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May 2012 - Dinner in Venice

Archives for May 2012

Mount Sinai with Threaded Eggs


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Mount Sinai Cake with Threaded Eggs by DinnerInVenice

For years, I had been intrigued by this curious cake from Livorno (Leghorn), a dessert that features sweet egg threads on top – a sign that it was introduced by the egg-loving Portuguese Jews and marranos who were invited to settle in the city by the Grand-Duke of Tuscany in the sixteenth century. With the help of the Jewish merchants, Leghorn became one of the most important port cities in Europe (but also a center of the printing press), and became known as “the city with no ghetto”.

I was already familiar with the local cuisine, and decided to try my hand at this tart, which looked like no other. Unfortunately, the yolk threads proved to be a huge challenge: I didn’t seem to be able to control the flow through the colander (the tool of choice in all the books that listed the recipe).  My Livornese friends couldn’t help either: apparently they had always encountered the same problem and ended up with a sticky blob or with burns… they said that they used to buy the cake for Shavuot and for Purim from a well-known patisserie, but that when the owner died his tricks were buried with him. I had to wait until the blogging and YouTube era to figure this all out, with the help of some non-Jewish foodies from Portugal, where threaded eggs are often featured on Christmas recipes… in particular, thank you chef Fernando Canales for  teaching me that in the 21st century it would be silly to use a colander when most of us have easy access to a pastry syringe (or at least a large syringe to dispense pediatric drops)!

Mount Sinai with Threaded Eggs (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • Cake base:
  • 1 1/3 cup finely ground almonds (200 gr)
  • ½ cup sugar (100 gr)
  • pinch of salt
  • grated zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 or 4 tbsps candied etrog or lemon peel, finely chopped (optional)
  • Egg Threads:
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsps water (250 ml)
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp lemon or orange juice
  • 1 ½ tbsps orange flower water, if liked (or 1 more tbsp orange juice)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 320 F (yes, it’s very low, but if the temperature is higher the “macaroon” will be too crunchy to cut).

Place the sugar and water for the base in a heavy saucepan and simmer until sticky (I have also skipped this step and used plain sugar instead of making the syrup, with an acceptable result). Add the almonds and zest, stirring with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.

Allow to cool, and when it’s just lukewarm add the egg.

Line the bottom of a 9 to 9” baking pan with wet parchment (squeeze it well) and grease the sides. Pour in the cake mixture and press it down gently with your wet fingertips.

Bake for about 30 minutes and set aside.

For the egg threads, boil the sugar, water and juice in a frying pan (about 10” wide and with tall-ish sides so the syrup doesn’t splatter all over your stovetop), and simmer until the syrup is thick enough to stick to a spoon (coating it).

Slightly beat the yolks in a small bowl and then fill your pastry syringe with as much beaten egg as it can hold.

Now press the yolk out of the syringe and into the simmering syrup, starting at the center and moving the syringe in an outward circular motion so that the egg makes a long spiral thread into the syrup.

When you are done, press the thread down into the syrup with a wooden spoon or a spatula and let cook for a few seconds, until it holds together (but it should still be soft).

Remove with a slotted spoon and dry on a double layer of paper towel.

Repeat the same process with the rest of the yolks.

When all the yolks are cooked and drained, place them in a colander and rinse some of the syrup off with water.

Allow them to dry well.

Invert the almond base into a platter, top it with the candied peel and decorate it with the egg threads. It’s worth it!

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/23/mount-sinai-with-threaded-eggs-dairy/

Crostata di Visciole (Sour Cherry Tart)


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Sour Cherry tart - Crostata di Visciole by DinnerInVenice

The ancient Jewish community of Rome maintains many traditions that will never fade. One of its highlights is this double-crusted tart, stuffed with ricotta cheese and sour cherry jam.

If you visit Rome, try it at Boccione’s, the famous kosher bakery in the ghetto! Theirs is made with really fresh sheep milk ricotta, and it’s worth putting up with the long lines….

Sour Cherry tart - Crostata di Visciole by DinnerInVenice

Crostata di Visciole (Sour Cherry Tart) (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • 300 gr (22oz) flour (about 2 ½ cups but it’s best to weigh)
  • 125 gr (4 ½ oz) sugar (a little more than ½ cup)
  • 125 gr (1 stick plus 1 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • zest of 1 untreated lemon
  • 1 large egg + 1 yolk (large, not XL)
  • for the filling:
  • 1 pound whole sheep or cow milk ricotta
  • 100 grams (scant ½ cup) sugar, or more to taste
  • (optional: 1 egg and 1 tbsp rhum or anise liqueur)
  • 1 jar sour cherry jam such as Rigoni Asiago (or regular cherry jam mixed with little lemon juice)
  • OR 2 cups sour-cherries and ½ cup sugar

Directions

Place the sifted flour and salt into your food processor, add the cold butter cut into cubes, the sugar, salt, eggs, lemon zest, and pulse a few times until crumbly.

