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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Rome

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Lazio located in central Italy, stretches from the western edges of the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is mainly flat with small mountainous areas in the most eastern and southern districts. Lazio has four very ancient volcanic districts, where the craters of extinct volcanoes form the lakes of Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Albano and Nemi. Lazio is the third most populated region of Italy and has the second largest economy of the nation. Rome is the capital of Italy, as well as the region. Other important cities are Frosinone, Latina, Viterbo and Rieti.

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Until the late 19th century, much of the lowland area of Lazio was marshy and malarial. Major reclamation work in the early 20th century resulted in drainage and repopulation of the plain that transformed the region. Migratory grazing was greatly reduced and wheat, maize, vegetables, fruit and meat and dairy products were able to flourish in the lowlands, while olive groves and vineyards gradually began to cover the slopes.

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Light industry developed with the help of regional development programs, particularly in and around the new satellite towns of Aprilia, Pomezia and Latina, south of Rome. Rome is the region’s commercial and banking center, but it has little industry apart from artisan and specialized industries, such as fashions. Large numbers of persons are employed by the government. In the rest of the region only chemical and pharmaceutical plants, food industries, papermaking and a few small machine industries are of significance.

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Rome, including the Vatican, is Italy’s largest tourist center and tourism is also important at resorts in the Alban Hills, the Apennines and along the coast.

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Lazio’s transportation is also dominated by Rome’s railways and roads and the city has one of Europe’s busiest international airports. Civitavecchia, the only port of importance, is noted chiefly for its trade with Sardinia.

Take a tour of the Lazio region with the video below.

Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed the cuisine for all. Add to this a heavy influence of Jewish cooking and a variety of flavor combinations emerge.

Hebrew Bakery

Hebrew Bakery

Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (artichokes, deep-fried or simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint) and inexpensive cuts of meat (called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chili pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and zucchini blossoms) and sharp Pecorino cheese (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside).

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The hills in Lazio are rich and fertile making it easy to grow vegetables of all types which in turn makes them an important part of the cuisine. They are cooked with liberal amounts of oil, herbs and garlic and, more often than not, a good portion of anchovies.

Lazio appetizers feature fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, artisanal breads, olives and olive oils produced within the region. Lazio cuisine may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is usually found in lasagne or fettuccine. Lazio recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Potato, rice or semolina gnocchi dumplings are also commonly prepared. Suppli al telefono are hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver or anchovies.

Chicken is used more here than in other regions and they also eat a fair amount of rabbit. Pork is used to make Guanciale or cured pork cheek, Ventresca or cured belly meat, Mortadella di Amatrice, sausages or salsicce, lard and prosciutto. Often the salumi are spicy and flavorful.

Much of the fish consumed in Lazio comes from the Tiber River and Bolsena Lake, including ciriole, caption and freshwater eels.

Even when it comes to desserts, they keep it simple. Maritozzi, a type of cream-filled pastry, doughnuts, fried rice treats and ricotta tarts are all popular.

Lazio is known for Est Est Est a wine that is produced in the area near Lake Bolsena and Falerno.

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Oven-Baked Gaeta

This deep dish pie is probably named for the town of Gaeta and the pan they used to prepare the pie. It was popular for the farmers and fishermen, so that they had a meal that could keep for a few days. It consists of a rustic pizza round that usually contains olives, fish (such as anchovies and / or sardines, octopus and squid), ricotta cheese or other cheeses and vegetables, such as tomatoes or onion.

Dough Ingredients

  • 10 ½ oz (300 gr) Italian flour (00 flour)
  • 7 oz (200 gr) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Ingredients for the filling

  • 1 1/4 lbs (500 gr) octopus
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup (60 gr) black olives
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (200 gr) tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons (20 gr) parsley
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (3 gr) crushed red chilli pepper
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Combine the dough ingredients and let it rise, push the dough down and let it rise again.

Roll out half the dough to fit a 10 inch baking pan.

Put the octopus in a large pot of boiling salted water with the vinegar and boil until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel as much of the skin off the octopus as you can while it is still hot. Chop the octopus into bite-size pieces.

Combine the filling ingredients.

Place the filling in the dough covered pan.

Roll out the remaining dough and cover the filling. Seal and brush the dough with extra virgin olive oil.

Bake at 350 degrees F (180-200) for about 25-30 minutes.

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Romanesco Broccoli

Spaghetti and Roman Broccoli 

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 head Romanesco broccoli or regular broccoli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 ¼ cups (500 ml) of vegetable broth
  • 8 oz (220 gr) of spaghetti, broken into pieces
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 5 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

For Romanesco broccoli:

Clean and dice in small pieces. Set aside in a bowl.

If using regular broccoli:

Wash the broccoli, clean the tops and cut off the florets. Dice the stalks. Set aside in a bowl.

Fry the garlic in the oil until golden in a large saucepan. Add the broccoli to the pan and stir well.

Add the vegetable broth and the tomato paste, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until the broccoli is tender.

Add salt and pepper according to taste.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water. Drain and add to the broccoli in the saucepan and heat. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese.

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Bucatini Gricia

Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana and Gricia are the four most popular pasta dishes in Rome. Together they form the backbone of Primi courses at every trattoria in the Eternal City, where the locals have strong, vocal opinions on where to find the best execution of each, never all at one place.

4 people

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (320 gr) bucatini pasta
  • 3 ½ oz (100 gr) Pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • 3 ½ oz (100 gr) guanciale or pancetta or bacon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Dice the bacon and brown over low heat in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil.

Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water, al dente. Drain well. Add to the skillet with the bacon and sauté for 1 minute.

Sprinkle with the cheese and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.

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Salt Cod Fillets Roman Style

4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 lbs (600 gr) salted codfish (baccalà), soaked
  • 3 ½ oz (100 gr) flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet dry active yeast
  • 2 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Olive oil

Directions

Soak the baccalà in cold water for at least 3 days prior to preparing this dish. Change the water each day.

Combine butter, flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

Dry and cut the cod into serving pieces.

Coat each fillet in batter, then fry in a large pan with very hot oil.

Place fillets on paper towels to drain before serving.

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Hazelnut Cake Viterbo

Ingredients

  • Cake pan – 10 inches or 26 cm diameter
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) potato starch
  • 7 1/8 oz (200 gr) 00 Italian flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (350 gr) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (60 gr) milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups (200 gr) chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup 50 gr raisins softened in a little milk
  • 6 oz (170 gr) milk
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 5 ¼ oz (150 g)  butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Powdered sugar for garnish

Directions

In a  large bowl mix the potato starch, flour, baking powder, sugar, chocolate, chopped hazelnuts and softened butter.

