Venetian Thanksgivukkah Fritters

Venetian Thanksgivukkah fritters by Dinnerinvenice

Venetian Thanksgivukkah fritters by Dinnerinvenice

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

venetian Thanksgivukkah Fritters 2 by Dinnerinvenice

Venetian Thanksgivukkah Fritters

Ingredients

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

Directions

Plump the raisins in the liqueur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm.

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

Pasta salad with Egg, Radishes and Mache’

3530 Insalata di pasta con songino rapanelli uovo e pepe

Pasta salad with Egg Radishes and mache' by DinnerInVenice

Nothing in the kitchen spells summer and vacation for me the way cold rice and pasta dishes do. I grew up with no air conditioning in the kitchen and dining room: to survive the summer, we resorted to a an endless variety of dishes that can be served cold or at room temperature.

Pasta salads were always my  favorite (and I just wrote about them in my monthly column for The Jewish Week NY), because they can easily be packed and eaten outdoors. Meet me in Central Park!

Pasta salad with Egg and Radishes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

25 minutes

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb (or up to 1 lb if you are four hungry men!) pasta, "wheels" or half-rigatoni or other short pasta
  • 1 bunch radishes (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup lamb's lettuce or mache' salad, stems removed (or more to taste)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Cook the pasta "al dente" in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to instructions on the box. Drain, dress with 2 tbsp oil, and allow to cool.

Boil the eggs in cold water (cooking for about 7 minutes from the moment the water starts boiling).

In the meantime, slice the radishes very thinly (easier with a mandoline or food processor). Separate the lettuce leaves.

When the eggs are cooked, rinse them under cold running water, peel them and chop them coarsely.

Top the cold pasta with the eggs, the lettuce, the radishes, salt and pepper.

Emulsify the remaining oil with the lemon juice, salt and pepper, add to the pasta salad and toss. Enjoy!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/08/13/pasta-salad-with-egg-radishes-and-mache/

Silvia’s Fennel and Red Onion Gratin

Silvia Nacamulli at Relais dei Ciclamini
Photo by Ryan Bartley; Recipe by Silvia Nacamulli

Photo by Ryan Bartley; Recipe by Silvia Nacamulli

Today I have a special surprise for you: I am quite thrilled to introduce you to my friend Silvia Nacamulli. Silvia, who grew up in Rome, is a fellow foodie, who learned all her tricks from three generations of  talented Jewish nonnas. In London, where she lives with her husband and adorable daughters, she runs the successful cooking school La Cucina di Silvia – Cooking for the Soul, and caters very chic private parties (so chic, in fact, that she was featured in Elle magazine).

Silvia Nacamulli at Relais dei Ciclamini

Silvia Nacamulli at Relais dei Ciclamini

However, Silvia is probably most famous for her culinary vacations in Italy (she is now getting ready for the next one, coming up in June), during which English-speaking Italophiles from all over the world learn how to cook a variety of Italian, and Jewish Italian dishes while relaxing in the gorgeous setting of  Relais Nature La Tenuta dei Ciclamini.

City-dwellers, in particular, can’t get enough of the all-encompassing food experience that Silvia offers beyond the cooking lessons, including truffle or mushroom and chestnut hunts (depending on the season), lessons in cheese- and jam-making, fresh vegetable picking, and great wine. Luckily, the Relais has a giant gym and swimming pool where they can burn it all off!

Relais dei Ciclamini, Umbria (Italy)

Relais dei Ciclamini, Umbria (Italy)

Last September, Silvia and I were both part of a panel at the Museum of Jewish Heritage here in New York, organized by Jayne Cohen and including the über-talented Cara de Silva and Walter Potenza. Before the event we were exchanging favorite recipes, and I practically begged her to guest post this one on my blog. As you may have heard, Italians like to procrastinate – that’s how, between the two of us, it took about six months… but at last Silvia’s recipe is here,  in all its mouthwatering splendor!

Silvia’s Fennel and Red Onion Gratin

Ingredients

  • 3 large red onions
  • 3 heads fennel
  • Garlic powder, to taste
  • 4 tbsp freshly minced flat parsley
  • 4-5 tbsp breadcrumbs or panko
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the fan (convection) oven to 375 F and line 2 large sheet trays with parchment paper.

Peel the onions and wash the fennel, eliminating the choke.

Cut the fennel in half thorugh its root and boil it in salted water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and cut again lengthwise: you will have 4 long slices for each head of fennel*.