Remove from the food processor and work quickly with your hands (keep them cold by rubbing them on ice cubes) until smooth.

Wrap in plastic and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

If using fresh sour cherries, cook them (pitted) for 25 minutes on low heat with ½ cup of sugar and 4-5 tbsps water.

Combine the ricotta with the ½ cup sugar (and egg and liqueur if using: I don’t).

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease and dust a baking pan (I also like to line the bottom with parchment as an extra precaution).

Cut the dough into 2 pieces: one should be about 2/3 and the other 1/3 of the total volume.

Roll out the larger piece on a lightly floured counter and place it on the bottom and sides of the prepared cake pan; brush the bottom with the cherry jam and follow with the ricotta filling.

Some people do the opposite and spread the ricotta on the bottom, followed by the cherry jam on top: in this case the ricotta becomes colored by the cherries while the pie is baking.

Roll out the remaining dough into a smaller disc and use it to top the pie, sealing the edges (you can also decorate with strips, but the ricotta stays moister if you “close” the pie.

I cut it into a large flower shape, which I felt was large enough for this purpose). Bake for about 45-55 minutes.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/21/crostata-di-visciole-sour-cherry-tart-dairy/

 

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water


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Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water by DinnerInVenice

The milk and honey are a reference to the divine love described in the Song of Songs; the rose water is linked to the tradition of Shavuot as the Feast of Roses; finally, the rice symbolizes the marriage between God and His people.

Can you find a more symbolic dish than this lovely cake of clear Sephardic origins?

Rice Cake with Pine Nuts and Rose Water

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb Italian rice such as Arborio, Vialone nano or Carnaroli
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cups pine nuts
  • 1 qt milk
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of Rose Water, OR Orange Blossom water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • (*** If you don’t like Rose Water, you can substitute the juice and zest of one orange)

Directions

Pour the milk, sugar and vanilla extract in a pot and bring it to a boil (enameled cast-iron or non-stick pots work best, if you use a steel pot the rice will tend to stick to the bottom and burn).

Add the rice, and cook for 15 to 18 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently.

When the rice has absorbed all the milk, remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.

Once the mixture has cooled off, add the eggs one at a time, the pine nuts, the butter (softened at room temperature and cut into small pieces), and the rose water (or orange blossom water, or orange juice and zest).

Mix well with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients have blended together.

Grease a cake pan with butter and dust it with flour, and pour the mixture into it (you can use a Bundt pan, or any cake pan with a nice shape. I like to use one that looks like a flower).

Bake for about 30 minutes in a 400 F oven.

Let it cool on a rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/15/rice-cake-with-pine-nuts-and-rose-water/

Rotolo di Spinaci e Ricotta


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ROTOLO DI SPINACI E RICOTTA by DinnerInVenice

Shavuot commemorates the revelation of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and Jewish communities around the world have developed special culinary customs to give due honor to the holiday.

Meals are characterized by dairy dishes, as the Bible itself compares the Torah to milk and honey (“honey and milk shall be under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Some commentators add that, before the revelation at Sinai, the Jews were allowed to eat meat that was slaughtered normally, but after the Torah was given on Shavuot, they became obligated to follow the rules of kasherut . Until the end of that first festival,  they had no alternative but to indulge in dairy foods! Mystics also like to mention that  the numerical equivalent of halav ( Hebrew for milk) is forty – the number of days Moses waited on Mount Sinai.

Another tradition is eating foods that are rolled, to remind us of the shape of the Torah scrolls that are read in synagogue. Among Ashkenazi jews, the most popular Shavuot food incorporating both customs is cheese blintzes.  However in Italy, it’s all about pasta, creamy ricotta and aged parmigiano cheese! Buon appetito….

Rotolo di Spinaci e Ricotta

Ingredients

  • Fresh Pasta
  • 2 pounds of spinach (or a bag of chopped, frozen spinach)
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese (regular, do not use fat-free!)
  • salt and peper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 5 teaspoons grated Parmigiano cheese (grated, not shredded)
  • 1 whole egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in hot water and drained (optional)

Directions

Make fresh pasta (I like the recipe here http://www.lacucinaitalianamagazine.com/recipe/pasta_fresca ) and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, wrapped in plastic.