Add one egg at a time and mix it into the mixture before adding the next. Add the drained raisins, lemon zest and milk.

Butter the pan and sprinkle with flour mixed with a little sugar.

Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake in the oven at 325 degrees F (160-170) for 45-50 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

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Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini,

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1598 – 1680) was an Italian artist and a prominent architect, who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his time, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. In addition, he painted, wrote plays and designed metalwork and stage sets.

Bernini was born in Naples (1598) to sculptor, Pietro Bernini, originally from Florence, and Angelica Galante. Bernini did not marry until 1639, at the age of forty-one, when he wed a twenty-two-year-old Roman, Caterina Tezio, in an arranged marriage. She bore him eleven children, including his youngest son, Domenico Bernini, who became his first biographer.

Gian-Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) Damned  Soul - Rome, Spanish Embassy

Dammed Soul

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Blessed Soul

In 1606, at the age of eight, Gian accompanied his father to Rome, where Pietro was involved in several projects. There, Gian’s skill was soon noticed by the painter, Annibale Carracci and by Pope Paul V, and he soon gained the important patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the pope’s nephew. His first works were inspired by antique classical sculpture. Under the patronage of Cardinal Borghese,  young Bernini rapidly rose to prominence as a sculptor. Among the early works created for the cardinal were decorative pieces for the garden of the Villa Borghese, such as The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun, and several allegorical busts, including the Damned Soul and Blessed Soul. By the time he was 22, he was considered talented enough to have been given a commission for a papal portrait, the Bust of Pope Paul V.

Bernini’s reputation was solidly established by four works, executed between 1619 and 1625, all now displayed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome—Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1619), The Rape of Proserpina (1621–22), Apollo and Daphne (1622–25), and David (1623–24). Adapting the classical grandeur of Renaissance sculpture and the technology of the Mannerist period, Bernini forged a new conception for religious and historical sculpture.

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Unlike those done by his predecessors, these sculptures focused on specific points of tension in the stories they were trying to tell—Aeneas and family fleeing Troy; the instant that Pluto grasps Persephone; the moment Apollo sees his beloved Daphne begin the transformation into a tree. Bernini’s David is the most obvious example of this. Unlike Michelangelo’s David—and versions by other Renaissance artists—which shows the subject in his triumph after the battle with Goliath, Bernini illustrates David during his combat with the giant, as he twists his body to catapult towards Goliath. To emphasise these moments, Bernini designed the sculptures with a specific viewpoint in mind. Their original placements within the Villa Borghese were against walls, so that the visitors’ first view was to gauge the state of mind of the characters and, therefore, understand the larger story at work, for example, Daphne’s wide open mouth in fear; David biting his lip in determined concentration or Proserpina desperately struggling to free herself. As well as psychological realism, they show a greater concern for representing physical details. The tousled hair of Pluto, the fleshiness of Proserpina or the forest of leaves beginning to envelop Daphne all demonstrate Bernini’s exactitude in depicting complex real world situations in marble form.

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ApolloAndDaphneDuring his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. Under Pope Urban VIII, the artist’s opportunities increased. He was not just producing sculpture for private residences, but also for the city. His appointments included, curator of the papal art collection, director of the papal foundry at Castel Sant’Angelo and commissioner of the fountains of Piazza Navona. Such positions gave Bernini the opportunity to demonstrate his skills throughout the city. Perhaps most significantly, he was appointed Chief Architect of St Peter’s, in 1629. From then on, Bernini’s work and artistic vision would be placed at the symbolic heart of Rome.

St. Peter’s, Baldacchino was the centrepiece of this. Designed as a massive spiralling bronze canopy over the tomb of St. Peter, Bernini’s four-pillared creation reached nearly 100 feet. As well as the Baldacchino, Bernini’s rearrangement of the basilica left space for massive statues created by Bernini. Bernini also began work on the tomb for Urban VIII, a full 16 years before Urban’s death. Bernini also gained royal commissions from outside Rome, such as Cardinal Richelieu of France, Francesco I d’Este of Modena, Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria. But it was the commission for the Cornaro Chapel that fully demonstrated how Bernini’s innovative skills continued to grow. The chapel showcased his ability to integrate sculpture and architecture and create what scholars have called a ‘unified work of art’. Bernini was able to portray the swooning Teresa, the quietly smiling angel delicately gripping the arrow that pierced her and, also to the side, portraits of the astonished Cornaro family – the Venetian family that had commissioned the piece. It was an artistic accomplishment that showed the forms Bernini employed, such as, hidden lighting, differently painted sculptures, thin golden beams, recessive spaces and over 20 diverse types of marble to create the final artwork.

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Pope Alexander VII (1655–67) commissioned large-scale architectural changes in Rome, connecting new and existing buildings by opening up streets and piazzas. It is no coincidence that Bernini’s career showed a greater focus on designing buildings during this time, as there were far greater opportunities. Bernini’s most notable creation during this period was the piazza leading to St Peter’s. Previously a broad, unstructured space, Bernini created two massive semi-circular colonnades, each row of which was formed of four white columns. This resulted in an oval shape that formed a spectacular, inclusive arena within which any gathering group of citizens, pilgrims or visitors could witness the appearance of the pope – either as he appeared on the loggia, on the facade of St Peter’s or on balconies on the neighboring Vatican palaces. Often likened to two arms reaching out from the church to embrace the waiting crowd, Bernini’s creation extended the symbolic greatness of the Vatican area, creating an architectural success.

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641px-St_Peter's_Square,_Vatican_City_-_April_2007

Roman Cuisine

Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (the king is definitely the artichoke, whether deep-fried, simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint or “alla giudia”), inexpensive cuts of meat (the so-called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chilli pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and filled zucchini blossoms) and sharp “pecorino cheese” (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside), a very important ingredient in many recipes. Not to mention the pasta, of course, a staple for every Roman. From “carbonara” to spaghetti “ajo e ojo” (so simple with its mix of olive oil, garlic and chili pepper), from rigatoni “con pajata” to a hearty, fragrant soup such as “pasta e ceci.”

Authentic recipe source: http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/about/

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Trippa alla Romana

4 main-course servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lb raw beef honeycomb tripe (not partially cooked)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, with juice reserved
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: Pecorino Romano and chopped mint

Directions

Trim any fat from the tripe, then rinse tripe under cold water. Soak tripe in a large bowl of fresh cold water 1 hour, then rinse again.

Put tripe in an 8-quart pot of cold water and bring to a boil, then drain and rinse. Bring tripe to a boil again in the pot filled with fresh cold water, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, turning tripe occasionally and adding more hot water to the pot, if necessary, to keep tripe covered, until very tender, about 4 hours (tripe will have a pungent aroma while simmering). Drain in a colander and cool completely.