Cut the onions crosswise into 1 inch-thick slices.

Arrange the fennel and onion on the baking sheet as a single layer.

Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder on top of each onion and fennel slice. Cover with breadcrumbs and parsley, and drizzle with the olive oil.

Bake for about 45 min or until golden. .

*If the fennel is large, cut it into more slices.

Distribute the onions and fennel slices

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/04/30/silvias-fennel-and-red-onion-gratin/

 

 

Italian Lamb Fricassee

Agnello in Fricassea - Italian Lamb Fricassee

Italian lamb fricassee - fricassea

In French, the term Fricassee refers to some kind of stew, usually with a white sauce, in which cut-up meat is first sauteed and then slow-cooked  with the addition of liquid. However, ask any Italian (or Greek!) and they will tell you that to them “fricassea”  is any type of meat or poultry served in a traditional egg-lemon sauce. The Tuscan side of my family used to make this sauce to recycle meat (usually veal) that had already been boiled. We would make soup with the broth, serve the meat boiled with a side of green sauce, and the next day we would turn the leftovers into a creamy egg-lemon fricassea. There are several regional versions of this quick and easy recipe, some made with chicken and others with a mix of different types of meat, including liver. In Rome, however, the ingredient of choice is lamb, a symbol of the spring holidays (whether you choose to celebrate Easter or Passover), often with the addition of seasonal vegetables, such as baby artichokes. Serve accompanied by your favorite starch: potatoes or rice are great.

lemon

Italian Lamb Fricassee

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 lb cubed lamb
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp freshly minced parsley, if liked

Directions

Rinse the lamb and pat dry.

mince the garlic and chop the onion and carrot.

heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic, onion and carrot, and cook for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat. Add the lamb and brown it on all sides for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Pour in the wine and allow it to evaporate on high heat. Lower the heat and allow to cook covered for about 30 to 40 minutes or until done. if there is a lot of liquid, towards the end of the cooking uncover the lamb and allow most of the liquid to evaporate.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the lemon juice until emulsified. remove the lamb from the heat, adjust the salt and pepper, and pour in the egg lemon sauce, stirring quickly. If you like, you can add some fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/28/italian-lamb-fricassee/

This recipe was included in
This American Bite’s roundup of lamb recipes.

Sweet-and-Sour Seder Carrots

Sweet-and-Sour Seder Carrots

Sweet-and-Sour Seder Carrots

Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, is an eight-day (seven in Israel) holiday that celebrates freedom, by retelling the story of the ancient Israelites’ liberation from Egypt. Special symbolic foods are arranged on the seder table, and we read out loud the haggadah, a book that tells the story of the exodus. One of the main goals of having a seder is teaching children about the exodus, encouraging questions from them in the hope that they will learn to appreciate (and fight for – my father would add) the gift of freedom. It’s not that hard to keep kids interested and involved, as this is one of the rare occasions when they are allowed to stay up REALLY late at night, which in itself feels like a big deal to the young ones. However, if a family seder with a couple of cousins can be fun, a whole community seder with a couple of hundred people and a bunch of kids of different ages can be a total blast, and if you ever visit Venice for Passover and make sure to reserve a spot on time, you will be able to witness just that (you may want to bring ear plugs). The tradition of the public seder in the social hall in Venice goes back to 1891, making it the oldest in Italy. Apparently, it was nothing short of revolutionary, for a traditional community with an orthodox rabbi to have a public seder (which is generally more of a reform tradition, unless one is at a vacation resort). However, the Venetian mutual aid society “Cuore e Concordia” (heart and concord), which initially created the seder only for children and the poor or people left without a family,  later realized that, with the increasing level of assimilation, there were many families that lacked a person capable of leading a traditional seder and reading from the Haggadah in Hebrew, and opened the event to the whole community.

