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

 

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

S 87 970 SARDE IN SAOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

HERE IS A STEP-BY-STEP:

INGREDIENTS

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

INSTRUCTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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/