This simple and easy fish dish is served in Rome and other Italian cities to break 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 branzino, orata, 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 😉
– 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
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.
If you are an experienced cook or you just have more time you can try a dish with similar ingredients but more elaborate -it’s what we make in Venice for this occasion. Actually, nowadays “Saor” has become the non-denational “signature” fish dish of Venice, but several food historians maintain that this recipe is Jewish in origins, originally devised to preserve the fish prepared in advance for Shabbat and the holidays.
SFOGI IN SAOR (Marinated Sole, Jewish-Venetian style)
2 pounds sole fillets (or whole, cleaned sardines)
1/2 cup flour
enough extra-virgin olive oil for deep-frying
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 pounds white onions, sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 tablespoonful honey
Soak the raisins in the white wine for at least 30 minutes, then drain and set aside.
Fill a large and tall pot or a deep-fryer with enough oil for frying (at least 3 1/2 inches deep).
Bring the oil to a high temperature but avoid smoking (if you throw a piece of bread into the oil, bubbles should form around it).
Rinse the sole fillets under the faucet; dry them very well with several layers paper towel.
Coat the sole fillets completely with flour, shake off the excess and deep-fry in small batches until golden.
With a slotted spoon remove the fillets and place on several paper towels to absorb the excess oil, seasoning with salt.
Discard most of the frying oil, leaving in the pan only about 1/2 cup. Add the onions, and cook until they are soft, stirring frequently and adding the vinegar and honey (10-15 minutes), then add the raisins and pine nuts and cook for 2 more minutes.
Allow the mixture to cool off for a few minutes.
Arrange a layer of the fried fish on the bottom of a rectangular serving tray at least 2″ deep; follow with a layer of the onion mixture, another layer of fish,and terminate with onion mixture: the fish should be completely covered.
Refrigerate for at least 2 or 3 days and serve at room temperature as an appetizer or main course.
Our answer to Gefillte Fish: this classic Jewish recipe that has become a Livorno (Leghorn) classic.
2 lb. red mullet or other firm, not fatty white fish
4 to 6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
1 can peeled tomatoes
salt and pepper
In a large, deep skillet, place the olive oil, parsley and garlic and saute until golden; add the tomatoes. Cook until the sauce has thickened, and add the fish in one layer. Add salt and pepper and cook for another 10 to 20 minutes or until cooked, basting with the sauce from the pan, making sure the fish does not stick.
Bolo, is a sweet-but-not-too-sweet bread with raisins inside (other communities use just anise seeds), which ends the Yom Kippur fast. In Venice, we are literally handed a piece when we walk out of synagogue, on the steps. Obviously after 25 hours of fasting ANYTHING would taste amazing, but the elegance of this very delicate, simple cake proves to be true when we keep eating it over and over on Sukkot (in this case, after lots and lots of food).
The name Bolo derives from Portuguese (in Portuguese, any type of cake is called a Bolo), and was introduced by the Jews who migrated to Italy from the Iberian peninsula. There are several variations of this cake in different Italian regions, and the name can also change: Bolo, Bollo, Bussola’, Buccellato. It always taste great!
5 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (mix 1/2 cold water and 1/2 very hot water)
1 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup raisins, plumped in warm water or brandy and drained
grated zest of one lemon
1 1/2 tablespoon anise seeds (optional)
1 egg yolk or more to glaze the surface
In a bowl, combine the yeast with the warm water and only 1 cup of flour.mix well, cover with foil and allow to rest for a couple of hours or until doubled in size. The mix should rest in a warm place. If your building hasn’t turned the heating on yet, and your apartment is cold, you can turn the oven on and then off: once the oven is warm but not scolding hot, place the bowl with the mix inside, covered with aluminum foil.
Once the mix has doubled in size, add the rest of the flour, the sugar, 3 eggs, olive oil, salt, zest, raisins, anise seeds, and mix well by hand or in a mixer.
Cover again and allow to rest again in a warm place for another couple of hours or until it doubles in size again.
Move the dough onto a floured countertop or board, and knead it, folding it over several times.
Then shape a very large ring, or you can make two smaller oval breads, or even small rolls.
Cover again with a towel and allow to rest and rise for at least 2 more hours or more, till light and airy and more or less double in size.
Brush the top with the egg yolk (slightly beaten with very little water), and bake for 40 or 45 minutes in the oven. Your oven should be preheated at 450 F. Bake at this temperature only for the first 5 to 7 minutes and then lower to 360 for the remaining 35 or 40 minutes.