Cuore.concordia

Fast-forward more than 120 years, and every Passover, about 200 people (half of the Jews of Venice… plus some tourists, of course) celebrate with a degree of energy and joy that are rarely seen in a smaller context, culminating in the children’s loud singing of “Capretto” (Little Goat), the local version of the famous Passover song “Had Gadya“. One of the consequences of having a large public meal every year is that the traditional menu for the whole community has become crystallized, and changing any item would feel like converting to a different religion. In particular, we are all very attached to the vegetable sides: artichokes, of course; stewed fennel; and this sweet-and-sour carrot stew, which will remind some of you of Tzimmes, but it’s much less sweet. Make sure you use the best organic carrots you can find, and to cook them until they are quite soft: they are supposed to be stewed, and not sautéed.

carote.mazzah.001

Sweet-and-Sour Seder Carrots

Ingredients

  • 2 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in hot water
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 4-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or a mix of olive oil and schmalz, for the tastier classic version!)
  • 2-4 tbsp white wine vinegar, or to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • water

Directions

Place the oil (or oil and chicken fat) in a pot or skillet with the sliced carrots, and drizzle with about 1/2 cup water.Add salt, and cook on low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes. Add the raisins and pine nuts and some black pepper, and cook uncovered, over high hear, for 2 to 5 minutes longer or until desired tenderness (the carrots should be soft). When they are almost done, add the vinegar and cook for one more minute or until it's absorbed.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/18/sweet-and-sour-seder-carrots/

More Vegetable Side Ideas for your Passover Seder (or any time!) from some of my favorite blogs:

Tori’s Stovetop Tzimmes

Levana’s Artichokes and Carrots

Sarah’s Passover Dumplings

Jasmine & Manuel’s Fennel & Cauliflower Soup

 

Crespelle with Asparagus

CRESPELLE AGLI ASPARAGI E FORMAGGIO DI FOSSA

CRESPELLE AGLI ASPARAGI E FORMAGGIO DI FOSSA

This post is very special: it’s a virtual wedding surprise for a young and talented food blogger, Ali (check out her yummy recipes on AliBabka), who just tied the knot with her lucky and well-fed Matan yesterday.

A Jewish wedding is not complete without 7 special blessings over the couple (Sheva Brachot). At the ceremony, they are recited by friends and family members first under the chuppa (wedding canopy) before the breaking of the glass, and then again after the meal.

Among more traditional Jews, the Sheva Berachot are recited again for the whole week following the wedding, at festive meals that friends and family of the couple take turns throwing in their honor every night. While it’s impossible not to pack on a couple of extra pounds, and the honeymoon needs to be postponed, many Jewish couples remember the week of Sheva Berachot with more affection than the wedding itself, simply because it’s so nice to be cared for and pampered by the ones we love!

In this spirit, a group of kosher bloggers is throwing a virtual Sheva Berachot for Ali and Matan. Shhhhhh! It’s a big surprise. Each one of us is posting a favorite food as a blessing for a delicious life together.

 

Crespelle with Asparagus

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 hour

4 to 6 servings

calories: ignorance is Bliss

Ingredients

  • For the Crepes:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
  • 1 scant cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Filling:
  • 1 lb fresh asparagus
  • 1 lb fresh ricotta
  • freshly grated Parmigiano–Reggiano cheese, to taste
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Bechamel sauce (if using) :
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) flour
  • 6 cups milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated parmigiano or grana cheese (or more, to taste)

Directions

Place all ingredients for the crespelle in a bowl, and whisk until smooth. Allow to rest in the fridge for 20-30 minutes (in the meantime you can make the filling). Heat a nonstick pan brushed with butter or oil and pour 1 large tablespoon of mixture into the pan. Spread it and cook each crepe (turning it with the help of a large lid or platter) on both sides. Use up all the batter and set the crespelle aside.

Wash, clean, and steam or boil the asparagus, discarding the harder bottom part. Chop.

In a bowl, comine the ricotta with the grated cheese, eggs, asparagus, salt and pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Blend and set aside.

Prepare the béchamel sauce: melt the butter in a heavy pot over low heat. Add the flour, whisking continuously to prevent clumps. Cook on low heat until the flour disappears into the butter, without letting the butter turn brow. Start adding warm (not hot!) milk to the mix, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring the sauce to a simmer, add salt and pepper and keep whisking almost constantly for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Taste, and add more salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. If you still ended up with some lumps, strain through a sieve. Remove from the heat and cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

Combine 1/3 of the béchamel sauce with the ricotta mixture, and use this mix to fill the crepes, which you will roll up manicotti-style.

