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/

Ally’s Ciambellini with Wine and Olive Oil

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Ally’s delicious Ciambellini (photo by Alice D’Antoni Phillips)

It’s not only that I happen to love this particular cookie recipe (which I often make myself in a slightly different version including red wine and fennel seeds) –  Alice also picked the best possible time to contribute to Dinner In Venice! I’m taking a short family vacation and this guest post means: “YAY! More play time with the kids”. While Allie is not Italian herself, her trademark cuisine, showcased in her addictive blog Ally’s Kitchen,  is simple but sophisticated, a perfect balance of flavors – qualities that many identify with contemporary Italian taste.  Her dishes are eclectic and show many different cultural influences, but this time she is actually taking us on a virtual trip to Central Italy……

ALLY SAYS:

Italian roots run deep in my life—married first time around to a D’Antoni, I was very influenced in my culinary growth in early years by being in the family.  With three sons who could eat you out of house and home, some of their favorite dishes were all Italian inspired—pastas especially!

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Still having a close connection to this part of my life, recently Ben and I traveled to Italy and visited our D’Antoni family there staying in their gorgeous home in Poggio Mirteto where food is the heart of living and breathing.  Amid the stunning olive orchards, wine vineyards and listening to the gentle crowing of roosters in early morning, each day began with deliciousness!  The long table set for family and friends and prepared by the expert hands of Antonella, ‘breaking bread’ was more than food, it was layers of entertainment, hours of laughter and sharing, and all with even more family in a rustic warm setting of food, wine, good stories, and laughter!

ally's bread

One recipe that captured my heart was ‘Ciambellini di Magro’—Italian cookies crispy and subtly sweet with distinct hints of the rich olive oil and wine in them!  I couldn’t get enough.  Antonella, who spoke limited English, and I, who speak even less Italian, had no problems communicating in the kitchen—she shared with me the recipe writing it in Italian and ‘talking’ with her hands and gestures explaining how to execute.  We laughed as we both knew we were in a festive game of ‘charades’ talking recipes, food, and cooking!

ally's ciambellini

Here is Allie/Alice, working her magic into the dough!

I’ve made these cookies three times since returning—sharing them with friends who come sit in my kitchen, I retell the story of Antonella & Ally in the kitchen—and, sharing them on my website and Facebook proved to be one of my most popular recipe posts!

Ally’s Ciambellini with Wine and Olive Oil

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups self-rising flour (divided) (I’m also going to try them with all-purpose flour and rice flour.)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups sugar (divided)
  • 1 cup white wine (I used chardonnay.)

Directions

Yep, messy at first, but hang in there, it gets better! Preheat your oven to 350 F.

On a large clean surface (I used a large wooden cutting board.) put about 2 cups of flour and make a center well.

Add the olive oil then 1 ½ cups of sugar and the salt. With your fingers work the sugar into the oil. Then add about a cup of flour and start working in with your fingers.

Continue working in the flour that is surrounding the oil. Add another ½ to ¾ cups of flour.

Then slowly start working in wine, a little at a time. The dough batter will be gooey and messy—not to worry. Keep adding flour until you dough consistency that can be shaped into a ball.

Put about ½ cup sugar (or more) in a pie plate. This is for coating the cookies before putting on the partchment-paper lined cookie sheet. Cut off a bit of the dough ball at a time and begin rolling into snakes then shape into pinwheels, make knots, or make donut holes.

Place in the pie plate of sugar and coat well. Place on cookie sheet. Repeat process until all the dough is used.

Bake in a preheated 350 oven about 17-21 minutes or until the cookies are somewhat golden brown (not much). -

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/07/08/allys-ciambellini-with-wine-and-olive-oil/

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.

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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

 

Rebecchini – Fried Polenta Sandwiches

Rebecchini- Fried Polenta Sandwiches
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Rebecchini- Fried Polenta Sandwiches

Maize polenta is creamy, delicious and filling, and for centuries represented the main staple in the poor, everyday cuisine of a large part of Northern Italy. Once it cools off and hardens, it can be recycled into a variety of dishes, from a “pasticcio” with meat or cheeses, to a cake, to these savory fried sandwiches (a classic Jewish Italian recipe, and perfect for Hanukkah). If you don’t like anchovies ( I LOVE them!), you can replace them with smoked cheese.

If you have never made polenta before, check out these detailed instructions on one of my favorite Italian food blogs in English, Memorie di Angelina.

  • 1 cup polenta (finely ground or quick cooking)
  • salt (about 1 tsp)
  • water to make polenta (follow instruction on the package, or about 3 cups)
  • 12 anchovies (salt packed is better, but oil-packed is OK))
  • 4-5 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil to make anchovy paste
  • 1 clove garlic (whole)
  • dredging flour
  • 3 eggs
  • olive oil for frying

 In a large heavy pot, boil water and add salt. Pour in the corn meal in a thin stream whisking vigorously (use a whisk, not a spoon, to avoid clumping) and cook for about one minute or two before switching to a wooden spoon as the polenta thickens. Keep stirring until the polenta is fully cooked  (about 30 minutes for regular polenta, and 3-5  minutes for “instant” polenta). Pour onto an oiled marble surface or cookie sheet or parchment paper. Spread out flat in a layer that’s about 1/4-inch thick, and allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, rinse the anchovies (removing any bones). Heat olive oil in a small skillet on medium heat with the garlic clove. When the garlic is light brown, discard it and add the anchovies, stirring until they melt into a paste. Set aside.