Put two pounds of spinach in a pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 whole cloves of garlic. Salt and sprinkle with very little water.

Cook covered for about 5 minutes, then uncovered until soft and until most water has been absorbed (about 10 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Once the spinach has cooled off, drain it through a colander (you can line it with cheesecloth if the holes are too wide), squeezing most of the liquid out.

Chop the spinach and mix it with the ricotta cheese, the egg, salt, spices and parmigiano.

If you like, you can also add raisins and pine nuts. Set aside.

Roll the pasta out into a thin sheet and cut a rectangle of at least 10’ x 20” or wider.

Lay the pasta sheet over a cheesecloth or a sheet of parchment.

Spread the spinach/ricotta mixture over the pasta and roll up tightly.

Wrap the roll in the cheesecloth and tie it with twine at both ends, like an oversized piece of candy.

Boil it for 35 minutes in a large pot of salted water, drain and slice.

Arrange in one layer in a baking tray, dress with sage butter (butter melted with sage leaves till golden brown) or a tomato sauce, and extra grated parmigiano. If you added pine nuts and raisins to the filling, sage butter is preferable.

***EASY ALTERNATIVE: if you don’t have time to make the pasta from scratch you can cook dried Barilla or De Cecco lasagna (the regular tipe, NOT the “No-boil”) sheets in salted boiling water for 5 minutes, making sure they don’t break. After draining, lay the lasagna sheets on paper towel, stuff with filling and roll up. Put in a baking pan with either marinara sauce or sage butter on the bottom and on top. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and bake at 400 F for 40 minutes (no convection or they will dry out).

Slice after baking with a sharp knife.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/13/rotolo-di-spinaci-e-ricotta/

“Masconod” – Sweet Cheese Rolls


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Masconod - Sweet Cheese Rolls by DinnerInVenice

One of the most traditional Italian pasta dishes for Shavuot has ancient roots and a mysterious name: “Masconod”. The original recipe features parmigiano mixed with sugar and cinnamon (the same unusual combination used to dress gnocchi in some areas of North-Eastern Italy), although the less adventurous palates replace the sugar and cinnamon with black pepper. The pasta is rolled-up manicotti-style, but tighter, like Moroccan cigars: since Shavuot commemorates God’s giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, it’s customary to eat some “rolled” foods, resembling Torah scrolls. This is also true of Simchat Torah (which marks the conclusion of the annual Torah reading cycle and the beginning of the next), but the rolls of Shavuot are usually filled with cream or cheese, since “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11)….

While Masconod is traditionally made with fresh lasagna sheets, this  year I’ve tried it with crespelle (Italian crepes) and it was love at first taste! Move over, blintzes! Here are both options:

“Masconod” / Sweet Cheese Rolls (Dairy)

Ingredients

  • (serves 6)
  • fresh lasagna sheets OR crespelle (Italian crepes) (double the amount in the crepes recipe)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (to taste)
  • 3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano, Grana or Parmigianito
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, or to taste

Directions

Make fresh pasta, cut into 25-30 5-inch squares, cook in boiling salted water a few at a time, drain and dry on an old towel.

If you prefer, make the (round) crespelle following the recipe, and cook in a non-stick skillet.

Combine the cheese with the sugar and cinnamon (or with simple black pepper if you don’t like sweet and savory combinations).

Brush each pasta square or crepe with melted butter, and sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of cheese mixture.

Roll up like tight manicottis and arrange in one single layer in a buttered baking tray.

Brush the rolls with more melted butter, and top with the remaining cheese mixture.

Depending on the size of your baking dish, you can make a single layer or a double layer.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/09/masconod-sweet-cheese-rolls-dairy/

Delicate Salad


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Delicate Salad

Delicate Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow or red pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 cup cooked fava beans
  • pink and green peppercorns, coarsely ground (or you can use black pepper)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Serves 4

Cut the lettuce into thin stripes.

Seed the pepper, remove the white membranes and cut it into strips.

Slice the carrot and the zucchini length-wise, into very thin slices (you can use a mandoline, or a potato peeler).

Gather all the ingredients in a large bowl, add the fava beans, and dress with the olive oil mixed with the lemon, the salt and the pepper (if using pre-washed packaged salad and it’s a little dry, add a tablespoon of water).

Toss gently and serve.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2012/05/06/delicate-salad/

Gnocchi alla Romana


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GNOCCHI ALLA ROMANA by Dinnerinvenice.com

Gnocchi alla Romana (Dairy)

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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