Lightly grease a baking pan or casserole. Arrange the filled crespelle in the dish, top with more béchamel sauce and freshly grated cheese. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until the top is golden.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/02/18/crespelle-with-asparagus/



Potato Puree

S 10 880 PURE DI PATATE

S 4 950 2 pure

The term “comfort food” originated in the US, and I’ve heard it used In Italy only recently, mostly by food-bloggers. That’s not to say that we didn’t have comfort food before, we just didn’t have a name for it. On top of that, our choices are often different. Where you go for hamburgers, we dig into spaghetti; when you take out the ice cream, we open the Nutella jar. There is one exception, a unifying, universal ingredient: mashed potatoes.  In Northern Italy, when a mom wants to comfort her kids after a not-so-great grade at school, a broken heart, or simply a long week of rain, she will serve this crowd-pleaser as a side: Pure’ di patate  (potato puree), a silky, creamy and scrumptuous blend of starchy potatoes, milk and butter.

While mashed potatoes can be dry, lumpy, hyper-garlicky, and even gloppy, puree is velvety smooth, and will win the pickiest palates over with its decadence. Not even your carb-phobic friends will be able to resist it.

* for a non-dairy version, replace the butter and milk with olive oil and vegetable broth.

* *if you are watching your weight, you could replace the whole milk with 1% and halve the butter; but do add some butter for flavor.

*** If you need to reheat it, you should add a little more hot milk or broth.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds starchy potatoes (Yukon gold or russet, not too young)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup milk, or a little more
  • salt to taste
  • a pinch of nutmeg

Directions

Cook the potatoes with the peel (whole, if they are small-ish, or halved or quartered if they are very large) in a pot of salted boiling water (30-45 minutes). If you are in a rush, you can cook them much faster in a pressure cooker or even in the microwave (about 15 minutes). Test them with a fork to make sure they are soft, and drain, discarding the cooking water. Allow them to cool until they are still very warm but not too hot to handle, and peel them.

1757_1 Patate

Put them through a ricer or potato masher, gathering them back into the pot. Place the top over low heat and add the butter, and then slowly the hot milk, stirring with a wooden spoon.

STEP 3 PURE' BICOLORE

Keep stirring until the puree is soft, smooth and silky! Adjust the salt, add a pinch of nutmeg, and serve immediately.

S 10 880 PURE DI PATATE

 

Potato Puree

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

1 hour

6 servings

CALORIES AND FAT: ignorance is bliss!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds starchy potatoes (Yukon gold or russet, not too young)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup milk, or a little more
  • salt to taste
  • a pinch of nutmeg

Directions

Cook the potatoes with the peel (whole, if they are small-ish, or halved or quartered if they are very large) in a pot of salted boiling water (30-45 minutes). If you are in a rush, you can cook them much faster in a pressure cooker or even in the microwave (about 15 minutes). Test them with a fork to make sure they are soft, and drain, discarding the cooking water.

Allow them to cool until they are still very warm but not too hot to handle; peel them, and put them through a ricer or potato masher, gathering them back into the pot.

Place the top over low heat and add the butter, and then slowly the hot milk, stirring with a wooden spoon. As you add milk, you can also switch to a whisk. Keep stirring until the puree is soft,

Smooth and silky! Adjust the salt, add a pinch of nutmeg, and serve immediately.

* for a non-dairy version, replace the butter and milk with olive oil and vegetable broth.

* if you are watching your weight, you could replace the whole milk with 1%, but do add some butter for flavor.

* If you need to reheat it, you should add a little more hot milk or broth.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/01/18/potato-puree/

 

 

Prosecco and White Grape Risotto

7109 Risotto allo champagne uva bianca

Image

If you read my previous post about our New Year’s traditions, you know about the importance that Italians place upon some food symbols of plenty. This occasionally verges on the superstitious, and on New Year’s Eve you will see some people stuffing themselves with lentils and grapes as if there’s no tomorrow. The Spanish also follow this custom of eating grapes at midnight, but they stop at 12, one for each month of the new year.

Both in the Judeo-Christian and in the pagan/Greek-Roman traditions, grape clusters deliver such a symbolic punch that it’s quite clear why they have become the center of our celebrations for Capodanno (New Year’s Eve); either in their natural form, which can be appreciated by everybody beyond age, cultural and religious barriers, or in the form of wine – the bubbly, sparkly spumante for the midnight toast! As proven by countless sculptures, frescos and paintings, grapes in Italy have been for hundreds of years the allegory of wealth and well-being.

In Venice and the Veneto, another food associated with images of fertility and of prosperity is rice. Rice is thrown at the bride and groom at a wedding to wish them a lifetime full of blessings (in Roman times, wheat was used for this purpose – but given the role that rice has played in Northern Italian economy and gastronomy for the past 500 years, it has long earned pride of place!)

