Hello friends! Today I’ve got some fried artichoke hearts for you, a sneak peek into my next cookbook (!!) on Rome’s Jewish cuisine, and my latest The Four Questions interview - this time with cookbook author and TV nutrition goddess, Ellie Krieger.
But before all that, a quick look at The Jewish Table over the last month. Welcome to the MANY of you who subscribed recently. Hi, hi, hi - it’s so great to have you here! Those of you who aren’t subscribed to the weekly newsletter yet, here’s what’s been happening:
Tahini Hot Fudge Sundaes (yum). Plus some much needed climate wisdom from Pirkei Avot, James Baldwin, and Rebecca Solnit.
Hungarian-Inspired Summer Noodles that celebrate summer’s most underrated vegetable: the glorious turnip.
Peach and Plum Kuchen Toast to shake up your summer rotation of tomato toast and avocado toast. It’s so easy and so dang good.
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ROME / ROMA!
I am deep into the recipe testing process for my next cookbook, which will be a love letter to Rome, and specifically the city’s historic and delicious Jewish cuisine. Jews have lived in Rome for 2,000 years and faced plenty of discrimination along the way, including more than three centuries (from 1555-1871!) locked in a cramped, impoverished, flood-prone ghetto. Despite the hardships, they survived, thrived, and developed a strong, singular culture and beguiling food traditions.
Today, Rome’s Jewish community includes the descendants ancient Roman Jews who arrived in the 2nd century BCE, Sephardi Jews who immigrated in the wake of the Spanish Inquisition, and Libyan Jews who came in the late 1960s. Despite being only 13-15,000 strong, depending on your source, the community has played an outsized role in Roman history, and contributed many recipes - like suppli (mozzarella-stuffed rice balls), fiori di zucca fritti (fried zucchini blossoms), and cassola (ricotta cheesecake) - to Rome’s larger repertoire of iconic dishes.
I fell fast and hard for the Rome’s Jewish community more than a decade ago. Walking down Portico d’Ottavia, the main drag in the Roman Jewish ghetto, I could literally feel my brain and heart expanding as I took in this ancient Jewish community that was 1. so vibrant and warm 2. entirely new to me and 3. completely distinct from any understanding of Jewish community I thought I understood previously.
I am so excited to get back there again this September (fingers crossed, ptu ptu ptu), with my cookbook researcher hat on, and the book’s amazing photographer, Kristin, with me, to capture some of the stories and dishes in person. And then, with a little luck, share them with you in cookbook form.
Until then, I offer you artichokes. Deep fried whole artichokes (carciofi alla Giudia) are Rome’s best-known Jewish dish. The crackly-leaved, tender hearted blossoms can be found at restaurants (and in homes) inside and beyond the ghetto neighborhood. And my word, they are delicious. Despite being fried *twice* (once to cook them through, and then a second time to crisp them up), they manage to be decadent but not heavy and utterly addictive.
My cookbook will spill a LOT of ink about fried artichokes in their traditional form. But today, I’m sharing a simple riff on the classic - breaded and fried artichoke hearts from my cookbook Little Book of Jewish Appetizers. As I mentioned last week, in deep summer I pretty much only want to eat raw cucumbers swiped in hummus, drippy watermelon triangles, and stone fruit sliced on toast. But as far as fried foods go, these briny little bites aren’t onerous to make, don’t use a ton of oil, and are remarkably light. They also hold for a little bit so you don’t have to eat them *immediately, right away, why haven’t you eaten them yet!?* like other fried foods.
Here’s what I suggest: Invite some friends over for a (hopefully) breezy dinner on your porch, in your backyard, or on the stoop. Fry up some artichoke hearts and set them out with a bowl of marinated olives, some cheese and bread, a couple of sliced peaches or a bowl of blueberries, and your favorite summer spritz. With August around the corner, there is no time to waste living your best #hotartichokesummer.