While the tripe is cooking, heat olive oil in a 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add salt, pepper and wine and boil, stirring, 1 minute. Pour juice from the tomatoes into sauce, then chop the tomatoes and add to the sauce with the 2 cups cold water and mint. Simmer sauce, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Trim any remaining fat from the tripe and cut tripe into 2 inch by 1/2 inch strips. Add to the sauce and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tripe is a little bit more tender but still slightly chewy, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve tripe sprinkled with finely grated Pecorino Romano and additional chopped fresh mint.

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Coda alla Vaccinara (Roman Oxtail Stew)

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 1 kg (about 2.5 pounds) cows tail
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 150 grams (1/3 pound) pork cheeks, pancetta or bacon
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • 1 kg (2.5 pounds) chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4 cloves
  • Pine nuts (to taste)
  • Raisins (to taste)
  • Unsweetened cocoa (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot water

Directions

Wash and dry the tail and cut into large pieces (or rocchi as they are called in Roman dialect). Brown the pieces of the tail with the chopped bacon and oil, then add chopped onions, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper. Add the dry white wine and cook for about 15 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook the meat for at least 3 hours on a low heat always making sure that the pieces are covered with sauce and until meat almost falls off the bone. If it becomes dry, add water.

When the stew is almost done cooking, chop and blanch the celery for a minute or two in boiling water. Then sauté the celery with a bit of the sauce that the tail cooked in, a handful of pine nuts, raisins and a couple of tablespoons of cocoa. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes. Once cooked, add the celery sauce to the main dish. Heat and serve.

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Pomodori Ripieni di Riso con Patate (Rice stuffed tomatoes with potatoes)

Ingredients (makes 14 medium-sized tomatoes)

  • 14 Ripe tomatoes
  • 20 tablespoons carnaroli or other risotto rice
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • Basil
 leaves
  • Potatoes (at least 1 per tomato)

Directions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut off the top of the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and pulp and place them in a mixing bowl. Set aside the pulp.

Place the empty tomatoes (with their tops) in a large baking pan that you will be using for this recipe.

Mix the tomato pulp with the oil, garlic, salt, basil and pesto. Set aside one cup of this mixture  (which you will be using with the potatoes at the end). Add rice to the remaining mixture.

Sprinkle some salt into the tomatoes. Fill the tomatoes with the rice mixture. Replace tomato lids.

Dice the potatoes into ½ inch cubes.  Pour the tomato mixture, which you set aside earlier, over the potatoes, stir and add some salt. Add the potatoes to the baking pan with the tomatoes.

Sprinkle with more salt over the top of the tomatoes and drizzle some oil all over.

Bake for at least 1 hour, until the  potatoes and the top of the tomatoes are brown.

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Torta Caprese

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 sticks (196 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 ¼ cups (196 grams) blanched whole almonds
  • 6 ounces (168 grams) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar to garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter and flour a 10-inch spring form pan.

In a small pan, melt the butter and let cool completely.

In a food processor, finely grind together the almonds and chocolate.

Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer and the whites in another large bowl.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very thick and pale; then add the almond chocolate mixture and the butter and beat together.

In another bowl, with cleaned beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch salt until they form stiff peaks. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the almond chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly and spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Bake the torta for 50 minutes, or until it begins to pull away from side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool the cake completely before releasing the sides of the pan. Dust the cake with powdered sugar and serve. Serves 8–10.


Nemi

Lake Nemi, Diana’s Sacred Grove, is a small circular volcanic lake in the Lazio region of Italy, 30 km (19 miles) south of Rome. The shores of the lake were the setting for one of the cruellest religious rites in honor of a local divinity, Diana of Nemi also known as “Diana of the Woods”, an Italian version of the Hellenic goddess, Artemis. Her sanctuary was found on the northern shore of the lake, beneath the cliffs of the town of Nemi. The lake has often been referred to by poets and scholars as, “Diana’s Mirror.” Diana is one of the more complex goddesses of mythology and her cult at Nemi was especially violent.

The “Rex Nemorensis” or king of the sacred grove, was the high-priest of Diana’s temple. The legend says that in her sacred grove there grew a large oak tree from which it was absolutely forbidden to break off a branch. Only a runaway slave could break off a branch, thus earning the right to fight the presiding high priest of the temple to the death. If the slave won, he could take the place of the priest and adopt his title of “rex nemorensis”. This violent rite of succession was based on the premise that the High Priest of Nemi always had to be at the height of his powers. He could never be ill nor could he die of old age.

Diana

Diana

This ritual continued up until the Imperial era, according to the ancient Roman historian, Suetonius. Emperor Caligula, angered by the fact that the high priest of Nemi had been in his role for too long, ordered him to be killed by an opponent of greater strength. In the II century AD the fight to preside over the sacred altar became symbolic in nature and the cult of Diana itself began to wane, almost completely disappearing after the advent of Christianity. The origins of the cult of Diana are mixed with legend and it is probable that this ancient myth on the Italian peninsula had Greek origins.

The locals will tell you that the spirit of the “rex nemorensis” still wanders in the woods around the lake and that you should take special care when walking in these parts. However, the lake is most famous for its sunken Roman ships, discovered there in the XV century. These ships were very large and technologically advanced for their time.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, acquired the nickname Caligula when he was still a little boy, playing in soldier’s boots several sizes too big for his feet. People started calling him Caligula which means “Little Boots” and they still called him that when he became the Roman Emperor in 37 A.D.

Caligula

As one of his royal passions, Emperor Caligula ordered several large barges to be built to use on Lake Nemi. For centuries scholars and historians debated Caligula’s reason for building the barges. Some contend that Caligula built the barges to show the rulers of Syracuse, Sicily and Egypt that Rome could match any luxurious pleasure barges that they built. Caligula bragged that his ships were the most luxurious in the world. Other scholars argue that Caligula designed one of his ships as a floating temple to Diana and some say that the other ship may have been used as a floating palace where Caligula and his court could indulge in the depravities that history has credited to him.

Suetonius, the Roman historian, described the two biggest barges as being built of cedar wood adorned with jeweled prows, rich sculptures, vessels of gold and silver, sails of purple silk and bathrooms of alabaster and bronze. The floors were paved with glass mosaic, the windows and door frames were made of bronze and many of the decorations were costly.

The flat-bottomed Nemi barges were not self-propelled. Instead, they were attached to the shore by chains and bridges stretching across the water so people and commerce could travel back and forth. The two largest ships were about 250 feet long and 70 feet wide, nearly covering Lake Nemi.