Pour about 2” oil into a heavy-bottomed wide pot with tall sides (I use my le Creuset Dutch oven) or into your deep fryer. Heat the oil until it forms many tiny bubbles around a piece of bread or cracker thrown into the oil. If you have a candy thermometer, or are using a deep fryer, the right temperature is about 355 to 365 F.

Using a knife or a cookie cutter, cut the polenta into regular triangles or rounds about 2” wide.

Spread half of the polenta pieces with the anchovy paste and cover with a second piece, making “sandwiches. Dredge the sandwiches in flour and then in the slightly beaten eggs, and fry for about 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, making sure to maintain the temperature of the oil and to flip them only once (if you keep turning them, they absorb more oil).

Drain on a triple layer of paper towel and serve hot.

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 :-) .

Pumpkin and Radicchio Risotto

RISO ALLA CREMA DI ZUCCA E RADICCHIO

Pumpkin and Radicchio Risotto

How could we possibly welcome fall, and celebrate Thanksgiving, without pumpkin? For me, this also one of the symbols in my family’s Rosh haShana seder and under the sukkah. One of my favorite ways to serve it is in a creamy and delicious risotto!

Those who were born in the Veneto region, like me, also celebrate red radicchio and like to incorporate it into many different recipes. While a similar type of lettuce was already grown in North-Eastern Italy before the 16th century, the exact kind  we eat today, with its white-veined leaves, was engineered in the late 1800s by a Belgian agronomist. The different varieties are named after the Nothern Italian regions where they are cultivated: the easiest to find here in the United States is radicchio di Chioggia (maroon and round), and sometimes the radicchio di Treviso, which looks like a large red Belgian endive. Its mildly bitter flavor blends beautifully with the sweetness of the pumpkin or squash!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 2/3 head of red radicchio
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano type)
  • 1 medium white onion,  finely diced
  • 1/2 cup dry wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • About 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7 to 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet. Add the pumpkin and half of the onions and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Season with salt,  nutmeg, pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pumpkin is tender, another 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor and puree the pumpkin. Rinse the skillet and heat another tablespoon of oil in it. Add the radicchio (sliced into thin stripes) and cook for 5 minutes, seasoning with salt. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat and keep it hot.
In a heavy pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the remaining onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for a few minutes. As soon as it starts sticking to the bottom, pour in the wine and allow it to evaporate.  Immediately lower the heat and pour in one ladleful of the hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Gradually add more hot stock, 1 ladleful at a time, stirring frequently until absorbed before adding the next. After about 15 minutes, stir in the pumpkin puree and continue cooking, adding more stock, 1 ladleful at a time, until the rice is tender but “al dente” (about 5 to 15 minutes longer, depending on the type of rice). The risotto should be creamy and loose. Add the radicchio, and more salt if necessary. The risotto will be quite loose. Spoon the risotto into warmed soup plates and drizzle with little balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately. Of course if you want to be really fancy and impress your guests, you could also serve the risotto in the pumpkin shell.
*** For a slightly different result, you can also cook the pumpkin with the rice. Just add the pumpkin to all the onion at the beginning, and then add the rice. Try both versions, and see which one is your favorite! In the context of a dairy meal, this risotto tastes delicious with the addition of butter and parmigiano. On the other hand, the creaminess and sweetness of the pumpkin make it very enjoyable as a Parve (non-dairy) dish!

Pumpkin Soup with Pomegranate and the meaning of Sukkot

Pumpkin and Pomegranate Cream Soup (Dairy)

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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 harvest season, so that they could spend more time in the fields and harvest more efficiently. For us, Sukkot is 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 (sukkot) for temporary shelter. Associated with these two meanings are three  main traditions:

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

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(above, Sukkot seen by Italian artist Emanuele Luzzati)

Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot , those observant Jews who have the space construct a sukkah in their backyards or decks (in cities like Manhattan or Venice with a lot of small apartments, it’s normal to just share meals in the synagogue’s sukkah). In ancient times most people would just “move” to their sukkas for the whole holiday and even sleep there: nowadays few do, especially in colder climates, but it’s still customary to eat meals in the hut, or at least snacks, reciting a special blessing.

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Since Sukkot celebrates the harvest, there is a custom of waving the etrog and lulav: (a kind of citron, similar to a big lemon/lime, and a bunch of myrtle,willow and palm twigs). The lulav and etrog are waved in all directions representing God’s power over the whole creation. All kids love decorating the sukkah with drawings, and mine are no exception!

