Cooking Class: Jewish cooking, Italian style

Try these recipes, typical of Roman Jewish cuisine, famous among Romans and visitors alike.

Jewish Italian (photo credit: Ori Cohen)
Jewish Italian
(photo credit: Ori Cohen)
On its latest menu, the kosher gourmet dairy restaurant Uno in Tel Aviv pays tribute to dishes inspired by the traditional Jewish-Italian cuisine.
Roman-Jewish cuisine has evolved over centuries when the Jews were confined to the ghetto from dawn to dusk. Isolated from the outside world, Jewish cooks were forced to be creative, cooking with limited simple ingredients while keeping the recipes kosher.
The dishes on the new menu at Uno make use of such ingredients as fish, vegetables and sour cream and basic cooking methods but all have a modern, more sophisticated twist added by the restaurant’s young chef Eli Epstein, who adapted the dishes to suit local diners.
Among the new dishes served daily are the Roman-Jewish artichokes (carciofi alla giudia), focaccia caponata, fish soup and bread gnocchi. The chef has agreed to share some of his recipes with us.FISH SOUP WITH GRISSINI AND GREEN WHEAT (FRIKI) Makes 3 servings
✔ 1 mullet, sliced with bones into 2-cm. slices ✔ 3 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 1 red bell pepper, julienned ✔ 1 yellow bell pepper, julienned ✔ 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced ✔ 1 red tomato, diced ✔ 1 Tbsp. coriander leaves, chopped ✔ 2 Tbsp. parsley leaves, chopped ✔ 1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped ✔ 1⁄2 chili pepper, sliced very thinly (optional)✔ Zest of 1⁄2 lemon ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice For the green friki: ✔ 4 Tbsp. grated friki (available at spice shops) ✔ Boiling water to cover ✔ 1 Tbsp. chopped fried onion ✔ Salt and pepper ✔ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
For the grissini:✔ 250 gr. flour ✔ Pinch sugar ✔ 11⁄4 Tbsp. dry yeast ✔ 1⁄2 Tbsp. oregano leaves, chopped ✔ 25 gr. melted butter ✔ 3⁄4 tsp. salt ✔ 1⁄4 cup ice water For the topping: ✔ 1 egg yolk ✔ Coarse salt ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. chili flakes or sesame seeds, or any topping you like ✔ 1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
To prepare soup: Heat oil in a wide pot and fry the peppers and the garlic until fragrant.
Add herbs and seasoning and continue sautéing for 20 seconds. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Add the fish, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until fish is done and the soup is a little thicker.
To prepare the friki: Sauté the friki in the olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the fried onion and seasoning. Remove from heat and cover with boiling water. The water level should be 2 cm. above the wheat. Cover the pot with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.
To prepare the grissini: Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add sugar, yeast, oregano and butter. Mix well, and gradually add water while mixing until the dough forms. Knead about 6 minutes.
Add salt and continue kneading 3 more minutes. The dough should be a little hard but elastic. Divide the dough into 5 balls and roll into sausage-like strips.
Place the dough “sausages” on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with a topping of your choice, the salt and Parmesan. Push the topping into the dough with your fingers to make sure it sticks. Cover with a moist towel and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 170º and bake for 15 minutes or until grissini is golden.
To serve: Divide soup into soup bowls; allow 2 fish slices for each diner. Add 1 Tbsp. of friki and place a grissini across the bowl. Serve with lemon wedges and a little chopped parsley.
Carciofi alla giudía is one of the most famous dishes of the Roman Jewish cuisine.
It is basically a deep-fried artichoke. The dish is traditionally served in Rome during the spring.
✔ 3 whole artichokes, including leaves and stems✔ Oil for deep-frying
For marinating the artichokes: ✔ 1 cup wine vinegar ✔ 1 cup olive oil ✔ 1 Tbsp. garlic slices ✔ 1 tsp. sugar ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. salt ✔ 1 tsp. chopped thyme
For the aioli: ✔ 4 egg yolks ✔ 1 tsp. wine vinegar ✔ 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard✔ 1 tsp. minced garlic ✔ 1⁄2 cup parsley, chopped ✔ 1⁄2 cup oil ✔ Salt and pepper
To peel the artichokes: Expose the heart, cutting the tops across up to where the leaves connect to the heart. Make sure you keep the peeled stem attached to the heart.
