Jul 082011

This blog has long tried to give space to Italian Jewish food so we couldn’t resist quoting this comment by Ruth Abusch-Magder and Marissa Weitzman from the Forward Blog (SY):

‘For Ashkenazi Jews, coming out of Central and Eastern Europe, dairy on Shavuot translated into blintzes and cheesecake. For North African and Middle Eastern Jews, sambusek, pastries filled in this case with cheese, and milk puddings such as muhallabeya. But what of Italian Jews? One of the few communities of Jews that are neither fully Ashkenazi nor Sephardi, the Jews of Italy who call themselves B’nei Romi, developed their own religious and culinary traditions over time. Artichokes, for example, which had been discussed in rabbinic sources since ancient times, came to be strongly associated with the Jews of Italian ghettos, only then spreading to tables of non-Jews. This was a community that believed in secular education in addition to religious education. And far before there was confirmation for girls in the United States or the concept of a bat mitzvah, Italian Jews celebrated religious rites for girls. In a country renowned for food, the culinary traditions of Italian Jews have a long history; they are well developed and sophisticated. Learning from the foodways of the communities in which they lived, Italian Jews embraced ravioli, layered pasta dishes, and braised meats, though they varied the cuisine to follow kosher laws. Despite the upheaval and destruction of the Shoah in Italy, Jewish Italian cuisine has sustained itself and eating it on Shavuot is a revelation of its own. Italian Jewish Shavuot fare need not be heavy or overly sweet, but it is typically dairy-based. The gnocchi described by Edda Servi Machlin in her book, Classic Italian Jewish Cooking: Traditional Recipes and Menus are quite different from the potato dumpling often called to mind by that name. Easy to make, these farina dumplings provide a soft contrast to the flavorful cheesy crust and are delicious served alongside a crisp salad. For dessert, Machlin recommends Tortelli, a light lemon infused cookie whose ricotta filling will fulfill the dairy craving with a well balanced touch of sweetness.’


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