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As a fall harvest holiday, Sukkot celebrates the bounty of the new crops, and its food traditions revolve around seasonal vegetables and fruit. In this sense, some believe that the pilgrims may have come up with the idea of Thanksgiving inspired by the Biblical descriptions of Sukkot: after all, the Puritan Christians had landed on American shores in search of a place where they would finallly be free to worship as they pleased – a recurrent theme in Jewish history. Besides, just like the ancient Israelites, the pilgrims also had to dwell in makeshift huts (built with the help of the Indians) during their first cold winter in Massachusetts!

That’s why so many of you, unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, will immediately notice how Thanksgiving’s culinary themes mirror those of Sukkot.

All kinds of  vegetables and fruit grace our tables, together with stuffed pies and pastries: stuffing one food inside another is in fact another metaphor for abundance. Many of these symbolic foods have already appeared on our Rosh haShana table, often in the form of a seder (served in a specific order and reciting blessings on each one).

Among these seasonal offerings, both the pumpkin and pomegranate stand out: in Venice we like our favorite local variety of pumpkin so much that we call it “suca baruca” (from the Hebrew “baruch”, “blessed / holy pumpkin”); as to pomegranate, it is so important in the Jewish tradition that Torah scrolls are decorated with silver ones – apparently because this fruit contains more or less 613 seeds, the number of the Mitzvot (commandments)  that Jews are given to observe.

Why not combine these two symbols into a super-pretty and super-festive soup?

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Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 lbs cubed pumpkin
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • vegetable stock
  • 1/2 orange (or 1/3 cup orange juice)
  • 1 pomegranate (or 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup pomegranate juice)
  • 3 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons coarsely ground hazelnuts (optional)

Directions

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and allow it to cook until soft (add little water if it starts sticking). Add the pumpkin and allow it to cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add the orange zest and 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (you can skip the juice if you prefer a less tangy flavor and a lighter color). Keep cooking until the juice has evaporated, then add enough hot vegetable stock to barely cover the pumpkin, salt and pepper, and cook until very tender. (at least 30 minutes).
Process with a hand mixer; adding more salt and stock as needed, and pour into individual bowls; decorate with the hazelnuts (if using), a few pomegranate seeds and  salt. In the context of a dairy meal, you can decorate it with a little sour cream or Greek yogurt. Serve warm.

Minestrone – Italian Vegetable Soup

S 55 01 STEP 1 MINESTRONE

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The word minestrone derives from the Latin verb  ministrare, which means ‘to administer’.
Maybe because, as any Italian mother can witness, it is the most efficient way to administer lots of healthy vegetables to picky children, with few complaints!

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In many households, minestrone is made at least weekly and (thanks to the fact that it tastes even better when reheated), served several times as a primo piatto (first course) with both dairy and meat meals. I usually serve it plain on the first day; on the second day, I reheat it with some leftover cooked rice, pasta or even spelt. If it’s cold outside, or I’m simply too busy for multiple courses, I just throw in some beans to transform this light soup into an earthy meal. At the end of the week I add a boiled potato and turn the leftovers into a creamy passato (blended soup) with my hand blender.

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Just keep in mind, if you plan on stretching your soup over the course of a week, that you should skip tomatoes or it will spoil too quickly. In Italy we have countless regional and seasonal variations for this soup, depending on the local produce! Just to give you a few examples, the Genoese minestrone is flavored with pesto; my Tuscan grandmother liked to add rosemary, and the Lombard one preferred Arborio rice in it.

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The only key rules are that all the ingredients should be very fresh and the oil high quality; the soup should be cooked very slowly, on low heat; and finally, the vegetables should be chopped very small, Israeli salad-style…. other than that, have some fun!

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Ingredients (serves 8-10 as an appetizer, 6-8 as a main course)

  • vegetable stock, 1 1/2 quarts
  • 2 whole cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 6 leaves of kale or Swiss Chards, chopped
  • 1 large slice of butternut squash or pumpkin
  • 1/2 a small cabbage (1/4 if large)
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 small (or 1 large) zucchini
  • 1 cup peas
  • OR asparagus tips, or green beans
  • 1 small or medium potato (optional)
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil (I use a low-acidic, mild Ligurian or Tuscan)
  • fresh rosemary or parsley, if liked
  • (tip: if you rarely make it to the green market…. it does work even with frozen vegetables!)

Peel the carrots and potatoes with a vegetable peeler and wash and clean all the vegetables, discarding any outer leaves and inedible parts. On a chopping board, cut all the vegetables into regular dice max 1/2″ (except for the peas, obviously). In a large pot with a heavy base, heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add the minced onion and the whole garlic cloves and cook until the onion is translucent. Discard the garlic (if using – I usually don’t),  add the vegetables and little salt, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes on medium/low heat, making sure they don’t burn or change color. Cover the vegetables with the vegetable stock and cook, in a partially covered pot and on low heat, for about an hour or until the vegetables are  soft and the liquid has absorbed all their flavor. If using asparagus tips, add them later, about 15 minutes from the end. If you are pressed for time, you can also cook minestrone in a pressure cooker (it should take less than 15 minutes). When ready, pour into individual bowls, drizzle with some more extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a touch of freshly ground black pepper. It also tastes great with some freshly grated parmigiano on top, if you are in the mood for cheese!.

