06 September 2010

Food: Italian Jewish holiday cooking

Did you know that Italians also love gribenes (chicken or goose cracklings)? Do you know how this tradition arrived in Italy? Find the answers below.

A favorite cookbook of Tracing the Tribe is Jayne Cohen's Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Classics and Improvisations (John Wiley, 2008). She also writes for Jewish Women International's "Jewish Women Magazine."

The holiday issue of the magazine is now online with really interesting articles on Italian Jewish cuisine (and recipes) and a new blog, "Beyond Brisket," written by Cohen. Tracing the Tribe has a separate post on the blog.
When the chestnuts in Piedmont ripen in time for the fall holidays, Roberta Anau serves her Rosh Hashanah guests special burricche: turnovers lush with chestnuts, onions, raisins and smoked goose.

Silvia Nacamulli’s family includes Swiss chard among the ritual foods at its Rosh Hashanah seder; growing in profusion, chard symbolizes a wish for bounty in the new year. But this is Rome, so we’re not talking about serving it simply boiled. “We prepare it in a delicious frittata,” she says, a savory combination of the cooked green leaves, sauteed onions and eggs, fried golden on both sides and served at room temperature.
Jewish-style carciofi alla guidea (artichokes) are the best known Jewish dish, originating in the Roman ghetto, with the oldest continuous Western Jewish community dating back some 2,000 years.

Read the article and learn more about Anau and her restaurant and hotel near Turin, and about Nacamulli, who teaches Italian Jewish cooking in London and organizes cooking tours to Italy.

A Jewish-origin food marks the end of the 1576 plague in Venice. A special annual feast celebrates that event. The traditional dish is pesce en saor, cold fried fish in a sweet-and-sour sauce with raisins and pine nuts. Cohen says it was developed to preserve fish for Shabbat, dousing the fish in hot vinegar with sweet sauteed onions, raisins and pine nuts.

After the 1492 Edict of Expulsion, Sicily's Jews (including many from Spain) were expelled in 1943, and many went to mainland Italy. They brought along marzipan, sweet-and-sour sauces, raisins and pine nuts. Caponata was originally a Sicilian-Jewish dish - a cold salad of fried eggplant, onions, garlic, olives and capers (and New World tomatoes).

Cohen discusses German and Central European Ashkenazi immigrants who settled north of Rome, and brought along their geese. Soon Italian-Jewish recipes incorporated goose fat and cracklings (griebenes, Yiddish; gribani, Judeo-Italian), and made salami, sausage and ham from the birds.
Anau recalls that her great-grandfather, Moise Colombo from Turin, was so fond of his gribani that “he carried them around with him wrapped in paper, like chewing gum. He would go out for a glass of wine, unwrap the paper and snack on the gribani.”
Edda Servi Machlin, whose Italian Jewish cookbooks also share space in my kitchen, describes more specialties. Learn why the Jews in her Tuscan village of Pitigliano call stuffed breast of veal chazarello (piglet).

There are recipes for risotto with pomegranate seeds, cheese and etrog peel; Jewish-style spinach, and the ricotta cheese dessert mentioned above. Yum.

Read the complete article at the link above, and for additional Italian Jewish Recipes, click here.

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