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Nemi 2

Caligula had no suspicions that officers of the Praetorian Guard and members of the Roman Senate and of the Imperial Court were conspiring to assassinate him. Although they successfully assassinated Caligula on January 21, 41 AD., the assassins were unsuccessful in their goal of restoring the Roman Republic. After Caligula’s assassination, the Roman Senate and the Praetorian Guard attempted to destroy everything connected with him, including his barges, which they pillaged and sank.

Fishermen handed down memories of Caligula’s palatial Nemi ships to their descendants, some swearing that they could see the shadowy outlines of the ships in the waters of Lake Nemi. The ships were actually buried in the mud 200 yards distant from each other in five fathoms of water; one 150 feet from the bank and the other 250 feet from the bank.

Legends of Caligula’s sunken ships filled with fabulous treasures were passed down through generations of Lake Nemi citizens. For centuries local fisherman considered Caligula’s sunken barges local landmarks and some explored the wrecks and took small treasures from them, but it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that anyone tried to explore and raise Caligula’s legendary ships.

In 1446 Cardinal Prospero Colonna, an Italian humanist, and Leon Battista Alberti, a  renowned engineer, followed the clues in the local legends about the Nemi barges, but the wrecks lay too deep to be salvaged effectively at the time. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini worked to recover Caligula’s ships for about five years – from October 1928 to October 1932. Mussolini ordered the Italian Navy engineers to drain Lake Nemi. A London Times story reported that everyone on the site cheered as the waters receded to reveal the first Nemi ship.

With all of the water removed, the level of Lake Nemi dropped 66 feet and a mud shower occurred as a result of the sinking of the lake floor. Work stopped while the government and the archaeologists debated the future of the project and Lake Nemi began refilling with water. The second ship had already begun to dry out and re-submerging caused a great deal of damage to it. The Italian Minister of Public Works ordered the project and all of the research related to it to be abandoned on November 10, 1931. The Navy Ministry, which had participated in the original recovery, petitioned the Italian Prime Minister to resume the project on February 19, 1932 and the government granted permission. Pumping out the waters of Lake Nemi resumed on March 28, 1932 and the second ship was recovered in October 1932.

The hulls of the Nemi ships and their contents were recovered, as well as items scattered around the ships, including bronze and marble ornaments, tiles and utensils. The recovery of the Nemi ships settled a prolonged and contentious scholarly argument. Before the ships were recovered, many scholars scoffed at the idea that the Romans were capable of building large enough ships to carry grain, despite ancient sources that said they had built such ships. The size of the Nemi Ships proved that the ancient sources were correct.

Over the centuries, scholars have also debated whether or not the lead bars found on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea were from anchors used on Roman ships. The Nemi ships were built during the transition between the use of wooden and iron anchors and they were the first Romans ships found with intact anchors. The Nemi ships confirmed that the lead bars were from the anchors. Additionally, the Romans made ball bearings out of lead and they probably used the ball bearings on the Nemi ships to make the statues of the gods rotate.

Both of Caligula’s Nemi ships contained several hand-operated bilge pumps working like modern bucket dredges, the oldest example of this type of pump ever found. Piston pumps on the two Nemi ships supplied hot and cold running water through lead pipes. The Romans used the hot water for baths and the cold water for fountains and drinking water. This piston pump technology later was lost to history and not rediscovered until the Middle Ages.

The Italian government built a museum called the Lake Nemi Museum over both ships in 1935 and it opened in January 1936.

Source: History Because It’s Here

The Cuisine of the Roman Empire

Food, like the weather, seems to be a universal topic of conversation, endlessly fascinating and a constant part of our lives. In addition to art and archaeology, we have information on Roman food from a variety of written sources. Here are two ancient recipes for porridge written by Cato the Elder from De Agricultura.

Recipe for Punic porridge:

Soak a pound of groats in water until it is quite soft. Pour it into a clean bowl, add 3 pounds of fresh cheese, 1/2 pound of honey, and 1 egg, and mix the whole thoroughly; turn into a new pot.

Recipe for wheat pap:

Pour 1/2 pound of clean wheat into a clean bowl, wash well, remove the husk thoroughly, and clean well. Pour into a pot with pure water and boil. When done, add milk slowly until it makes a thick cream.

For those who could afford it, breakfast, eaten very early, would consist of salted bread, milk or wine and perhaps dried fruit, eggs or cheese. The Roman lunch, a quick meal, eaten around noon could include salted bread or be more elaborate with fruit, salad, eggs, meat or fish, vegetables and cheese. Dinner, the main meal of the day, would be accompanied by wine, usually well-watered. An ordinary upper class dinner would include meat, vegetable, egg and fruit.

An Ancient Roman Meal

Nemi 4

 

Roman Egg Drop Soup – Stracciatella

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts (liters) mixed meat broth
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon very finely minced parsley
  • 3 tablespoons semolina
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

In a bowl, combine the eggs, semolina, grated cheese, nutmeg and parsley. Add a ladle of cold broth and beat the mixture lightly with a fork or whisk.

Bring the remainder of the broth to a boil. Add the egg mixture all at once, stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork to break up the egg, which will form fine, light flakes or small rags (straccetti, in Italian) that give the soup its name.

Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, and serve with a little more grated Parmigiano on the side.

SAMSUNG CSC

Aliter Lenticulam (Lentils)

Ingredients

  • 750 ml sweet white wine
  • 250 g green lentils
  • 3 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • Pinch of asafoetida (an ancient spice similar to garlic with an onion flavor)
  • Dash of bitters
  • Generous handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 225 g honey (This amount used in the recipe’s translation is excessive, as a reader kindly pointed out. After researching amounts of honey used in the Roman days, I would say no more than a half a cup should be used, if that. A couple of tablespoons would probably suit our current tastes. That was all I used when I tested the recipe.)
  • Generous splash of wine vinegar
  • Generous splash of must (grape juice boiled until it’s reduced to 3/4 of its volume)
  • 3 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add a little oil to a pan and, when hot, stir-in the asafoetida and coriander seeds. Cook until the seeds begin to splutter, then grind to a powder with a pestle and mortar. Add the rosemary leaves and pound to crush them. Add just enough vinegar to bring the mixture together as a paste and add a dash of bitters.

Combine the sweet wine and lentils in a pan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the lentils are tender (about 60 minutes). When the lentils are almost done add the leeks, honey, coriander and mint along with the spice and vinegar blend. Flavor with a little more wine vinegar and must.

Simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the leeks are tender. Garnish with extra-virgin olive oil and black pepper, then serve.

Nemi 6

Aliter Sepias

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a classic dish of cooked squid or cuttlefish served in a spiced and herb white wine sauce thickened with an egg yolk.