Grandma’s Eggplant and Apple Jam

S 01 02 I MARMELLATA DI MELE E MELANZANE

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Few things are more American than a PB & J sandwich. However, jelly itself has been a staple all over the world since antiquity, when someone figured out that even quince (a fruit that looks like an ugly apple, and that’s too hard to be eaten raw) could taste delicious when slow-cooked with honey (incidentally, the word Marmalade derives from the Portuguese Marmelo (quince). Unlike our American children, spoiled by constant sugary snacks, it seems that people back then actually PREFERRED fresh fruit, because they didn’t attempt to make jelly with anything other than quince for centuries!

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It was the Persians or the Arabs, who had been producing sugar from cane, who finally came up with the idea of syrup and started using it to manufacture various preserves, experimenting with pectic fermentation and creating the first citrus fruit marmalades. With the conquest of Spain, Portugal and Southern Italy, the Arabs introduced all their confections, changing the European palate forever, much to the joy of children and… dentists.

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Preserving fruit or vegetables in syrup, just like drying or pickling, also prolonged their shelf life; this became critical in the Age of Discovery, starting in the 15th century, for the sailors, merchants and pirates (!) who had to spend months at sea with no access to fresh produce.

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However, jam makes me think of far more familiar adventures, such as climbing up my grandmother’s fig, apple and peach trees as a child. I didn’t mind a scraped knee if I could feel that I was part of our little production line: I picked the fruit, nonna stirred the jam, my mom (the pharmaceutical chemist) jarred it, and my dad kept stealing spoonfuls from the pot.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 pounds small (Japanese) eggplants
  • 3 small golden delicious apples (or 2 large)
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 6 cups sugar

DIRECTIONS:

peel the eggplants, cut them in 2-3 pieces each, and pierce them with a fork. Place them in a bowl of salted water for 1 hour. Rinse and cover with fresh, unsalted water. Let rest for another hour. Drain and lace in a large (it will froth up like crazy) copper or stainless steel pot, with the peeled and sliced apples, and the orange and lemon juice and zest. Add the sugar and 2-3 tbsps water,bring to a boil, and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. remove from the heat and pass through a food mill or sieve 9even a potato masher will do!). return to the pot and simmer for 30 more minutes, or until it has thickened. Pour into sterilized glass jars and close them tightly. Store in a cool, dark place.

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Gratin Tomatoes

POMODORI RIPIENI

Ask any Southern Italian, or Italian American, to imagine cooking without the color and the fragrance of tomato, and they will probably tell you it’s impossible.

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However, the use of tomato spread in European kitchens fairly recently: although it was first introduced in the 16th century, the vast majority of people treated it as a pretty, but possibly poisonous, decorative plant for at least the next two hundred years. In Peru, Mexico and Chile, where it originated from, the natives also treated it as unedible.

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While nobody was stirring Marinara, alchemists were concocting plenty of potions featuring the new fruit, which was believed to have aphrodisiac powers when ingested in small amounts. This accounts for the romantic names the plant was given, from England and France (Love Apple, Pomme d’Amour) to Italy Pomo d’Oro, Golden Apple) .

It’s still unclear where and when, in Baroque Europe, someone first tasted the mysterious fruit. Maybe it was a brave and hungry farmer in Southern Italy, in times of famine. Maybe the Sephardic merchants of Livorno, who had first imported the seeds (this may be the reason why many tomato-based local dishes are called “Jewish-style” or “Moses-style”). Or it could have been a bored aristocrat in France, where tomatoes were only eaten at the Royal Court until well into the 18th century.

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In any case, once Europeans actually bit into it, there was no way back! According to Neapolitan screenwriter Luciano De Crescenzo, “ The discovery of tomato represented, in the history of food, a revolution comparable to what the French Revolution constituted in social history”.

Gratin Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • GRATIN TOMATOES
  • 8 medium tomatoes, firm (on the vine)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
  • 1 1/2 cup to 2 cupsplain bread crumbs
  • 4 tbsps freshly chopped parsley, or 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3-4 minced anchovies (oil-packed, or salt-packed and rinsed) (optional)
  • salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon or less)
  • black pepper
  • pine nuts, olives or basil leaves to decorate

Directions

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

In a food processor, mince the garlic, anchovies and herbs, and blend with the tomato pulp that you had set aside. Add the olive oil and the bread crumbs. Add the bread crumbs gradually and stop once the mix holds together without being too firm.

Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture, brush the top with little more oil, and bake for 35-40 minutes in a pre-heated 400 F oven.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/06/28/gratin-tomatoes-12/

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How to Dress a Salad, Italian-Style

INSALATA E OLIO

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As much as I love America, there is one thing food-wise, that I haven’t gotten used to in almost twenty years: salad dressings! Besides the fact that most store-bought dressings include a lot of processed ingredients, I find that most of these concoctions (even when home-made) combine so many different flavors that they hide, rather than enhance, that of the salad itself. Another issue is texture: most dressings are so thick that, rather than enveloping the leaves, they sit on them.  In Italy, we dress salads very simply with oil and vinegar, or oil and lemon,and in some cases just oil and salt, in a similar way to the French.  The proportions are simple: one part of vinegar or lemon to 4 of oil for a milder dressing, or one part of vinegar or lemon to 3 parts of oil (and some salt) if you like tart flavors. Most Italians don’t actually measure, but you should calculate about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons oil per person, or just 1 if you are on a diet. Skipping oil altogether and going fat-free is not as healthy as it sounds, because some of the vitamins in vegetables are lipo-soluble and can only be absorbed when accompanied by a fat. Choose a nice extra-virgin olive oil, and not the cheaper, “light” varieties. As for vinegar, balsamic is very popular these days, but its complex flavor works only with very flavorful vegetables and can be overpowering on simpler types of lettuce. Simple white or red wine vinegar is much more versatile, as is lemon juice. Other great options are apple cider vinegar, and rice vinegar.  I must confess that most of us don’t even bother to blend the ingredients for our everyday meal. Right before eating the salad, we just sprinkle with salt, and pour some oil and then vinegar straight from their bottles. But this is not necessarily the best method, and you should blend the ingredients first for a better result.Everybody knows that vinegar and oil do not emulsify well and tend to separate. The best way to combine them, reducing them into micro-droplets, is in a blender. Honestly, I only do this if I have guests. For everyday, I just put the salt in a stainless or glass bowl, add the vinegar or lemon (do not add the salt after the oil, or it won’t dissolve), and combine well with a whisk or simply a fork. Gradually add the oil, whisking well, and use immediately to dress a salad. The ingredients should be at room temperature, and never cold, or they won’t blend well. Remember that you should never dress salads in advance, except for very “resistant” vegetables such as cucumber or radicchio – delicate salad leaves tend to react to vinaigrette and wither. Sometimes, when I want my salad to be really special, or if I need to plate it for a picture, I add a touch of honey to the dressing: honey stabilizes the emulsion for a long time,  so that the oil and vinegar will not separate all over the plate.If you do use your blender and add honey, it’s actually best to let the vinaigrette rest for a few minutes or even an hour before using it, so that all the flavors can meld; but don’t refrigerate it!Last, but not least: even if you are using bagged salad, always rinse it first – not only because… you never know!!! but also because if the salad is too dry you will end up using way to much dressing.

Buon appetito, and let me know how it goes!

Shabbat Meals: Red Mullet Livornese-Style

4103 TRIGLIE ALLA MOSAICA

… and the Cosmopolitan Cooking of the Jews of Livorno.

This article and recipe appeared in The Jewish Forward.

Click here to view it.

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Montini and Palline Purim Bon-Bons

Almond Paste Bon Bons (Parve)

Purim Almond Bon-bons

According to the detailed descriptions in many Italian Purim songs from the 16th and 17th centuries, Purim at the time was quite a production! In particular, the wealthier Jews hosted over-the-top banquets, which included up to 30 courses, alternating savory and sweet dishes. But the highlight was always the desserts! Among the prettiest Purim sweets, perfect for gifting, are these almond paste-based confections popular in several cities, including Venice and Trieste. Almond paste was introduced to Northern and Central Italy by the Sephardic Jews fleeing from Spain, Portugal and Sicily, where they had a long tradition of making elaborate confections with it.

Purim Bon-bons

These scrumptious sweets are easy to make as they don’t require cooking, and can be served in mini paper cups or wrapped individually like candy, which makes them great gifts. On Purim we are required to give charity to the poor, and food gifts (משלוח מנות‎, pronounced Mishloach Manot”) to friends and relatives, consisting of two different types of food, and who wouldn’t like these? They are even gluten-free!

Purim.BonBons.001

Almond Paste Bon-Bons (Parve)

Ingredients

  • MONTINI (Bicolor Cone-shaped confections)
  • 1/2 pound granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound blanched almonds (this is the traditional version, but they also taste amazing made with pistachio)
  • 4 tablespoons packaged egg whites, or more as needed (you could also just use fresh egg whites, which is what we do in Italy, where we like living dangerously…. But the packaged stuff is pasteurized, which makes it safer since we are not cooking it)
  • 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1/2 cup chocolate chips)
  • 1/3 cup candied orange or etrog peel
  • CHOCOLATE BON-BONS
  • 1/2 pound granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound blanched almonds (this is the traditional version, but they also taste amazing made with pistachio)
  • 4 tablespoons packaged (pasteurized) egg whites (or more as needed)
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (1 cup chocolate chips)
  • GIANDUJA BON_BONS
  • ½ pound blanched/peeled hazelnuts
  • ½ pound sugar
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (¾ cup chocolate chips)
  • 3 tablespoons packaged (pasteurized) egg whites, or more as needed
  • 4 tablespoon sweet liqueur (hazelnut, cherry, or rum)

Directions

MONTINI (Bicolor Cone-shaped confections)

Make the almond paste base: place the blanched almonds and the sugar in your food processor with a blade attachment, and process until the almonds are ground and combined with the sugar. Add the egg whites and process more.

