Jewish cuisine has many facets and, as you know, my business is telling you all about them. We have looked extensively into Israeli and Sephardi Jewish cuisine because they are shamelessly my favorite when it comes to preparing my dinner, but we have neglected Jewish Italian cuisine lately, and in particular, I should have probably told you more about Jewish Roman cuisine, which is both culturally interesting and, obviously, delicious. (The fact is, I’m writing a book on this topic, so I’m supposed to save my recipes for the upcoming book, but that’s a story for another day.)
Today, I will try to fill this gap with a traditional recipe from the Ghetto of Rome, anchovies baked with escarole. It is a very humble dish, simple to prepare yet, needless to say, extremely tasty, which you can serve both as an appetizer and as a main course.
This classic baked dish of the Jewish Roman tradition has a rather fascinating origin. When the Jews were confined in the Ghetto in Rome, from 1555 to 1888, they had to live by the Papal laws, some of which were pretty tyrannical at best. An example is found in the sumptuary regulations that the Pope forced the Jewish community to issue in 1661. The Pope had established that the only fish allowed for consumption for the Jews of the Ghetto was the humble, small blu fish, in particular sardines and anchovies. Jews were not allowed larger, nicer seafood, even in the unlikely event they could afford it, which was hard enough either way. Confronted with such a tiny array of options, the Jewish women of the Ghetto made the most of the ingredients they had… and invented the delicious dish I will teach you today, aliciotti con l’indivia, a pie made of anchovies layered with white escarole, baked in oil and pepper.
Anchovies baked with escarole
- 1 kg fresh, large anchovies, ideally already cleaned and de-boned, cut butterfly open
- 1 kg escarole or curly endive
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Wash the salad carefully, removing the core and the outer leaves, then roughly chop it with a knife and divide it in two.1 kg escarole or curly endive
- Grease a round pan (ideally a pan that can also be used on the stovetop) with a little oil, and form a first layer with half of the salad. Season it with salt and pepper.salt and pepper, extra virgin olive oil
- Sautée the salad either on the stovetop or in the oven; when it will appear slightly withered, place the butterflied anchovies over the salad, to cover it completely.1 kg fresh, large anchovies, ideally already cleaned and de-boned, cut butterfly open
- At this point, place a final layer of salad on top of the anchovies, season with oil, salt, and pepper, and bake in a hot oven at 365°F until golden brown.