1 kg cooked squid or cuttlefish

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon lovage seeds (or celery seeds) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled 
  • 1 raw egg yolk 
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • 60 ml fish stock 
  • 60 ml white wine 
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

Pound together the pepper, lovage (or celery) seeds, coriander and mint in a mortar. Work in the honey, stock, wine, vinegar and olive oil then pour into a pan.

Heat slowly and, when warm, gently whisk in the beaten egg yolk. Bring to a simmer (do not boil) and cook on low heat until thickened.

Arrange boiled or fried squid (cuttlefish) on a warmed serving dish, pour the sauce over the squid.

Nemi 7

Honeyed Quinces

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a dessert of quinces boiled in a sauce of white wine and honey. Pears can be substituted but quinces are more tart. If using pears reduce the honey by 1/3 and add the juice of half a lime.

Ingredients

  • 10 quinces 
  • 100 ml honey 
  • Cinnamon 
  • 250 ml sweet white wine

Directions

Peel, core and dice the quinces and put them in a saucepan. Add the wine and honey and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until they are soft (reduce the cooking time for pears). Chill before serving. Pour into individual bowls.

 


snow in rome

The national capital of Italy, Rome, is a sophisticated city full of international political emissaries and wealthy travelers. These visitors naturally expect some of Italy’s best food.

Dinner often begins with a lavish antipasti that features fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, baked goods and fragrant olives and olive oils. Brothy soups are offered, though rarely are they plain. Pasta e ceci is a rosemary and garlic scented broth with pasta and chickpeas. Hot beef broth is flavored with nutmeg and has ragged strips of egg stirred throughout before garnishing with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stewed white beans, flavored with prosciutto, pork rind, garlic, onions and rosemary are also popular.

Roman cooking uses fresh produce abundantly. Artichokes may be served raw or fried, either with garlic and mint or deep fried according to the traditions of the Jewish community. Local rocket (arugula) is prized for fresh salads. Puntarella, or endive, is seasoned with anchovies and garlic before serving cold. Another popular vegetable dish is pomodori ripieni, tomatoes that are stuffed with rice or potatoes, seasoned with garlic and basil and baked.

Recipes may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is eaten in lasagna or Rome’s famous, Fettuccine al Burro. This dish takes strips of pasta egg dough and gently coats them in butter. Cream and freshly grated Parmesan cheese are then added. Roman recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Bucatini all’amatriciana tosses thin tubed spaghetti with a spicy pork sauce and grated Pecorino cheese, sometimes garlic or tomatoes are added for flavor. Penne all’arrabbiata is topped with a tomato sauce seasoned with chili peppers and garlic. Chunky tubes are served with a filling meat sauce that contains beef intestine and is flavored with herbs, garlic and salt pork to make rigatoni con la pajata. Simple spaghetti is dressed with extra virgin olive oil that has been heated with garlic, parsley and chili peppers for spaghetti all ‘aglio olio e peperoncino.

Other starchy dishes are made from wheat, potatoes, rice and polenta. Potato or semolina gnocchi dumplings are popular foods. Suppli al telefono are hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver, veal or anchovies. When they are eaten, the cheese is said to stretch out in strings resembling telephone wires.

Some of Rome’s best dishes are the sautéed, braised, boiled or roasted vegetables that are served with most meals. Called contorni, these flavorful dishes round out meat and fish main courses. They are also served as antipasti, before meals. Trattorie all over town serve braised cardoons (a cousin of the artichoke) with mixed local greens. Classic contorni are common in home cooks’ repertoires as well, though many Romans like to purchase them by weight at a tavole calde (literally “hot table” shops).

Hopefully this dinner menu will make you feel like you are in Rome.

Appetizer Course

Beet and Onion Salad

Insalata di barbabietole e cipolle

Serves 8

Usually served as an antipasto in Rome. A variation of the salad can be made by slicing the beets thin and marinating them for 2 hours with 10 fresh basil leaves, salt and vinegar. Mix with sliced fennel and olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs beets with stems and leaves
  • 1 medium white onion
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar, or more to taste

Directions

Leave about 2 inches of stem on the beets. Wash, then place the beets in cold water to cover, bring to a boil and gently boil for about 1 hour, or until tender. Or cook in a pressure cooker with cold water to cover for 10 minutes or in a 325°F oven until tender, 1 to 2 hours, according to size. Test with a fork to be sure they are cooked through.

Cool and slip off the skins. Slice the beets and onion thinly and place them in a salad bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and dress with the oil and vinegar.

NOTE: This can be prepared several hours in advance.

First Course

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 – 14-oz. cans of chickpeas
  • 2 1/4 cups of chicken stock
  • 3 1/2 oz. ditalini or other small Italian “soup” pasta
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh basil or parsley leaves for garnish

Directions

Place the finely chopped onion, celery, rosemary and garlic into a saucepan with a little extra virgin olive oil and cook as gently as possible, with the lid on, for about 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft. Do not brown.

Drain the chickpeas well, rinse them in cold water and add them to the pan with the chicken stock. Cook gently for half an hour and then, using a slotted spoon, remove half the chickpeas to a bowl.

Puree the soup remaining in the pan using a handheld immersion blender. If you don’t have one, you can use a food processor instead, then pour it back into the pan. Add the reserved whole chickpeas and the pasta, season the soup with salt and pepper and simmer gently until the chickpeas are tender and the pasta is cooked.

Serve drizzled with good-quality extra virgin olive oil and garnish with basil or parsley.

Second Course

porkribroast

Fennel and Garlic Crusted Pork Roast

Ingredients

  • 1 small head fennel with 2 inches of fronds attached, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoon coarsely ground white pepper
  • One 4 1/2-lb. pork rib roast, tied with kitchen twine
  • Coarse salt to taste

Directions

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the fennel and fennel fronds, onion and garlic. Process to a paste. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, fennel seeds and pepper and pulse to combine.

With a small, sharp knife, make shallow crosshatch cuts in the skin of the pork roast. Season it all over with salt, rubbing it in well. Rub the fennel–garlic paste over the roast to cover it with a layer about 1⁄4” thick. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.

About 20 minutes before cooking, remove the roast from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 500° F. Transfer the pork to a roasting pan. Roast the pork for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Continue roasting the pork for 35-40 minutes longer or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 155°. Remove the roast from the oven and cover it loosely with foil. Let it rest for 15 minutes before removing the butcher twine and slicing it into thick chops.

 

Broccoli Strascinati (Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper)

This Roman dish, which pairs beautifully with pork, can be made with regular broccoli or broccoli rabe.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch broccoli (about 1 lb.), stemmed and cut into florets
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli; cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons water; add garlic; cook until golden, 2–3 minutes. Add chili; cook 2 minutes. Season with salt.