Remove from the food processor and knead with your hands until it feels like a smooth dough. If even after kneadingthe paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Now melt the chocolate (you are supposed to do it in a bain-marie but I cheat and use the microwave).

Divide the marzipan into two portions: one should be slightly larger than the other – roll this larger portion into cylinders about 1/3” or max ½” in diameter.

Combine the slightly smaller portion to the melted chocolate, kneading until smooth. Use the chocolate portion to make more cylinders, of the same diameter as the white cylinders.

Attach the cylinders length-wise in couples, one white one dark, and cut into 1” long bicolor pieces.

Shape them into cones with a flattened top, arrange on a platter, and decorate with pieces of candied fruit on top.

*You can also make plain almond Montini without the chocolate, and decorate them with multicolored sprinkles.

CHOCOLATE BON-BONS

Make the almond paste base: place the blanched almonds and the sugar in your food processor with a blade attachment, and process until the almonds are ground and combined with the sugar. Add the egg whites and process more.

Remove from the food processor and knead with your hands until it feels like a smooth dough. If even after kneading the paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave. Using your hands, frorm small balls (1” diameter) with the almond paste.

Dip the bon-bons in the melted chocolate using a fork. Arrange on a parchment-lined platter and allow to dry.

GIANDUJA BON_BONS

Grate the chocolate or grind it in a food processor with a metal blade.

Grind the hazelnuts. Add sugar, egg white and liqueur to the hazelnuts and chocolate. If even after kneading the paste is still too crumbly, add a little more egg white, but only 1 tablespoon at a time, because you don’t want the paste to get too sticky either.

Shape into small balls (1” diameter). Roll in the granulated sugar (or you could go with colorful sprinkles!).

Et voila!

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/03/04/almond-paste-bon-bons-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/

Jota – Saurkraut, Potato and Bean Soup

Jota – Saurkraut, Potato and Bean Soup (Parve or Meat)

Jota – Saurkraut, Potato and Bean Soup (Parve or Meat)

I know that most people might not immediately associate sauerkraut with Italy – but that’s only because they have never been to the North-Eastern regions! For example, sauerkrauts are actually the main ingredient in Trieste’s signature soup, the Jota (pronounced yota, from the Latin term for soup). Trieste is the largest Italian port city on the Adriatic and was for a long time the trade crossroads between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Western Europe. It also boasts a rich and fascinating Jewish history. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Jews fleeing from German lands settled here to make a living as moneylenders, bankers, and merchants. Even women practiced money-lending in Trieste, an unusual custom at the time. More Jews arrived in the following centuries from Spain and the Ottoman Empire, and finally in the late 18th century from Corfu. Trieste in general, and Jewish Trieste in particular, was cosmopolitan and cultured, and the local dishes give us a little taste of such flair . James Joyce, who lived in Trieste for 16 years and at one point fell in love with his Jewish Triestine student Amalia Popper, would probably agree.

Jota – Saurkraut, Potato and Bean Soup (Parve or Meat)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dried beans (“lamon” or “borlotti” variety, soaked overnight)
  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 1/2 lb. fresh sauerkraut, or high quality canned sauerkraut (rinsed)
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of cumin powder
  • (optional) some beef sausage
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Soak the beans overnight, drain and cook in a large pot of water for a couple of hours until tender. Add the sausage if using.

Add the cubed potatoes (Some people cook them separate. Some people also mash 1/3 of the beans.).

Heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic and cumin and cook until the garlic is golden.

Add the sauerkraut and cook for 10 more minutes.

Discard the garlic clove, add the bay leaf and cover with little water; bring to a simmer.

When the cubed potatoes are soft, combine the sourkrout soup with the potato and bean soup, and allow to simmer for about 45 more minutes, stirring often.

Top individual servings with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground pepper, plus more salt if needed (but the sourkrout tend to be salty).

*** on Parve versus Meat: I like it with a little beef or beef sausage in it, but many people I know prefer the parve version because it’s more digestible: it’s really a matter of personal preference.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/01/01/jota-saurkraut-potato-and-bean-soup-parve-or-meat/

Venetian Rice with Raisins (“Risi e Ua”)

Venetian Rice with Raisins (“Risi e Ua”)

It was probably Sephardic Jews who transmitted to the rest of the Venetian population their passion for rice, after their arrival in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Venetians are still famous for creamy risottos (we call them “all’onda“, with a wave), to which we add pretty much anything, from chicken livers to fish to… stinging nettles. The usual preparation for risotto, adding hot broth a little at a time, releases so much starch that the rice must be eaten right away or it will clump. The pilaf version, besides reminding us of the Sephardic origins of this dish, can be prepared in advance and reheated for Shabbat. “Risi e Ua” (Rice and Grapes, or Raisins) is THE festive rice dish par excellence among the Jews of Venice, and – like most Jewish venetian recipes – it has also been enjoyed by the general population for a very long time. It’s also great for Hanukkah, in case your stomach cannot survive an all-fried menu and you want to start with something a little more digestible…. About the choice between garlic and onion: there are two schools of thought, and, like Hillel and Shammai, they are both right.