Finally, all of these ingredients together – grapes, spumante and rice – find their place from time immemorial on my family’s New Year’s table. About half an hour before midnight, I start cooking my signature risotto, which I keep “all’onda” (like the waves, creamy and liquidy – that’s how we like it in Venice) and toss with really good butter and parmigiano. With a pomegranate salad and sides of lentils and salmon, followed by a slice of panettone and a fragrant flute of spumante or prosecco, it’s the perfect start to a delicious new year!

Happy 2013! Here are a few recipes from some of my favorite bloggers that would also be perfect for an Italian New Year’s Eve:

And Here is my New Year’s Risotto:

  • 4 cups or as needed, vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 shallot or ½ white onion, very finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup Vialone Nano or Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup Brut Spumante, Prosecco or Champagne
  • 1 cup white or rose’ grapes (seedless or seeded), halved
  • 1/4 cup or to taste freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions (serves 4, about 30 minutes)

In a saucepan, bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat and keep at a low simmer.

In a large heavy or non-stick saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter, add the shallot and cook for 3 minutes until tender. Add the rice and stir , coating it in the butter. Continue “toasting” the rice, stirring, for 3 minutes Add the Prosecco, Brut or Champagne, and simmer until it has evaporated. Add 1/2 cup of  hot broth and stir until almost completely absorbed (2 minutes). Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth a ladleful at a time, stirring almost constantly and allowing the broth to absorb before adding the next ladleful, until the rice is “al dente” (tender but firm to the bite) and the mixture is very creamy. About half-way through the cooking add the halved grapes. It usually takes about 20 minutes total. Turn off the heat, adjust the salt and pepper, stir in the remaining butter, and parmigiano cheese to taste. Serve immediately.

Espresso-spiked Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

CREMA AGLI AMARETTI E CIOCCOLATO

Image

One of the immediate consequences of receiving a Syntia machine as a thank-you token after my lecture for Lavazza Coffee and Philips Saeco  at Eataly last September, was that I started putting espresso into everything.

Literally: I experimented with stews, fish, fennel, fresh pasta, smoked cheese… with a couple of exceptions, everything seemed to taste more interesting. It’s probably because our sense of smell is responsible for about 4/5 of what we taste – that’s why we lose our appetite when we have a cold and our nose is blocked! With its intense and unique aroma, high-quality coffee is an extraordinary ingredient and can add sophistication to a variety of dishes, savory or sweet.  However, I have to admit that it was its performance in desserts to really capture my culinary imagination. You see, I wasn’t really born with a sweet tooth and I can truly appreciate sugar only when I mix it with something different, whether it’s sour (lemon gelato), salty (chocolate pretzels!), or bitter (any espresso-spiked desserts!).

Tiramisu, one of the most recent and successful “classics” of Italian cuisine, is my favorite example of the perfect marriage of sweet and creamy (mascarpone, cream and sugar) with deep and bitter (espresso and unsweetened cocoa powder). A match made in heaven! Unfortunately, it’s a bit rich, and after seeing me down it for breakfast for three days in a row, my husband politely pointed out that I was showing clear signs of addiction. Switching to a ricotta-based coffee treat seemed like a better option if I wanted to indulge myself so often. Whole milk ricotta is a cheese by-product, not a cheese, and naturally low in fat and high in protein, while still very rich and creamy in texture (cannoli, anyone?).

Let me know what you think of this espresso-spiked chocolate almond mousse. It’s light enough that you can enjoy it after a multiple-course meal without feeling too guilty!

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs (I prefer pasteurized eggs)
  • ¼ lb whole milk ricotta, drained
  • 1 shot chocolate or almond liqueur (Godiva, or Disaronno)
  • 2 shots strong espresso
  • 5 tbsps crumbled amaretto cookies or other almond cookies
  • 5 tbsps sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • dark chocolate shavings and slivered almonds to decorate

Directions:

Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with the sugar until light and frothy. Add the ricotta  liqueur, coffee, cocoa and chocolate and combine well. Add the crumbled cookies.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and incorporate them into the ricotta using a spatula.

Pour the mix into individual bowls, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Decorate with chocolate shavings and slivered almonds before serving.