Remove hair and thorns.
Do not throw away the cut leaves. Make a quick snack by sautéing the leaves in a little olive oil or butter and serve with lemon and salt.
Blanch the peeled artichokes in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove and place in a container.
Heat the marinating ingredients in a pot until almost boiling and pour over the peeled artichokes. Cool for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
To prepare aioli: In a mixer, beat together egg yolks, garlic and mustard.
Lower speed and drizzle oil in while the mixer is on. When you have poured half the oil, add the rest of the ingredients and continue to add oil until the aioli is smooth. Season the aioli with salt and pepper. If the aioli is not fluffy enough, continue adding oil until texture is to your liking. Be sure to drizzle the oil very slowly or the aioli might break apart.
To serve: Heat oil in a pot. Remove the artichoke from the liquid and pound a little on a cutting board until the leaves open slightly. Deep fry the artichoke hearts until the leaves are crispy and the artichoke is browned.
Serve with aioli.
Caponata is a kind of eggplant ratatouille. In this recipe, it is baked on the homemade focaccia bread.
For the dough: ✔ 1⁄2 kg. flour ✔ 2 gr. fresh yeast ✔ 1 heaping tsp. sugar ✔ 1 level tsp. salt ✔ 2 Tbsp. olive oil ✔ 300 ml. ice water
For the herb mixture: ✔ 1 handful each: parsley, mint, oregano and basil (leaves only)
For the caponata: ✔ 1 eggplant, sliced ✔ 1 zucchini, sliced ✔ 1 red bell pepper ✔ 1 yellow bell pepper ✔ 1 handful pitted black kalamata olives ✔ 1 handful capers ✔ Olive oil ✔ Salt In a blender, grind all the herbs with the water until smooth.
Place sugar and flour in a mixer bowl, crumble the yeast in and turn the mixer on at low speed. Add water slowly. As soon as the texture is lumpy and watery, add oil. Continue to mix for 10 minutes. Add salt and herb mixture.
Turn speed up and continue kneading 10 more minutes. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or at least 12 hours.
To prepare caponata: Brush the eggplant and zucchini slices with oil and season with salt. Bake in a 180º oven for 5-15 minutes until they soften a little.
Roast the peppers on open fire until blackened. Immediately place in a plastic bag and close. The steam will help peel the peppers. When cooled, peel and julienne the peppers.
Remove the focaccia dough from the refrigerator. Oil a baking sheet and, using your palms, flatten the dough in an even layer on the baking sheet. Make small shallow holes in the dough with your fingertips. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until it doubles in size.
Heat the oven to 190º. Sprinkle the roasted vegetables, olives and capers over the dough and bake for 15 minutes or until browned. Serve with sour cream and grated Parmesan.
✔ 2 cups white bread or halla, crust removed, crumbled ✔ 11⁄2 cups milk ✔ 1 small egg ✔ 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan ✔ 1 level tsp. salt ✔ 13⁄4 cups flour ✔ 1⁄4 cup onion, chopped Butter foam: ✔ 3 Tbsp. soft butter ✔ 3 Tbsp. 38% cream ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. mustard ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. salt
To prepare gnocchi: Fry onion until golden and strain excess fat. Mix the bread, milk, egg and Parmesan together, add the fried onion and salt. Add the flour to the mixture gradually while mixing, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes.
It is important to avoid a heavy, dense texture.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour and a half. Remove from the refrigerator and, using 2 teaspoons, create small dumplings. Dip the teaspoons in cold water from time to time to prevent sticking.
Heat a little olive oil in a pan and sear the dumplings on both sides, about 1-2 minutes on each side.
To prepare butter foam: Mix all the ingredients together and whip, using an electric hand mixer.
Serve the gnocchi on a plate with fish or vegetables and add a little butter foam on top.
Recipes and photos courtesy of Uno kosher Italian restaurant, 2 Weitzman Street, Tel Aviv, (03) 693-2005/8.