 

Stewed Bell Peppers (Peperonata)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 assorted red, yellow and orange bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into ¼” strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (chopped)

Directions

Heat oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add peppers, garlic, onions and ½ cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft, about 1 hour. Stir in vinegar and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with parsley.

Dessert Course

Apple-Apricot Crostata

Ingredients

  • 4 Granny Smith or other good cooking apples
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter or pareve margarine
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and grease a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.

Peel, core and slice the apples into crescents about a fourth to an eighth of an inch thick. You should have about 24 pieces.

Place the sugar, butter, egg yolks, flour and salt in a large bowl and press everything together with your fingers or combine the ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until the dough forms a ball. Either way, do not overwork the dough.

Take the ball of dough in your hands and flatten it in the center of the tart pan. Working with your fingers, spread the dough evenly around the pan and up the sides. The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick on the sides. Press the dough into the flutes and make sure the dough is spread evenly across the bottom of the pan.

Starting on the outside and working toward the center, lay the apple slices in an overlapping, concentric circle.

Place the apricot preserves in a saucepan and heat on low until liquefied. Using a pastry brush, glaze the apples and the visible crust. Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top.

Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F and continue cooking until the crust is deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature, unmold, and place on a platter or serving dish.

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Challah

The Jewish presence in Italy dates to the pre‑Christian Roman period (more than two thousand years ago) and continues to this day. There are approximately 28,400 Jews in Italy today. They are concentrated in Rome (13,000) and Milan (8,000), with smaller communities situated in Turin (900), Florence (1,000), Venice (600) and Livorno (600). Other Jewish communities numbering a few hundred members can be found in several other cities. The community’s umbrella organization, the Unione delle Comunita Ebraiche Italiane (Union of Italian Jewish Communities), provides religious, cultural and educational services to Italy’s Jewish population and also represents the community on the national-political level.

The Great Synagogue of Rome.

When the edict of expulsion was issued in 1492, many Jews from Spain and Sicily (which, along with Naples and points south, were under Spanish control at the time) fled north, traveling up the Italian peninsula. The refugees brought their favored foods and flavorings to their new communities, among them marzipan, eggplant, artichokes, a taste for sweet-and-sour and the raisin and pine nut garnish used with meats and vegetables, as well as fish. Caponata, now used throughout Italy, was another Sicilian-Jewish dish. A sweet-savory cold salad of fried eggplant, onions, garlic, olives and capers (and tomatoes—a later addition from the Americas). It is still labeled alla giudea, Jewish-style, on some menus.

Italian Jews have always been exceptionally fond of vegetables and developed countless ways to use them. Spinach is a particular favorite: even the stems might be slowly braised for a side dish or the leaves combined with almonds in a dessert. Pumpkin and other golden squashes—introduced from the New World by Spanish and Portuguese Jews—are often included on the Yom Kippur break-the-fast menu, either pureed with onion and a touch of crystallized citron (etrog) or flavored with Parmesan and raisins as a filling for pasta.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Much of Italian-Jewish cooking is “cucina povera”, cuisine of the poor and vegetables were often used to stretch—or even replace—meat and fish. Sometimes, as in polpettine di pollocoi sedani (chicken meatballs with celery) a Roman Rosh Hashanah specialty, the vegetables are cooked alongside the meat. In other recipes, olives, potatoes, cooked spinach or other vegetables are mixed into ground meat, creating meatballs and loaves that not only make the meat go further, but are more tender and flavorful.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. The themes of this solemn holiday are self-reflection and repentance. There are ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which Jewish people are charged with taking a reflective look at the past year, repenting for misdeeds, asking for forgiveness and working on ways to become better people.

The home ceremony takes place at sundown and the main event of this special day is a festive seder meal. There are three categories of symbolic foods for Rosh Hashanah and each has its own meaning. The first is sweet tasting foods, such as apples and honey, which represent the desire for a sweet year to come. The second which includes pomegranates and fish, represent one’s wish to be fruitful and multiply. The third category which includes foods such as carrots, beets, leeks and cabbage, represent the destruction and eradication of one’s sins and one’s enemies.

Giuliana Ascoli Vitali-Norsa, author of La Cucina nella Tradizione Ebraica, says that, “among other things, the standard Italian Rosh Hashanah meal will include ricciolini, triglie alla mosaica, polpettone di tacchino, fried yellow squash or other vegetables prepared without vinegar and either a honey cake, sfratti or apples and bananas cooked with rum. Ricciolini are pasta served in broth, a sort of noodle soup, while triglie alla mosaica are reef mullet cooked in a tomato sauce, sometimes with a jolt of hot pepper; you also find them referred to as triglie alla livornese and by extension other kinds of fish cooked in this sauce can be called “alla livornese” too. Polpettone di tacchino is turkey loaf and it can be simple or extraordinary.”

I have put together a menu for an Italian Rosh Hashanah dinner for you to try with the help of some famous Jewish chefs.

Antipasto:

carciofi alla giudia - Picture of Rotonda Restaurant, RomeThis photo from Rotonda Restaurant in Rome is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Carciofi alla Giudia (Artichokes Jewish Style)

A very old recipe, these artichokes became famous in the Jewish community in Rome.

Adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 12 small artichokes
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Olive oil for deep frying
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Matzoh meal or flour for dredging

Directions:

Trim the tops off the artichokes, working around the globe to retain the shape. Halve the lemons, juice them and cover with cold water. Soak the artichokes in this lemon water until ready to use, then drain and dry.

Hold the artichokes by the stems and bang them a little against the countertop to open the leaves.

Combine 1/2 cup of the olive oil, the parsley, basil, salt, pepper and garlic and sprinkle the mixture between the leaves. Roll each artichoke in matzo meal or flour.

Heat a large pot, wok, or Dutch oven with a cover, filled with about 3 inches of oil, to sizzling. Deep-fry 2–3 artichokes at a time for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally with a tongs; they will puff up as they cook. Serve hot, sprinkled with additional sea salt.

Yield: 6 servings

First Course:

Three Bean Minestrone

Joy of Kosher by Jamie Geller

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup cooked (or canned, drained & rinsed) white kidney, cannellini or Great Northern beans
  • 1 cup cooked (or canned, drained & rinsed) pinto beans
  • 8 cups Water or Vegetable Broth
  • Rind from a small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
  • 1 cup Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 2 medium red tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated, optional

Directions:

In a large stock pot over low heat, combine the olive oil and onions. Sweat the onions until wilted and soft, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and cook 3 minutes. Add celery, beans, water and Parmigiano rind and cook for about 20 minutes.  

Add diced potatoes and zucchini and cook for another 20 minutes.  Add tomatoes and their juices, cover, and cook at a low simmer for at least 30 more minutes. Add spinach, season with kosher salt and black pepper, and cook 2-3 minutes longer.  Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if using.