*RAW EGG WARNING and PASTEURIZING EGGS:
 some people are uncomfortable consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs due to the slight risk of food-borne illness. To reduce this risk, we recommend you use only fresh, properly refrigerated, clean grade AA eggs with intact shells. Still nervous? If using pasteurized eggs, it will be harder to beat the yolks frothy and especially to beat the whites stiff: for the yolks, you will just need to beat them longer with an electric mixer; as to the whites, you will need to add a touch of cream of  tartar (or lemon juice or white vinegar); about 1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar or 3/4 teaspoon lemon for 4 whites. You will also need to use an electric mixer and beat for twice as long as you would with regular egg whites You can buy pre-pasteurized eggs in many stores (test are not the egg-beaters but actual whole eggs, that can be separated at home into whites and yolks); or you can pasteurize them following this method.

* Disclosure: I was not paid for my review of the Philips Saeco espresso machines, apart from being given one Syntia machine to try and review. All comments are my own, honest opinion after my experience with the machine.

Carrot Cream Soup – cream-less and dairy-free

Creamy Carrot Soup with No Cream (Parve)

Creamy Cream-Less Carrot Soup (Parve) GF

In Italy, creamy soups – or “vellutate” – are not usually made with cream (an ingredient that we like to leave to the French): the texture is given by the addition of a simple potato or a handful of rice.

The starches in the rice are slowly released during the cooking, and act as a thickener and an emulsifier at the same time. Slowly-released starches are what gives creaminess to authentic risottos, and also the reason why we add the pasta cooking water to our sauce (the starches released by the pasta turn the cooking water into an emulsifier, and a thickener). Better than fairy dust! This method obviously helps limit saturated fats, but it’s also a great resource for the dairy-intolerant, or the kosher cooks who need dairy-free dishes to serve with meat.

If you love smooth textures, you can turn any vegetable soup into a vellutata simply by throwing in a boiled potato and some water and processing everything in the blender. An easy way to recycle your second-day minestrone!

Ingredients (serves 4 to 6):

  • 2 pounds carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 ½ quarts vegetable stock or to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 or more tablepoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup Italian rice (short grain – Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley (or basil/parsley mix)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Peel the carrots and slice them thinly.
Chop the celery, onion and garlic very finely.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy pot and cook the mix of celery, onion and garlic ( “il soffritto“) on medium/low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and the bay leaf and cook for 5 more minutes. Add 2/3 of the hot stock and bring to a boil, then add the rice, lower the heat, cover almost completely, and allow to simmer for about an hour.
Discard the bay leaf, process with a hand mixer, add the rest of the hot stock and the herbs, and allow to simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes, stirring continuosly. Drizzle with 2 more tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with black pepper and serve.

Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears (Sfogliata al Gianduja e Pere)

Sfogliata Gianduja e Pere (Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears) (Dairy or Parve)

Sfogliata Gianduja e Pere (Puff Strudel with Chocolate, Hazelnuts and Pears) (Dairy or Parve)

The combination of hazelnuts and chocolate is wildly popular in Italy – I’m sure you have heard of Nutella!  The original version is Gianduja – a concoction made of chocolate and hazelnuts invented in Turin during the Napoleonic blockade, when the precious cocoa beans had become scarce and the famous Piedmontese chocolatiers had to find a way to make them go further-. It didn’t hurt, of course, that their hazelnuts (from the Langhe area of Piedmont) were said to be the best in the world, and that Turin was the birthplace of solid chocolate. As you can imagine, the result was much more interesting than other hard-times-inspired products (such as the French chicory “coffee”), and even after the end of the blockade the Torinese kept enjoying their new delicacy, and named it “gianduja” after a local marionette character.

Besides enjoying the tasty combo in the form of a spread or in confections (the delicious gianduiotti – the first-ever chocolates to be individually wrapped!), make sure you try my gianduja puff cake!

Ingredients

1 pound of puff pastry (home-made, or 1 package store-bought)
3 medium pears
5 ounces dark chocolate (I used 70 % Scharffen Berger) 
½ cup ground hazelnuts
6 chocolate-flavored tea biscuits, or small biscottis
2/3 cup (scant) sugar
pinch of salt
1 organic lemon
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons butter, or hazelnut or almond oil
2 tablespoons milk (or non-dairy almond or soy milk)
flour (to dust the counter)

Directions

Peel and core the pears, slice them thinly and combine them with the lemon juice, the sugar, and the grated lemon zest. Grate the chocolate and coarsely chop the cookies. If using butter, melt it in a pan or in your microwave.
On a floured surface, roll out the pastry into a rectangle and brush the top with the melted butter or oil; top with the crumbled cookies, the drained pears, and the grated chocolate. Roll up the pastry as if making a strudel, sealing the edges and closing the ends.
Brush the top with the yolk (mixed with a couple of tablespoons of milk or parve almond or soy milk) and bake in a pre-heated 250 F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden. Enjoy warm or at room temperature, on a cold winter night :-) .

