As most of Labna’s readers know, I’ve been quite absent from these pages lately because… well, for a number of personal reasons, to be honest, but especially because I was busy writing my first English-language book, “Cooking alla Giudia”, which will come out at the end of March.
Today, my wonderful publisher, Artisan, has officially announced it (it’s also already available for pre-order online!), so it’s finally time for me to tell you more about the book, reveal the cover, show you a few shots, as well as share a recipe from it that I really enjoy, that of traditional Jewish cholent: I can’t make your mouth water by telling you everything about the book and then leave you without a little taste of it, can I?!
Cooking alla Giudia is my tribute to the wonderfully rich, yet still largely unknown, culinary heritage of the Jews of Italy. From Roman deep-fried artichokes (carciofi alla giudia) to Venetian sarde in saor (sweet-and-sour sardines), Apulian orecchiette pasta, and Sicilian caponata, some of Italy’s best-known dishes are Jewish in origin. But little is known about the Jewish people in Italy and their culinary traditions. It was the Jews, for example, who taught Italians to eat the eggplant, and thus helped inspire the classic eggplant parmigiana and many other local specialties.
With a collection of kosher recipes from all regions of Italy, including plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options, I have tried my best to tell the story of how the Jews changed Italian food, to preserve these recipes, and to share with home cooks the extraordinary dishes prepared in the Jewish communities of Italy.
Highlighted throughout the book are menus with regional Italian specialties, along with short, useful guides to the Italian cities with Jewish history. The book will show how to integrate the recipes into your everyday meals and holiday traditions as well.
The book will really and physically hit the shelves on March 29, but like I said you can already pre-order it on Amazon as well as a variety of other online vendors across the globe, if you want to make sure to get it straight away, hot off the press.
I’m beyond myself with excitement at the very thought of the book entering your homes, and I can’t wait to see what you’ll cook from it – I hope you’ll tag me in the pictures!
Talking of pictures, the shots you see here are the result of the amazing work of an extraordinary team I’ve had the privilege to work with. If you, like me, enjoy scrolling for hours on Instagram looking at appetizing dishes, you need to follow the crew behind the book:
I’m honestly still in awe that they managed to deal with me on set for over a week – I’m pretty sure I was unbearable, I’m so obsessed with details – but they did, and I’m forever grateful.
Now enough talking about the book: let’s cook a dish from it! I decided to share my recipe for cholent, a festive Ashkenazi specialty served on Shabbat and the holidays, as it seems well-fitted for a celebration.
- 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 onion
- 3 potatoes, peeled and halved
- 900 g beef for stew, such as brisket, flanken, or chuck, cut into chunks
- 220 g beans, a mix of cannellini and adzuki
- 110 g barley
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 3.3 liters broth
- 3 eggs, thoroughly washed
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Pour the olive oil into a large Dutch oven and add the chopped onions. Place the potatoes on top of the onions, then layer the beef, beans, and barley on top of the potatoes, in that order. Sprinkle with paprika, cumin, and salt. Add the tomato paste and cover with6 cups (1.5 L) of the broth or water.
- Set the pot over medium heat and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, then add the eggs and push them gently under the broth.
- Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and cook for an hour. Top up the pot with 4 cups (1 L) of broth and continue to cook for 2 hours (you shouldn’t need to add more broth during this time, so just set the timer for 2 hours).
- At the 3-hour mark, add the remaining 4 cups (1 L) liquid. fterapproximately 1 more hour, all the ingredients should be cookedthrough and the broth just partly absorbed. A traditional cholent is leftto cook for as long as 12 hours for religious reasons, but 4 hours is plentyto get a perfectly stewed dish, with fall-apart tender meat.
- Before serving, peel the eggs; you want to give half an egg, as well as half a potato, to every guest at the table. Serve the cholent hot, or let it come to room temperature and set it aside for later.
- This cholent keeps very well in the fridge for a few days, and it can be reheated as many times as needed.