Venetian Rice with Raisins (“Risi e Ua”)

Ingredients

  • 1 quart hot vegetable stock
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, or 1/2 an onion, sliced very thin
  • 2 cups Carnaroli (or Arborio) Italian rice
  • ½ cup of plumped raisins or sultanas
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley (optional)
  • salt to taste

Directions

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

Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof pot (non-stick or cast iron), add the garlic or onion, and parsley, and cook for 5 minutes on low heat.

Stir in the raisins, previously softened in hot water and drained well. (If you don’t own an oven-proof pot, start in a regular non-stick pot and transfer into a pyrex casserole or pan before moving into the oven).

Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, until all the grains are coated in oil and “toasted” and make ‘popping’ noises.

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

Pour in all the hot stock and stir well.

As soon as the stock starts simmering again, cover the pot and transfer to a 365 F oven, where you will leave it alone to cook for exactly 18 minutes.

Take the rice out, add another couple of tablespoons of olive oil (or “oil from a roast beef”, if using in a meat meal), stir, and add salt if needed.

Let it rest covered for another 10 minutes. It can be eaten right away or reheated for Shabbat, as long as it’s not too dry and not left on the plata or warming drawer for longer than a couple of hours.

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

You can also cook this rice as a risotto, on the stovetop adding one ladleful of hot stock at a time, if you prefer and if you don’t plan on reheating it.

If you don’t digest garlic or onion well, use slightly pressed whole cloves instead of minced garlic, and discard them after they have browned well, and before adding the rice.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/11/venetian-rice-with-raisins-risi-e-ua/

Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters (Parve or Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 scant cup flour
  • 3/4 cup milk, unsweetened soy milk or (for a lighter version) water
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley or mint
  • Abundant olive oil for frying. preferably a mild-flavored extra-virgin oil, not too acidic

Directions

Grate the zucchini, season them with salt and place them in a colander in your sink, with a weight on top. Allow them to drain for about one hour.

In the meantime, prepare a batter whisking the milk (or cold water) with the eggs, the cheese (if using), the flour, the pressed garlic, herbs and pepper. Do not add salt to the batter.

Rinse the grated zucchini in the colander, drain them and dry them very well with paper towel.

Add the zucchini to the batter and combine well.

In a deep and heavy skillet pour at least 2 inches of oil or more (if there is too little oil, its temperature will drop when you add the cold batter, allowing the fritters to absorb way too much oil).

Heat the oil over medium/high heat (if using a fryer with a thermometer, the temperature should be about 365 degrees). If you don’t have a thermometer, the oil is ready when a small piece of bread dropped in the skillet forms bubbles all around it.

Drop the batter into the pan using a tablespoon and your index finger. Do not overcrowd the pan with too many fritters, because this would cause the oil temperature to drop, with a greasy result. Fry in batches.

Once they are golden, remove them with a slotted spoon and drop them onto 2 or 3 layers of paper towels to drain.

Do not put paper towel on top, or the steam trapped inside will make the fritters soggy! Paper towel should be only at the bottom. Just turn them after 30 seconds or so to dry the other side.

Continue frying in batches until you have used up all the batter.

After drying with paper towel, sprinkle with salt. You can keep them warm in a 200 F oven, uncovered.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/07/zucchini-fritters-parve-or-dairy/

Sfenz – Libyan Hanukkah Fritters

Sfenz- Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Sfenz- Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Jewish Italian food has been a tradition for over 2000 years – but it still continues to evolve, even in recent times. The Jewish exodus from Libya in the late 1960es brought about 5000 Libyan Jews to Rome, and their earthy dishes  are yet another extraordinary influence on our culinary kaleidoscope. I reached out to my friends at Labna, one of my favorite Italian food blogs, and Jasmine shared these yummy pancakes, a traditional recipe from the Libyan side of her family. Jasmine tells us that in her grandparents’ house the kitchen was usually her grandmother’s realm -she was always the one cooking, and her grandfather only walked in there to obtain coffee. But every year on Hanukkah, Jasmine’s grandfather would wake up early, brave the kitchen and prepare the Sfenz, the traditional water-flour pancakes, like they used to make in Tripoli: a few minutes of easy kneading, a couple of hours of rest, and a dive into the hot oil…. for a most irresistible breakfast. Enjoy Labna‘s special treat!