Lemon and Lavander Tart

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Lemon Lavander Tart by DinnerInVenice

“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.

Image

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.

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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….Image

Ingredients:

  • 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

Grease a springform pan (about 9″ to 9 1/2″) and line the bottom with parchment. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees if using puff pastry, 360 if using short pastry.

Roll out pastry and transfer pastry to the prepared springform pan, trimming edges using a paring knife

Prepare the custard: beat the egg yolks with the sugar until foamy. Add the lemon zest and juice.

Dissolve the potato starch into the warm milk, adding little milk at a time. Once combined, add it to the egg mix. Cook in a Bain Marie over low heat, whisking frequently, until the custard thickens. Add 1 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms/petals to the custard.
Pour the custard into the crust, and sprinkle a little more lavender on top. Bake at  400 (for puff) or 360 (for pastry dough) for 30 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden. You can also use mini-pans and make individual size tartelettes.

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Salad

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Salad

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Salad

Zucchini and Goat Cheese Salad

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Wash the endive and cut it into pieces.

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

Stir gently and serve in individual bowls or cups.

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

Gnocchi alla Romana

Gnocchi alla Romana (Dairy)

GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA by Dinnerinvenice.com

Gnocchi alla Romana (Dairy)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezekiel’s Olive Chicken

Ezekiel's Olive Chicken
Ezekiel's Olive Chicken

Ezekiel’s Olive Chicken

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

Ezekiel’s Olive Chicken

Ingredients

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

Directions

Rinse the chicken and pat dry.

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

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

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

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

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

Fennel Soup

Fennel Soup (Parve)

Fennel Soup (Parve)

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

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

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

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

Fennel Soup (Parve)

Ingredients

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

Directions

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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


“Orzotto” with Vegetables – Barley “Risotto”

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Add the wine, and allow it to evaporate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamut Soup with Pumpkin and Saffron

Kamut Soup with Pumpkin and Saffron (Parve)

Kamut Soup with Pumpkin and Saffron (Parve)

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

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

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

Kamut Soup with Pumpkin and Saffron (Parve)

Ingredients

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

Directions

Brew the saffron in a few spoonfuls of hot water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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/

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/

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/

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/

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/

Macedonia (Italian Fruit Salad)

Macedonia (Italian Fruit Salad)

Macedonia (Italian Fruit Salad)

I’m going to let you in on an Italian secret: while gelato is delicious, most of us don’t eat it every night! Our sweet treat after dinner is usually just fresh fruit, especially if the main courses are rich.
When we have guests we often serve Macedonia, a simple salad made with a variety of fruit cut into small pieces, so that when you put a spoonful into your mouth you can taste a combination of different flavors.  Macedonia is dressed very simply with fresh sugar and lemon juice – or Prosecco if no children are present! This is just a sample recipe, but the possibilities are endless – just pick your favorite fruit! Make sure you sprinkle with fresh lemon juice right after slicing, or bananas and pears will oxidize quickly.

I prefer not to use apples, because their texture is much crunchier than most other fruit.

Macedonia (Italian Fruit Salad)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 bananas
  • 1 yellow peach
  • 1 pear
  • 1 or 2 slices pineapple
  • 1/2 basket raspberries
  • 1/2 basket strawberries
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1 orange (peel and cut each slice)
  • 1 Tbsp. golden raisins, plumped up in warm water (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste (you can use a low-calorie sweetener if you need to follow a strict diet)

Directions

Serves 4-6

Cut all the fruit into small pieces (the smaller, the better!) and mix well with the lemon (and raisins, if liked).

Add the sugar and mix in. Refrigerate before serving.

* This is just an example, you can use any fruit you like!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/07/06/macedonia-italian-fruit-salad/


Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato

Chocolate Salami - Salame Cioccolato (parve)

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato 

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

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato (Parve)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a softer texture, replace the water with oil.

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