Main Course:

Ezekiel’s Olive Chicken

Alessandra Rovati was born and raised in Venice, Italy and she writes and teaches about Kosher and Jewish Italian food.

Several Jewish Italian recipes for poultry have Biblical names. Here is one of the most popular examples, which appears in different variations in most cooking books on the topic, from Vitali Norsa, to Servi-Machlin to Joyce Goldstein. It’s not a surprise, because chicken cooked with this technique stays moist and juicy. It’s a variation on the basic “pollo in umido”, which Americans call “chicken cacciatore”.

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • One chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced (depending on your tolerance)
  • 1/3 cup green or/and black olives, pitted
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons mix of freshly chopped herbs (sage, rosemary and basil or mint or parsley)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 or 3 peeled tomatoes (I use the canned type)
  • 1/3 cup dry wine, red or white

Directions:

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Heat the olive oil, add the chicken and saute until golden. Add the salt, pepper, olives, garlic, herbs and the chopped (and drained) tomatoes.

Cook for 2 minutes, stirring, then lower the flame and cook covered until tender (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Now uncover, add the wine and allow it to evaporate it on high heat.

This dish can be made ahead and reheated just before serving.

Spinach With Pine Nuts and Raisins

From Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen

So, how did kosher find its way to the land of pasta and polenta? ‘Through persecutions and emigrations,’ Goldstein says. ‘The Jews carried their culinary traditions with them and shared them with the world.’ They brought ingredients like tomatoes and squash and peppers to Italy, as well as styles of cooking — preparing room temperature dishes, for example, was their way around cooking on the Sabbath. In Italy these traditions were embraced and absorbed completely; something Goldstein is proud of. ‘Perhaps his is the positive side of the ‘Wandering Jew,’ ” she considers. ‘Food is a strong cultural continuum, and it’s nice to be able to rediscover some of these dishes as Jewish.'”

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds spinach
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions or 6 green onions, minced
  • 4 tablespoons raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the spinach well and remove the stems. Place in a large sauté pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves. Cook over medium heat, turning as needed until wilted, just a few minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the now-empty pan and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach, raisins and pine nuts and sauté briefly to warm through. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.

Dessert:

Sfratti (Honey And Nut Pastries)

The Italian police, as the legend goes, used sticks to forcibly evict the Jews from their homes. Sfratti, the Italian word for stick, was a pastry the Jews of that region created to resemble those sticks. These honey and nut pastries (a cross between rugelach and biscotti) are baked as sticks and then sliced into cookies. The honey-laden pastry is traditionally served for dessert on Rosh Hashanah.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sweet white wine
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted margarine

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 pound walnuts, finely chopped

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour and make a well in the center. Place the sugar and salt in the well. Add the wine and oil gradually while mixing with a fork until you form a smooth dough. Empty the dough onto a floured cutting board and knead for 5 minutes. Return the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in the refrigerator.

To make the filling, bring the honey to a rapid boil in large saute pan over high heat and cook for 2 minutes without stirring. Add the spices, orange zest and nuts and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is cool enough to handle. Divide into 6 equal portions. On a floured cutting board, roll each portion into a thin log, about a foot long, and set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 equal portions. Using a rolling pin, roll one piece of dough to form a 4 x 14 strip. Place one honey/nut log at the edge of the dough and fold the sides over the ends of the log. Then wrap the dough around the filling, covering it completely. Place on a sheet pan, seam-side down.

Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 20 minutes. Allow the sfratti to rest only for 5 minutes before removing from the sheet pan, then immediately wrap in foil. Once completely cool, cut on bias into 1-inch slices, just before serving.

Sfratti keep for several weeks without refrigeration when wrapped in foil. In fact, they taste better after they have been allowed to age for a few days.

I wish you all l’shana tova (a good year) filled with many years of life and happiness.


An aerial view of Rome

In just a few centuries, Rome grew from a very small village in central Italy to the absolute dominant power of the entire peninsula. In a few more centuries, the Roman Empire’s might reached as far north as Britain, east to Persia and, in the south, it encompassed the whole of Northern Africa. Rome’s extraordinary achievements and the unparalleled string of influential people shaped the whole of Europe and even the rest of the world.

Much of what we know today about the historical foundations of Rome comes to us from ancient writers, such as Livy and Herodotus, along with archaeology studies. The early history of Rome, so deeply rooted in legend and mythology, is a mix of fact, fiction and educated guesses. The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Latium region which included the city of Rome, dates from the Bronze Age (1500 BC), but the earliest established and permanent, settlements began to form in the 8th. century BC.  At that time archaeology data indicates two closely related peoples in the area, the Latins and Sabines. These agrarian Italic peoples were tribal in origin, with a social hierarchy that dominated Rome’s early form of government and throughout its claim to power in the region.

The date of the founding as a village or a series of tribal territories is uncertain, but the traditional and legendary founding of the city dates to 753 BC.  Although this date is heavily laden in myth, it is at least roughly supported through archaeological evidence. It was in the 8th. century BC that two existing settlements, one on the Palatine Hill, the other on the Quirinal, combined to form a single village, corresponding to the same dates as the legend.

According to legend, Romans trace their origins to Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the sack of Troy by fleeing to Italy. The son of Aeneas, Iulius (commonly Julius) founded the city of Alba Longa and established a monarchy. Two descendants of the Alba Longa Kings, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, would go on to become the founders of Rome. Eventually the two brothers quarreled resulting in the murder of Remus, leaving Romulus as the first King of Rome. The traditional date of Romulus’ sole reign and the subsequent founding of the city, April 21, 753 BC, is still celebrated with festivals and parades today.

Pictures of Rome - Roman Court of Justice

Roman Court of Justice

Like all great empires, Rome reached the height of its power, and then over a long period of time, began to collapse. It became increasingly expensive for Rome to maintain the large armies needed to protect their borders from invasion. After 117 AD, when Emperor Trajan called a halt to the expansion of the Empire, the once conquering Legions had now become an army of occupation and were kept busy building towns, roads and aqueducts.The armies also became increasingly staffed by foreign-born soldiers and mercenaries, drawn from the conquered provinces. This lead to decreased nationalism and allegiance to the Empire. The legions feuded over who the true emperor should be and, having not fought an offensive battle for a hundred years, had lost their fighting edge. Rome’s commerce and trade, at home and abroad, became complacent and stagnant. The vast numbers of people and the many cultures ruled by the Empire became unmanageable. For 1700 years, Rome set the standards for future civilizations to come. The heritage of Ancient Rome permeates the world today. Roman Art and Architecture can be found throughout the world. Roman Literature, Law and Language have been studied and adopted by many cultures around the globe.

