Turkey or Veal Roast with a Surprise

Tukey or Veal Roast with a Surprise (Meat)

Turkey or Veal Roast with a Surprise (Meat)

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

Tukey or Veal Roast with a Surprise (Meat)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Etrog or Lemon Risotto

Etrog or Lemon Risotto (Dairy)

Etrog or Lemon Risotto (Dairy)

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

Etrog or Lemon Risotto (Dairy)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Fish with Pine Nuts and Raisins (Parve)

Fish with Pine Nuts and Raisins (Parve)

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

Fish with Pine Nuts and Raisins (Parve)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

What is Sukkot?

Sukkot

Sukkot

Sukkot is an eight-day harvest holiday that starts four days after the fast of Yom Kippur; it is also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

In ancient Israel Jews would build huts (Sukkah = hut) near the end of their fields during the harvest season, so that they could spend more time in the fields and harvest more efficiently. But Sukkot is also a reminder of how our ancestors  lived while wandering in the desert for 40 years (Leviticus 23:42-43), moving from one place to another and using tents or (sukkot) for temporary shelter.
Associated with these two meanings are the three  Sukkot traditions:

1 – Building a sukkah.
2 – Eating inside the sukkah.
3 – Waving the lulav and etrog.

(in the picture, the holiday of Sukkot as seen by Italian artist Emanuele Luzzatti)
Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot , observant Jews construct a sukkah in their backyards or on their deck when possible (in absence of space, people will use their synagogue’s sukkah).

In ancient times most people would just “move” to their sukkahs for the whole holiday and sleep there: nowadays very few people do, but it’s customary to eat meals in it reciting a special blessing. Luckily we are exempt in case of rain! Since Sukkot celebrates the harvest, there is a custom of waving the lulav and etrog: (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 dominion over the whole creation. All kids love decorating the sukkah with drawings, and mine are no exception!

After Sukkot

The seventh day of Sukkot is also known as Hoshana Rabbah. In the traditional synagogue service, Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark and worshippers make seven circuits while holding the Lulav (branches of four plants with symbolic meanings) and reciting Hoshanot (Psalm 118:25).

Right after Hoshana Rabba comes Shemini Atzeretthe day for prayers and  celebrations for rain and harvest. One would think that a prayer for rain should be recited at the beginning of the New Year (Rosh HaShana) but it would be hypocritical to do so when everybody is really hoping for nice weather for the week of Sukkot…so it’s postponed to Shemini Atzeret.  After Shemini Atzeret comes Simchat Torah  (“Rejoicing with the Torah.”): on this holiday, all the Torah scrolls are removed from the ark and paraded around the synagogue while people dance and sing around them. Every Shabbat during the year, a different portion of the Torah is chanted in synagogue, and it takes a year to complete the whole thing. On Simchat Torah, the end of Deuteronomy is finally reached, and we start again from Bereshit (Genesis).
See how the Jewish Community of Rome celebrates Hoshana Rabbah in this video:

Picture: Solomon Alexander Hart
The Feast of the Rejoicing of the Law at the Synagogue in Leghorn, Italy, 1850

Roasted Fish with Fennel

Roasted Fish with Fennel

Roasted Fish with Fennel

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

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

Roasted Fish with Fennel

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

Season the inside with salt and white pepper.

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

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

Drizzle with the olive oil.

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

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

 

Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils

Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils

Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils

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

Tagliatelle with Pumpkin and Lentils

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Cook for 2-3 minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

Stuffed Goose Neck for Rosh HaShana

Stuffed Goose Neck

Stuffed Goose Neck

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

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

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

Stuffed Goose Neck for Rosh HaShana

Ingredients

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

Directions

Soak the bread in 1/2 cup of broth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

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

Add the neck and brown well on all sides.

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

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

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

 

Zucca Barucca (“Holy” Pumpkin or Butternut Squash)

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

SWEET AND SOUR PUMPKIN (or Butternut Squash)

Peel the squash and discard the seeds.

Cut into wedges, about 1/2” thick.

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

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

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

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

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

It can be eaten warm or at room temperature.

MASHED PUMPKIN (Zucca Disfatta)

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

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

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

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

Pomegranate Chicken

Pomegranate Chicken

Pomegranate Chicken

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


Pomegranate Chicken

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leek Frittata

Leek Frittata

Leek Frittata

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

Leek Frittata

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cut into wedges and serve.

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

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

 

Vegetable Saute with Pistachios

Vegetable Saute with Pistachios
Vegetable Saute with Pistachios

Vegetable Saute with Pistachios

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

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

Vegetable Saute with Pistachios

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Clean and cut the spring onions.

Cut the asparagus, carrots and celery into sticks.

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

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

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

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

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

Add the pistachios and serve.

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

 

 

Buricche di Bietole (Chard Burekas)

Buricche di Bietole (Chard Burekas) (Parve)

Buricche di Bietole (Chard Burekas) (Parve)

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

Buricche di Bietole (Chard Burekas)(Parve)

Ingredients

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

Directions

For the DOUGH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the FILLING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Sauce

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Sauce (Dairy)

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Sauce (Dairy)

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

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Sauce (Dairy)

serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

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

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

Oven-Baked Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper.

