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March 2013 - Dinner in Venice

Archives for March 2013

Italian Lamb Fricassee


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Italian lamb fricassee - fricassea

In French, the term Fricassee refers to some kind of stew, usually with a white sauce, in which cut-up meat is first sauteed and then slow-cooked  with the addition of liquid. However, ask any Italian (or Greek!) and they will tell you that to them “fricassea”  is any type of meat or poultry served in a traditional egg-lemon sauce. The Tuscan side of my family used to make this sauce to recycle meat (usually veal) that had already been boiled. We would make soup with the broth, serve the meat boiled with a side of green sauce, and the next day we would turn the leftovers into a creamy egg-lemon fricassea. There are several regional versions of this quick and easy recipe, some made with chicken and others with a mix of different types of meat, including liver. In Rome, however, the ingredient of choice is lamb, a symbol of the spring holidays (whether you choose to celebrate Easter or Passover), often with the addition of seasonal vegetables, such as baby artichokes. Serve accompanied by your favorite starch: potatoes or rice are great.

lemon

Italian Lamb Fricassee

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 lb cubed lamb
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp freshly minced parsley, if liked

Directions

Rinse the lamb and pat dry.

mince the garlic and chop the onion and carrot.

heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic, onion and carrot, and cook for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat. Add the lamb and brown it on all sides for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Pour in the wine and allow it to evaporate on high heat. Lower the heat and allow to cook covered for about 30 to 40 minutes or until done. if there is a lot of liquid, towards the end of the cooking uncover the lamb and allow most of the liquid to evaporate.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the lemon juice until emulsified. remove the lamb from the heat, adjust the salt and pepper, and pour in the egg lemon sauce, stirring quickly. If you like, you can add some fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/28/italian-lamb-fricassee/

This recipe was included in
This American Bite’s roundup of lamb recipes.

Passover Almond Custards – Scodelline


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6250 Scodelline

While eating matzah (unleavened bread) during Passover is a commandment, eating too much of it could turn into a curse. I won’t go into details here, but by the time you serve dessert at the end of the seder, you will be praying for a break. I will always be thankful for the fact that most Italian Passover sweets are not made with matzah meal (ground matzah).

These lovely almond custards from Leghorn, in Tuscany, are called “Scodelline” (little bowls) or “Tazzine” (little coffee cups) because of how they are served in individual portions. They are small and elegant, just what you need to end a holiday meal on a sweet note without overdoing it. They are also gluten-free, and easy to prepare with wholesome ingredients (isn’t it nice, when you are having all this sugar, to know that there is something nutritious mixed with it, like almond and eggs?) The Jews of Leghorn, drawing from their Spanish-Portuguese origins, make several interesting sweets with these, including the elaborate Monte Sinai, a macaroon-like almond cake covered with egg threads fried in syrup.

For the recipe, I turned to my friends Lea and Anna Orefice, mother and daughter, two inspiring generations of fabulous cooks. From her kitchen in Leghorn, Lea – who is 92 and still in charge of making dessert for the family seder – answered all my questions via email in real time while I was stirring my custard in New York City.  Here is the result, and the detailed recipe, including Anna’s microwave version in case you are in a hurry…..

6244 Scodelline

Passover Almond Custards – Scodelline

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

40 minutes

serves 8-10

serves full espresso cup or half-full tea cup

Ingredients

  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature
  • a little over 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom or rosewater, OR fresh lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup water (less if using the microwave)
  • grated cinnamon to decorate, if liked

Directions

Place the sugar in a small pot, barely covered by water (more or less the same amount of water and sugar). Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until it starts simmering and turns into a dense syrup. Do not allow it to brown and turn into caramel: as soon as it melts and thickens into a thick syrup, add the almonds and the flower water (or lemon zest), stir a couple more times and remove from the heat. In a separate bowl (I like to use pyrex) whisk the yolks until frothy. It will be easier with an electric whisk or mixer. Slowly pour the whipped egg yolks into the syrup until the mixture is smooth. Cook the mixture on very low heat in a double boiler (you can use the pyrex bowl on top of a pot filled with some water), stirring continuously until it begins to thicken (about 20 minutes) and the surface turns shiny, almost glaze-like. To save time, Lea’s daughter Anna uses a microwave instead of the double boiler: use about 25% less water; once everything is combined, place the pyrex bowl with the mixture in the microwave, and cook on medium for 4 minutes uncovered. Stir, and cook for 3 more minutes. Whether you used the double broiler or the microwave method, once the custard is cooked allow it to cool down, stirring occasionally, and once it’s lukewarm pour it into individual espresso cups (full) or tea cups (half full), and dust the top with some grated cinnamon. Serve accompanied by some fresh fruit. Using 6 yolks, you will make about 8-10 espresso-cup sized "scodelline"

