Jews have lived in Italy since Roman times, always part of the cultural landscape, always living in isolation of one kind or another. The word we know as ghetto
comes to us from 16th-century Venice. Within the world of Jews in Italy, there are several smaller worlds: those of the native Italian Jews, of the Sephardim driven out of Spain, and of the Ashkenazim moving down from Germany and Eastern Europe. Take all those food traditions and dietary laws, squeeze them in one overarching food sensibility, and you have a very unusual way to view culture and history. Joyce Goldstein, in Cucina Ebraica
, demonstrates that culture and history are edible, if not downright delicious.
Take Livornese Couscous with Meatballs, White Beans, and Greens. Couscous came to Livorno with North African Jews in the 1270s. It was a Friday-night meal, and the leftovers were served cold the next day on the Sabbath. Goldstein gives the first honest recipe for Carciofi alla Giudia (crispy fried artichokes in the Roman Jewish style) yet printed. Not all artichokes are alike, she demonstrates, and then shows you a way around the problems no one else ever manages to address to successfully cook this classic.
As she has proved in The Mediterranean Kitchen and Kitchen Conversations, Joyce Goldstein knows how to bring great food to the home kitchen. Her research is impeccable, her technique straightforward. Cucina Ebraica, this wonderful way of looking at an Italian cuisine that must answer to so many other influences, is an obvious project of love and devotion. Not to be missed. --Schuyler Ingle
For many Jewish families, the menu for Rosh ha-Shannah dinner, from the chicken soup to the honey cake, is set in stone, and has been for generations.
Nonetheless, you can count on new cookbooks to appear just before Rosh ha-Shannah, the Jewish New Year celebration, which begins this year at sundown on Sunday. The older generation probably needs no help preparing the chopped liver or the chicken soup, but publishers are hoping a younger generation now taking to the stove will want a recipe for hallah or some new menu ideas or, for that matter, the precise requisites for Rosh ha-Shanah or other holidays.
This year, "Cucina Ebraica," by Joyce Goldstein Might inspire a dinner that strays from the tried and true, with its recipes for Italian Jewish dishes. Will there be howls of protest if kreplach, the meat-filled pasta similar to wontons, are replaced with stroncatelli, a kind of handmade pasta, as Ms. Goldstein, a chef and former restaraunteur in San Francisco, suggests? Perhaps. But expect compliments for the chicken roasted with orange, lemon and ginger; the gratin of potatoes and tomatoes with garlic and parsley (better done on top of the stove than in the oven), or the quinces in spiced sugar syrup.