Swiss chard or fresh spinach, hard stems removed
- 8 ounces stale bread, coarsely chopped in the food processor
- 1 ½ cup milk
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 to 6 tbsp white flour
- 2 pinches grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- black pepper to taste
- 4 to 6 tablespoons butter, or to taste
- a few fresh sage leaves
(above, Sukkot seen by Italian artist Emanuele Luzzati)Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot , those observant Jews who have the space construct a sukkah in their backyards or decks (in cities like Manhattan or Venice with a lot of small apartments, it's normal to just share meals in the synagogue’s sukkah). In ancient times most people would just “move” to their sukkas for the whole holiday and even sleep there: nowadays few do, especially in colder climates, but it’s still customary to eat meals in the hut, or at least snacks, reciting a special blessing. Since Sukkot celebrates the harvest, there is a custom of waving the etrog and lulav: (a kind of citron, similar to a big lemon/lime, and a bunch of myrtle,willow and palm twigs). The lulav and etrog are waved in all directions representing God’s power over the whole creation. All kids love decorating the sukkah with drawings, and mine are no exception! As a fall harvest holiday, Sukkot celebrates the bounty of the new crops, and its food traditions revolve around seasonal vegetables and fruit. In this sense, some believe that the pilgrims may have come up with the idea of Thanksgiving inspired by the Biblical descriptions of Sukkot: after all, the Puritan Christians had landed on American shores in search of a place where they would finallly be free to worship as they pleased - a recurrent theme in Jewish history. Besides, just like the ancient Israelites, the pilgrims also had to dwell in makeshift huts (built with the help of the Indians) during their first cold winter in Massachusetts! That's why so many of you, unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, will immediately notice how Thanksgiving's culinary themes mirror those of Sukkot. All kinds of vegetables and fruit grace our tables, together with stuffed pies and pastries: stuffing one food inside another is in fact another metaphor for abundance. Many of these symbolic foods have already appeared on our Rosh haShana table, often in the form of a seder (served in a specific order and reciting blessings on each one). Among these seasonal offerings, both the pumpkin and pomegranate stand out: in Venice we like our favorite local variety of pumpkin so much that we call it "suca baruca" (from the Hebrew "baruch", "blessed / holy pumpkin"); as to pomegranate, it is so important in the Jewish tradition that Torah scrolls are decorated with silver ones - apparently because this fruit contains more or less 613 seeds, the number of the Mitzvot (commandments) that Jews are given to observe. Why not combine these two symbols into a super-pretty and super-festive soup? Ingredients (serves 4)
- 2 lbs cubed pumpkin
- 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
- vegetable stock
- 1/2 orange (or 1/3 cup orange juice)
- 1 pomegranate (or 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup pomegranate juice)
- 3 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 or 3 tablespoons coarsely ground hazelnuts (optional)
In Italy, "Miele" (honey), is classified as compulsively as cheeses and olive oil - by area of origins, type of flower, and depending on whether pieces of honeycomb were included... we have strawberry-tree (corbezzolo) and Eucalyptus honeys from Sardinia, chestnut honey from Piedmont, millefiori (thousand flowers) from Tuscany, orange blossom from Sicily, acacia from the Pre-Alps, and many more. Every fall, I take a trip to Zebar's or Eataly where I stress out about which kind will grace my cake this Rosh HaShana!
Rather than blaming this on my all-Italian obsession with ingredients, you should try for yourselves! After all, when the Almighty promised our forefathers that they would be freed from Egyptian bondage, the Promised Land was described as "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus. 3: 17, etc.) - and not with "milk and sugar"!
In this cake, the orange balances out any excessive sweetness of the honey.
- 4 medium/large eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup oil (canola oil or 1/2 light olive 1/2 almond oil)
- about 300 gr (3/4 a medium/large jar) liquid honey
- 1/2 cup potato starch
- 1 1/2 cup 00 or all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp orange liqueur (like triple sec) or brandy
- zest of one organic orange
- 1/4 cup of the orange juice
- 1 package (16 g) baking powder
- a pinch of salt
In many households, minestrone is made at least weekly and (thanks to the fact that it tastes even better when reheated), served several times as a primo piatto (first course) with both dairy and meat meals. I usually serve it plain on the first day; on the second day, I reheat it with some leftover cooked rice, pasta or even spelt. If it’s cold outside, or I'm simply too busy for multiple courses, I just throw in some beans to transform this light soup into an earthy meal. At the end of the week I add a boiled potato and turn the leftovers into a creamy passato (blended soup) with my hand blender.
Just keep in mind, if you plan on stretching your soup over the course of a week, that you should skip tomatoes or it will spoil too quickly. In Italy we have countless regional and seasonal variations for this soup, depending on the local produce! Just to give you a few examples, the Genoese minestrone is flavored with pesto; my Tuscan grandmother liked to add rosemary, and the Lombard one preferred Arborio rice in it.
The only key rules are that all the ingredients should be very fresh and the oil high quality; the soup should be cooked very slowly, on low heat; and finally, the vegetables should be chopped very small, Israeli salad-style.... other than that, have some fun!
- vegetable stock, 1 1/2 quarts
- 2 whole cloves garlic (optional)
- 1 onion
- 2 carrots
- 6 leaves of kale or Swiss Chards, chopped
- 1 large slice of butternut squash or pumpkin
- 1/2 a small cabbage (1/4 if large)
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 small (or 1 large) zucchini
- 1 cup peas
- OR asparagus tips, or green beans
- 1 small or medium potato (optional)
- 1 medium tomato, seeded (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- extra-virgin olive oil (I use a low-acidic, mild Ligurian or Tuscan)
- fresh rosemary or parsley, if liked
- (tip: if you rarely make it to the green market.... it does work even with frozen vegetables!)
- 3 pounds small (Japanese) eggplants
- 3 small golden delicious apples (or 2 large)
- 1 medium orange
- 1 organic lemon
- 6 cups sugar
"Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town" (Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses).
One of my first olfactory memories features a lemon lavender crostata, baked by my grandmother on a summer afternoon about four decades ago.When we think of lavender fields, most of us conjure up images of Provence: maybe because they were often depicted by French impressionists. However, this plant (a member of the same family of savory herbs which also includes sage, thyme, and oregano) is cultivated all over the world, from England to Brazil, from Russia to Japan and new Zealand - and of course, Italy. My grandmother lived in Pistoia, a town about 30 minutes North-West of Florence, and just over an hour drive from the Chianti region and its stunning landscapes of rolling hills lined with cypress trees, vineyards, olive groves and (surprise!) lavender fields, in a patchwork of incomparable natural beauty. That's exactly where my parents and I used to pick our flowers. Only after a generous tip to the farmer we would be allowed to leave with a large bundle. I remember that I would often come back with a bee sting, promptly treated by the local pediatrician, Dottor Federico: lush lavender shrubs are always humming with fuzzy bees, and the product of this romantic relationship is the most elegant of all honeys.
My grandmother was never a remarkable cook or baker, but somehow this particular tart, made using her next-door neighbor's recipe, and almonds and lemons from her own orchard, always came out so delectable that it was gone in five minutes - however, its exquisite memory has lingered on for over 40 years….
- 1 disc puff pastry or short pastry, home made or purchased
- 2 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup (heaped) sugar
- 1/4 cup (heaped) potato starch
- 2 1/4 cups 2 % milk
- juice of 2 small lemons, or 1 large lemon
- zest of 1 organic lemon
- 2 teaspoons dried lavender