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/19/passover-almond-custards-scodelline/

Vintage pictures of the old synagogue of Leghorn (destroyed in WWII and replaced by a new one)

My Leghorn-Style Red Mullet and some history

The Mount Sinai Cake with threaded eggs

Emiko’s Chickpea Cake, Leghorn’s beloved Street-Food

Sweet-and-Sour Seder Carrots


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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.

carote.mazzah.001

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.

https://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

 

Naughty Potato Chocolate Budino


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Potato Chocolate Budino

I can’t claim to have ever been the “meat and potato” type in the classic sense – someone who prefers them to vegetables, or even fools herself into thinking they are one. No, thank you: as a side, I’d much rather have something very green, such as artichokes, or kale .

However, I’m obsessed with potatoes as the main ingredient in more elaborate dishes: from gnocchi to pancakes, from croquettes to breads, and especially desserts.

In our carb-phobic day and age, potatoes have been accused of being too starchy, but that’s exactly what makes them so perfect for breads and cakes: yeast thrives on these starches, and the end result is a baked good with a light, fluffy, and yet moist texture. Not that I was always so particular about texture – I have to confess that my fondest memory of a potato “dessert” is actually a concoction much less refined than what I enjoy now. I was probably in 6th grade and it was a lazy winter afternoon, doing homework at my friend Rachele’s house, when her older brother, probably to fight boredom, brought a bowl of French fries and dared us to dip them in Nutella. After a few shrieks of disgust, we accepted the challenge, and discovered that the pairing was quite addictive.

Chocolate.Potatoes.001

My friends’ mom called us “porcelli” (pigs) for eating such a non-standard snack: if only I could send her a a photo of the ridiculously overpriced package of chocolate-covered potato chips now being sold at Crumbs bakery in New York! We were not crazy, but rather, adventurous! It turns out that there are a number of old recipes, in Italy and elsewhere, for potato desserts: from fluffy doughnuts to moist cakes, and creamy puddings. Let’s call them extra-comfort food! Last, but not least, they are gluten-free, and Passover-friendly. Which is why my contribution to this month’s Passover-themed challenge for the Kosher Connection is a decadent, almost naughty, fluffy and yet creamy Budino, an Italian custardy pudding/cake, with all the richness of potatoes, almonds, chocolate, and if you like even whipped cream. I guarantee you won’t miss the flour!

Almonds.Cream.002

Naughty Potato Chocolate Budino

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

1 hour, 10 minutes

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • ¾ lb russet or idaho potatoes
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup butter (or coconut butter for margarine or a non-dairy version)
  • ¼ cup potato starch
  • 2 heaped tbsp ground almonds
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, grated (or chocolate chips)
  • 1 vanilla bean or little vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp rum or almond or chocolate liqueur
  • few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to beat the egg whites
  • powdered sugar to decorate
  • whipped cream or/and chocolate syrup to decorate

Directions

Peel the potatoes, cut them into pieces them and place them in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using the microwave, cook for only one minute at a time, check, stir, and proceed in this way until most of it is melted. Add the melted butter (or coconut butter, or margarine), the liqueur, sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the potato starch, the egg yolks, and the ground almonds. Mash the potatoes and combine them with the mixture.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites with a few drops of lemon juice or white vinegar until they form peaks, and incorporate them to the batter with a spatula, using upward motions.

Grease a mold (the one I used was about 7 1/2" w by 3" h). If possible, also line the bottom with parchment. Pour the batter into the prepared mold, and cook for about 40 minutes in a pre-heated 350 F oven. Allow to cool, unmold, and decorate with powdered sugar and either whipped cream or chocolate syrup (or both).

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/17/naughty-potato-chocolate-budino/



Bocca di dama with Orange Caramel


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almond cake BOCCA DI DAMA.HD

Whenever I bite into this delicious almond cake, I can’t help but wonder about the origins of its name: Bocca di Dama means “Lady’s Mouth” in Italian. Was a romantic baker in love with a beautiful customer? Or is the cake so sweet, soft and moist that it reminded someone of a passionate kiss? This Passover dessert, popular among the Jews of Leghorn and in several other Sephardic communities, is so ancient that nobody really knows. The only thing that’s certain is that, just like kisses, it’s highly addictive, and you probably won’t be able to stop at the first bite. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: if it’s just you, and the cake, you are set for failure. Surround yourself with lots of guests. My husband once made the whole thing disappear overnight. In this version, the tanginess of orange complements the mild and buttery texture and flavor of the almonds: use organic fruit for the best results.

sedertable1867livorno_500px

A Passover Seder in Leghorn (1867 haggadah)