Fried Artichoke Hearts
These fritters need nothing more than a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. But you can also mix together a dipping sauce of mayo + honey + harissa or sriracha.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten
2 cups unseasoned Panko breadcrumbs
2 14-oz cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained and dried with paper towels
Vegetable oil for frying
Lemon wedges, for serving
Line a large plate with a couple of layers of paper towels. Put the flour in a wide, shallow bowl, the eggs in a second bowl, and the bread crumbs in a third bowl. Dredge the artichoke hearts in the flour, shaking off excess. Dip in the egg, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Place on a separate plate while the oil heats.
Fill a large saucepan with 1/2 inch of oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches of 7 or 8, fry the artichokes until crisp and golden brown, turning once with tongs, 6 to 7 minutes per batch. Adjust the heat if the artichokes are browning too quickly, and add more oil, if necessary.
Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the fried artichokes to the paper-towel lined plate and let drain. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately, with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing.
This recipe comes from Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig, photographs by Linda Pugliese (Chronicle Books, 2017).
The Four Questions:
With Cookbook Author, TV Star, and Nutrition Goddess, Ellie Krieger
The biggest joy of adding this interview series to my newsletter has been the chance to chat with people I have long admired. Ellie Krieger is definitely one of those people. I first heard about Ellie over a decade ago from my friend Adeena Sussman (someone I also greatly admire!) who used to help develop recipes for Ellie’s cookbooks.
Adeena gushed about how warm, supportive, and talented Ellie was, and encouraged me to check out her work - which includes seven cookbooks (my favorite is her most recent book, Whole in One), the hit Food Network show “Healthy Appetite,” the Public Television cooking series “Ellie’s Real Good Food,” and a column in the Washington Post, among many other accomplishments. I have been a fan of her approach to health-forward, nutritious, and delicious cooking and eating ever since. It is a joy to welcome Ellie to The Jewish Table!
How would you describe your relationship to Jewish food?
My experience with Jewish food is at the core of my passion for food more broadly. My father’s side of the family came culturally from the New York Jewish food scene. My parents were civil servants in New York City and we were on a tight budget all the time, but it was important to them to have good quality food. A lot of my early memories include going to the fish counter at Zabar’s, and as an Upper West Sider now, I still go. The guy at the deli counter, Michael, always asks about my dad, and I feel this incredible rootedness there. My daughter is the fourth generation in our family to have a relationship with Zabar’s.
I also remember the potato soup, onion rolls, and stuffed cabbage at Ratner’s, my dad showing me how to make egg creams, and this amazing cookbook my aunt Linda gave me called So Eat, My Darling: A Guide to the Yiddish Kitchen. These are my inheritances.
You’ve built your career around healthful, nourishing food. How do you navigate the complicated fact that a decent number of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish foods might not be considered “healthy” by contemporary standards?
Nutritionists have historically leaned towards rejecting “cultural” cuisines as unhealthy. But most of these cuisines have plenty of healthy aspects to them. Jewish cuisine has things like borscht, kasha with fried onions, split pea soup, pickles, and chicken soup, that are naturally nutrient-rich and heart-healthy. There’s a big movement right now where nutritionists and dietitians are moving towards incorporating foods from a variety of cultures, and highlighting the positives without changing everything to quinoa. I have embraced this perspective throughout my career, but have recently been further awakened to it. My mission as a passionate food lover and nutritionist is to say, “How can you enjoy this in a healthier way?”
What dishes from your childhood do you still crave or make today?
Making Hanukkah potato latkes is like a competitive sport between my father and uncle. My dad will fly in from Florida to New York just to make latkes on Hanukkah. He grates the potatoes finely, makes them thin and crispy, and serves them with sour cream or apple sauce. There is no way I would ever make mine different than his.
Have you even eaten an extraordinary Jewish dish when traveling?
My mother’s side of the family is from Austria. On a trip to Vienna, I was at a restaurant that had pickled vegetables and sauerbraten on the menu, and something happened to me while eating them. I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is the food of my people!” It wasn’t a Jewish restaurant, but it could have been - it gave me such a sense of place and connection.