Sfenz – Libyan Hanukkah Fritters (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pastry flour or 00 flour (you can use all-purpose, but the result will be heavier)
  • 1 cube fresh yeast, or 1 tablespoon dry yeast
  • 1 cup water, or enough for a soft, elastic dough
  • enough oil for deep frying (peanut or canola)
  • confectioner’s sugar to decorate

Directions

Place the flour in a large bowl or your stand mixer.

In a second bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water, and add the mix to the flour.

Combine well with your hands, or process in the mixer into a soft, elastic, slightly sticky dough.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm area for about one hour.

Now knead again quickly with your hands, and allow to rest for one more hour.

Place the bowl with the dough next to the stovetop, and fill a second bowl with warm water.

Heat abundant oil in a heavy pot with tall sides; when the oil is hot, wet your hands, take a small ball of dough and pull it with your hands into a small “pancake” shape. It’s OK if by doing so you create a few “holes” in the middle.

Wet your hands after making each sfenz, so that the dough won’t stick to your fingers.

Fry the sfenz in the oil, one at a time or in small batches, turning them once.

Remove them with a slotted spoon when they are golden, and drain them on a double layer of kitchen towel.

Serve them hot after decorating them with confectioner’s sugar.

Serves 6-8

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/06/sfenz-libyan-hanukkah-fritters-parve/

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Contrary to popular belief, Italian Jews do not all descend from the Jews who arrived in Rome in the second century b.c.e., and from the Sephardim fleeing Spain and Portugal in the late fifteenth century. There have also been Ashkenazi Jews living in Northern Italy since as early as the Middle Ages. In Venice, in particular, Ashkenazim (“I Tedeschi”, as they were called)  were the oldest Jewish community in the city. The name of the first Jewish quarter in Venice (and in the world), “ghetto”, possibly derives from the Germanic term “gitter” (iron grill).  Even Moshe Chayim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), one of the most famous Italian rabbis in history, was a “Yekkishe Yid”!   (the name Luzzatto is the Italian translation of the German Jewish name Lausitz). A lot of recipes reflect this ancient Ashkenazi influence, and one of my favorite examples is the apple fritters that we make for Hanukkah.  One of the reasons I like them so much has nothing to do with history: since in Italy we also have the famous saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (“Una mela al giorno toglie il medico di torno”), I feel that these must be really good for me even though they are deep-fried, and I indulge in second and third helpings. You can sprinkle them with cinnamon if you like, or serve them with a raspberry sauce for a refined chromatic effect.

Apple Fritters with Moscato Wine (Parve)

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 apples
  • 1 cup pastry flour, or all-purpose flour (heaped)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup moscato or sweet champagne
  • peanut or mild olive oil for frying
  • confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon for decorating

Directions

Place the flour in a bowl, add the egg and start whisking with a manual or electric whisk; slowly and gradually add the wine.

If the batter seems too thick, add a few more tablespoons of wine.

Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Beat the egg whites until stiff, and gently incorporate them into the batter.

Peel the apples, core them without halving them, and slice them horizontally (the slices should be 1/4? to 1/3?max.)

Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Heat abundant oil in a deep-fryer or a large, heavy pan with tall sides. When the oil is ready (365 F, or when a small piece of bread dropped in the oil forms many small bubbles all around), dry the apple slices, dip them in the batter, and fry them until golden in small batches (max. 4 slices at a time, or the oil temperature will drop and they will absorb oil).

Dry them very well on a double or triple layer of paper towel, and sprinkle them with sugar (you can also add cinnamon).

Serve immediately!

Serves 6

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/12/04/apple-fritters-with-moscato-wine-parve/

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/

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/

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/

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/

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/

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/

Chestnut and Leek Soup

Chestnut and Leek Soup
Chestnut and Leek Soup

Chestnut and Leek Soup

Chestnuts were central to the traditional Italian diet, especially in the mountains and among the poor. This simple soup is extremely satisfying when it’s cold outside, especially if you accompany it with a nice glass of a dry, fruity white wine. For an ever richer soup, you can substitute half the vegetable stock with milk. 

Chestnut and Leek Soup

Ingredients

  • (serves 4)
  • 2 leeks
  • 1/3 pound fresh chestnuts (or 1 cup
  • cooked and peeled chestnuts)
  • ½ pound potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter, or olive oil
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Blanch the chestnuts for about 15 minutes and peel them (you can also use pre-cooked and peeled chestnuts, but you will lose some flavor).

Clean the leeks, discarding their outer leaves and green parts, and slice them thinly.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into small dice. In a skillet, heat the butter or oil, and saute’ the leeks for 5 minutes;

add the chestnuts and potatoes, salt, and add the wine.

Allow it to evaporate, then add the stock, and bring to a boil; lower the heat, and cook for 45

minutes to one hour, or until the chestnuts and potatoes are fully cooked.

Puree’ the soup with an immersion blender or your food processor. Add more salt and pepper if liked, and serve hot.

http://dinnerinvenice.com/2011/03/24/chestnut-and-leek-soup/

 

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/