Bocca di Dama with Orange Caramel

Ingredients

  • 2 small/medium organic oranges
  • 2 cups (250 gr - a little over ½ lb) almond meal or freshly ground blanched almonds
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 gr - a little over ½ lb) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks (add 1, if medium eggs )
  • 7 large egg whites (add 1, if medium eggs)
  • 1/8 cup or 3-4 tbsp matzah flour. For GF, use GF matzah or potato starch.
  • oil or margarine, and parchment paper, to prepare the pan
  • FOR DECORATING
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ orange cup cooking water (see instructions)
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced almonds (toasted if liked)
  • zest of one of the oranges
  • *** if you don't feel like making the caramel, just use orange marmalade and sliced almonds to decorate
  • (I like to use an 8 x 11" baking pan or a 10" springform round pan. You can vary the dimensions, but the baking time will change also)

Directions

Grate the zest of an orange and set it aside. If planning to decorate with the caramel, place the peeled oranges in a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes, covered (skip this step if decorating with orange marmalade).

Beat the egg yolks and 2 whites with the sugar and the salt until frothy. Add the ground almonds and the matzah meal, the zest of one orange , the liqueur if using, and combine well. In a separate bowl beat the whites with an electric whisk until stiff; gently incorporate them into the batter with a spatula, using an upward motion. Grease the sides of a baking pan and dust with matzah meal, and line the bottom with parchment.

In a pre-heated oven, bake at 350 F f(on a regular – NOT convection – setting) for 30 minutes, then lower the heat slightly (to 335 or 340) and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes (50-60 total), checking periodically with a toothpick until the cake is moist but not liquid inside. Once the top is golden, you may want to cover it with foil for the last part of the cooking. Once the cake is done, turn off the oven setting the door slightly ajar and allow the cake to rest inside for an extra 15 minutes (similarly to what you would do with a cheesecake!). Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely. In the meantime, melt the remaining ½ sugar with 1/2 cup of the water in which you boiled the orange. You can double the dosage for a thicker layer. Make sure to use low heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a caramel. Stir in the remaining shredded zest of the first orange, and brush on top of the cake. Decorate with sliced or slivered almonds. If you don’t feel like making the caramel, you can just glaze the top of the cake with about 4-5 tablespoons of orange marmalade diluted with 2 tbsp hot water.

* For those of you who love oranges, there is also a version of this cake that incorporates the boiled pulp of the 2 oranges into the batter. The recipe is pretty much the same, except that you should use only 4 yolks (beaten with the sugar), and 4 egg whites (beaten stiff). After removing most of the white membranes, place the cooked oranges into a blender, and add them to the batter. Other than that, proceed in the same way. Because the cake will be much more "orangey", you can decorate it with simple powdered sugar.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/12/bocca-di-dama-with-orange-caramel/

Farro Salad with Pears and Cheese


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FARRO CON RUCOLA, MIELE E PERE

Farro is a “cousin” of spelt, and a grain so ancient that it is said to have sustained the Roman legions with its nutty flavor, chewy texture, and high fiber, vitamin, and protein content.

FARRO NEL COLINO

When I was growing up my mom would always bring back some from our visits to Nonna in Tuscany. Our friends in Venice would taste her soups or cakes with a combination of curiosity and suspicion: at the time, in fact, farro was used only in a few Italian regions, and mostly in peasant dishes. By the way, these are the same friends who were puzzled by her use of olive oil, which they considered a heavier and less healthy alternative to butter or margarine!

In more recent years, however, farro has made it onto the chic tables of all northern Italy , and even to the United States, where it flies off the shelves of gourmet grocery stores such as Zabar’s and Citarella’s.

K3106 FARRO CON RUCOLA H

Warm Farro Salad with Pears and Cheese

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

40 minutes

4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb farro (you can substitute spelt)
  • 1 large bunch arugola
  • 3 medium pears
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 4 oz gorgonzola or blue cheese (you can substitute feta)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 or 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse the spelt and cook it until al dente in salted boiling water (about 30-40 minutes in a regular pot or 5-10 minutes in a pressure cooker, follow instructions on package). Drain, allow to cool, and transfer to a salad bowl. Whisk the oil with the vinegar and honey, salt and pepper. Peel and slice the pears and drizzle them with lemon juice to prevent them from darkening. Dice or crumble the cheese, and break or cut the arugola into smaller pieces. Add all ingredients to the farro and dress with the honey vinagrette. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

https://dinnerinvenice.com/2013/03/12/farro-salad-with-pears-and-cheese/

More with Farro:

My Chestnut & Farro Soup

NYT’s Farrotto with Mushrooms

Lucullian Delights’ Chocolate Farro Cake