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

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

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

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

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

Venetian Pumpkin Stew

Pumpkin Stew
Pumpkin Stew

Venetian Pumpkin Stew

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

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

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

Venetian Pumpkin Stew

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Remove and discard the garlic cloves.

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

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

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

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

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

Caponata

CAPONATA - SICILIA

CAPONATA

Caponata

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Rinse and pat dry.

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

Drain and set aside.

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

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

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

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel)

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

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel)

Fennel (Anise) is one of those vegetables which until the late 1800s were avoided by non-Jews in Italy and considered lowly and vulgar. By the time this delicious vegetable was accepted into general Italian cuisine,  Jews had already discovered countless ways to prepare it, raw or cooked, as an appetizer or side. Fennel is said to be a digestive and detoxifier.

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

Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discard the garlic and enjoy!

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

Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

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

Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

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

Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Drain well.

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

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

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

Halibut in Grape and Red Currant Sauce

Halibut in Grape and Red Currant Sauce

Halibut in Grape and Red Currant Sauce

 

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

Halibut in Grape and Red Currant Sauce

serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

How Venetians Shop for Fish

 

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

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

Bean and Onion Salad

Bean and Onion Salad
Bean and Onion Salad

Bean and Onion Salad

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

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

Bean and Onion Salad

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Serve at room temperature

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

Tomato Sauce, and My Pet Peeves

Tomato Sauce, and my Pet Peeves

5857 salsa di pomodoro

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

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

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

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

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

5878 Salsa di pomodoro

Quick Tomato Sauce - SouthernItalian Style

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Slow-Cooked Tuscan Pommarola

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Tomato-lovers should also check out:

My Pappa col Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Soup)

My Leghorn-Style Red Mullet

Silvia’s Pizza

Frank’s How To Buy canned Tomatoes

Smitten Kitchen’s Slow-roasted Tomatoes

Academia barilla’s Tomato Focaccia

All About Olive Oil

Olive Oil
Olive Oil

Olive Oil

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

Savory Beet Pie with Ricotta, Radicchio and Leeks

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

Beet Radicchio Leek and Ricotta Pie

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

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

Beet radicchio Leek and Ricotta Tart

Savory Beet Pie with Ricotta, Radicchio and Leeks

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before serving decorate the top with the remaining radicchio.

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

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

Risotto Primavera

Risotto Primavera
Risotto Primavera

Risotto Primavera

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

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

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

Risotto Primavera

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Stir in the rice, and add the white wine.

Let the wine evaporate completely as you continue to stir.

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

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

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

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

Tartines with Blue Cheese and Red Grapes

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

Tartines with Blue Cheese and Red Grapes

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

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

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

Tartines with Blue Cheese and Red Grapes

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Riso Giallo del Sabato (Yellow Rice for Shabbat)

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

Riso Giallo del Sabato (Yellow Rice for Shabbat)

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

Riso Giallo del Sabato (Yellow Rice for Shabbat)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pour in all the hot stock and stir.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuna Loaf

Tuna Loaf
Tuna Loaf

Tuna Loaf

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

Tuna Loaf

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato

Chocolate Salami - Salame Cioccolato (parve)

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato 

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

Chocolate Salami – Salame Cioccolato (Parve)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a softer texture, replace the water with oil.

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

Italian Charoset

Italian Charoset

Italian Charoset

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

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

Italian Charoset

Ingredients

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

Directions

Padova (Padua):

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

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

Charoset from Livorno (Leighorn):

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

Charoset from Acqui Piemonte:

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

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

Stuffed and Fried Zucchini Flowers

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

Stuffed Fried Zucchini Flowers (Dairy)

Stuffed and Fried Zucchini Flowers (Dairy)

Ingredients

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

Directions

Check inside the flowers for bugs and shake them out.

Wash the flowers very carefully or they will break.

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

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

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

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

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

Gently coat the stuffed flowers with batter.

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

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

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

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna
Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Eggplant Roulades with Tuna

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Blot dry with paper towels.

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

Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

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

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

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

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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

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

Potato and Leek Soup

Potato and Leek Soup
Potato and Leek Soup

Potato and Leek Soup

Potato and Leek Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Wash the celery,, eliminating any fibrous parts.

Slice both the leeks and celery.

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

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

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

Add the hot vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

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

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

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

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

 

Fava Bean Soup with Peas and Arugola

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

Fava Bean Soup with Peas and Arugola

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

Fava Bean Soup with Peas and Arugola

Ingredients

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

Directions

Mince one onion.

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

Add the peas and fava beans and the chopped arugola.

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

Season with salt and pepper.

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

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

Gratinated Tomatoes

Gratinated Tomatoes
Gratinated Tomatoes

Gratinated Tomatoes

Gratinated Tomatoes

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

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

Chocolate Cake with Dates and Almonds (Dairy or Parve)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Combine well and allow to cool.

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

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

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