Pictures of Rome - Interior of a Roman House

Interior of a Roman House

In Italian culture, food has always been the anchoring point around love and laughter and good food holds the power to wander freely across class distinction. Today, the region of Lazio is often seen as the center of Italian culture. Bordered on one side by the Tyrrhenian Sea and cradled in almost the very center of Italy, this region has long been looked to as the center of important Italian cultural elements: food, wine, politics, architecture and art are all present in abundance. With the provinces of Viterbo and Rieti to the north of Rome, and Latina and Frosinone to its south, the mountain-to-sea terrain offers a rich variety of landscapes with growing and producing conditions close to ideal. Oxtail, veal, pork, lamb, spaghetti, gnocchi, bucatini, garlic, tomatoes, truffles, potatoes, artichokes, olives, grapes, buffalo mozzarella, and pizza … the cornucopia is overflowing.

Historically the seat of power for the greatest empire the world has ever known, Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed and influenced the cuisine of the upper classes. Pork with potato dumplings. Artichokes stuffed with mint. The process has been evolutionary, fusing the basic with the indulgent, the readily available with the rare, the “at-hand” with the Kosher. Very little is wasted in Lazian cooking, and the results are nothing less than extraordinary.

The Lazio region continues to draw people interested in the history, art and architecture of the area, and of course, the remarkable food. The area is home to a June cherry festival in the village of Celleno where local cherry dishes entice foodies from all over the world. Three prominent lakes also make a popular vacation destination for Europeans in general. Monte Terminillo draws avid skiers in the winter, and its hearty potato-based dishes (such as gnocchi) provide plenty of energy for the downhill runs. Rome offers countless tourism opportunities and amazing food everywhere. Many make the pilgrimage to Latina just for the remarkable mozzarella di bufala, a mozzarella cheese made from water buffalo milk. Santo Stefano village is host to the Sagra degli Antichi Sapori (or “Festival of Ancient Flavors”) each year, celebrating local dishes like minestra di pane e fagioli, a hearty bread and bean soup.

The Food Of Rome

You need not travel all the way to Italy to discover Lazian cooking. Some form of it has probably been on your table many times. Take, for instance, the best known and most humble of pastas: spaghetti. Almost any bit of this or that leftover – vegetables, herbs, oils, cheeses, cream, meats – can be combined with each other and with spaghetti for a delicious meal. With the right ingredients, you and your family can taste the delights of Roman cuisine without ever leaving your home.

Antipasto

fioridizucca Food in Rome

Zucchini flowers, stuffed with mozzarella cheese and a piece of anchovy fillet, dipped in batter and deep-fried.

Primo Piatto

cacioepepe Food in Rome

Pasta Cacio e Pepe: With grated Pecorino Romano and freshly ground black pepper.

Secondo Piatto

Saltimboccaallaromana Food in Rome

Saltimbocca alla Romana (“Roman jump-in-your-mouth”): Veal Scaloppine with prosciutto and sage leaves

Dolce

Tortaallaricotta1 Food in Rome

Torta alla Ricotta

Pizza

pizza rossa2 Food in Rome

In Rome, pizza comes in three versions: Roman (with a thin crust), Neapolitan (with a crust that’s thick around the edges) and “al taglio” (by the slice). Pizzerias prepare individual, plate-size Roman or Neapolitan pizzas (never both) to order. Pizza al taglio is prepared ahead of time and sold for take-out. It comes in two kinds: rossa or red, with tomato sauce, and bianca or white, without tomato sauce and filled or topped with more combinations of ingredients than you thought possible. Be aware that asking for a pepperoni pizza in Rome will get you a pizza con peperoni (bell peppers)

Although Rome is only a few miles from the sea, fish is not part of traditional Roman cooking.  

Some vegetables, e.g. spinach, are served year-round, others only in season. The most common preparations are all’aglio e olio (olive oil and garlic) or al limone (olive oil and lemon) and vegetables are often served at room temperature.

Salads come in many ways. A green salad (insalata verde) or a mixed salad (insalata mista, greens with carrots and sometimes tomato wedges) often comes to the table plain: you dress it yourself with oil and vinegar. Other salads (e.g., tomato or fennel) generally come dressed.

A word about garlic: Most dishes are only flavored subtly with garlic; garlic is rarely predominant and never overpowering.

Make Some Roman Inspired Pasta At Home

                                                                                                      

Penne alla Vodka      

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons Italian tomato paste from a tube plus 4 tablespoons of water
  • 3 tablespoons Vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream 
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 1 lb penne pasta

Directions:

Melt butter in a pan large enough to also hold the cooked pasta. Add the chili pepper, saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add tomato paste and water. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent it from sticking to pan and burning. If need be, add more water.

Add the vodka; simmer for about 3 minutes more.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. When pasta is just about ready (about 9 minutes), add the cream to the heated tomato mixture, stirring.

When heated through, add the Parmesan cheese, stirring. Drain pasta and transfer to pan with sauce.

 Mix thoroughly, taste for seasoning and transfer to a warm bowl. Pass extra grated cheese at table.

Spaghetti alla Carrettiera                                                                                                              

Serves 4

A Roman pasta dish with fresh tomatoes and basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and shredded fine
  • 2 cups fresh plum tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb spaghettini (thin spaghetti)

Directions:

Boil water for the pasta, add salt and cook according to package directions. Drain. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.

Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes and the basil. Continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon making sure the sauce does not dry out. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place pasta in the pan in with the sauce. Add pasta water and mix well.

Fettuccine all’Alfredo

Serves 4

The original owner of Alfredo’s Restaurant in Rome, Alfredo Di Lelio, is said to be the originator of this delicious but rich dish of worldwide fame. He has since passed away but the recipe for both the fettuccine pasta and the sauce remain secret. The recipe below is close to what he made.

The quality and taste of the ingredients is the key to success with Fettuccine Alfredo, especially the fettuccine and the cheese. Fettuccine Alfredo is finished in the pan – the cooked and drained pasta is added directly to the warmed ingredients in the pan.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh or dried fettuccine or tagliatelle pasta
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup freshly grated Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, at room temperature
  • 2 cups heavy cream 
  • Salt and white ground pepper

Directions:

Boil the pasta cooking water. Add salt and pasta. Cook al dente and drain.

If you are using fresh fettuccine, it can cook in as little as 2 minutes (plus the time it takes the water to boil), so have all ingredients and cooking utensils ready.

In the same pan that the pasta was cooked in, melt the butter over low heat.

Slowly add the cream and whisk or stir often with a wooden spoon until it is hot and slightly reduced. 

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked and drained pasta. Mix well. Remove the pot from the heat. Add cheese and stir carefully.

Turn into a warmed serving bowl



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