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In the Spotlight

History of Food in Jewish Italy

classes_03Master Chef Giuliano Hazan and his wife Lael are quite a talented pair. Chef Hazan, the son of famous Italian food pioneer Marcella Hazan, is a cookbook writer, teacher and TV personality known for regular guest appearances on the Today Show. His new book (his 4th), Giuliano Hazan's Thirty Minute Pasta (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), offers quick and delicious Italian pasta recipes, most of which can be used as presented, or easily adapted to a kosher kitchen. Visit for more information and recipes.

Chef Hazan travels internationally and has been sharing his expertise at hands-on classes and demonstrations. Each summer Giuliano and Lael have their own Italian cooking school in Villa Giono, a Renaissance villa, outside Verona in Northern Italy. No, unfortunately it is not kosher — but perhaps, if enough of our KosherEye friends are interested, we can encourage Chef Hazan to create a special course for us. (Do let us know!)

Lael Hazan is a respected food historian and lecturer. Her subject specialties include Italian Jewish history, History of Italian Cuisine and Italian fun food facts! Lael has been kind enough to share an informative article about the history of Jewish Italian Food. Fascinating, thought provoking and delicious.

For by Lael Hazan


In 161 BCE the first Jews set foot in Rome as envoys of Judah Maccabee. Their arrival heralded the start of a Jewish presence that would be continuous until today, and except for Israel, the longest of any Jewish presence in the world. The fractured nature of what was to become Italy was beneficial to the Jews. When one city or region expelled them, it wasn’t far to get to another that would want their talents. The wandering Jews were a benefit to their overlords, who needed their money and trading networks.

Jews contributed to the formation of Italy. There are many great Jewish Italian artists, composers, physicians, entrepreneurs and politicians. In 1986, Rita Levi Montalcini was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. But perhaps the most lasting Jewish legacy has been in the foods that have made their way into the general population.

Vesti da turco e mangia da ebreo. Dress like a Turk, eat like a Jew — goes the old saying.

Although Kashrut kept them apart, and most Italian Jewish dishes are the cuisine of poverty, one can find traditional recipes in almost every region in Italy. Just look for the names all’ebraica, alla giudea, alla grega, Rebecchine, Gerusalemme; the names indicate that they are the foods of the Jews. Jewish influence in Italian cooking was present even in ancient Rome; the Garum Catimoniale was a fish sauce made only from fish with scales.

Forty years ago, one could hardly see eggplant and fennel on the Florentine market. They were considered vile foods of the Jews. The latter offering evidence here, as in more important issues, of having better than Christians, a flair for discovering good things.

Pellegino Artusi, the foremost food writer of his day, was credited with establishing a national Italian cuisine, in La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene (Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well), 1910, Firenze, Italy.

The Jewish diet was mostly made up of vegetables, differing from much of the general population who didn’t eat chicory, fennel, eggplant or squash until the 20th century. They were the foods of poverty, the foods of the Jews. As the interaction between the Jews and general population improved, knowledge of “Jewish” dishes increased. Now, many dishes made with “Jewish” ingredients are considered the most delicate and traditional in the land. One of the most famous Jewish dishes from Rome is the Carciofi all Giudea, the fried artichoke, that looks like a crispy chrysanthemum. In Rome the Jews were the Friggitori, the street vendors, who sold deep-fried food.

According to food historian Claudia Roden, perhaps the most famous and elegant of all risottos had its humble origins as the food of the Jews. Jews were traders and traveled widely. It is thought that in the course of their trading they brought saffron from Asia Minor into Venice. The Jews of Venice have a dish called Risi Gialli, yellow rice, that is often served on Sabbath. Today, that rice dish is known to the world as Risotto Milanese.

Jewish recipes that made it into the general population were often changed so they no longer followed the kosher restrictions. Risotto Milanese uses meat broth and, often even marrow bone, in its non-kosher variety. However, if one uses a vegetable broth made of savory vegetables it is possible to get the flavor of the historic Jewish dish. I have included the Risotto Milanese of my husband’s family. Enjoy.

A KosherEye addendum: We have had the extraordinary experience of visiting the Jewish Ghetto of Rome and dining in the kosher Taverna Del Ghetto. The most memorable dish, the Carciofi all Giudea, fried artichoke was truly superb. If you go, don’t miss this culinary treat!

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The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts Is Really Cooking!

Part II — Recipes & Videos

The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts

We are delighted to present several recipes and cooking tips provided to KosherEye by the Center for Culinary Arts.

CKCA Parve  Vichyssoise Soup: A delectable soup recipe featuring leek, potatoes, chicken stock, and parve cream.

Beef Bourguignon: A classic mixture of beef, mushrooms, pearl onions, burgundy wine — Julia would be proud of this recipe.

Perfect Challah: The chefs at CKCA weigh all ingredients to achieve perfection.  This recipe is a great example and produces a perfect challah.  It also features a Secretly Simple Streusel Topping.  Do try it!

About the Chefs of the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts:

Chef Mark Hellermann, Senior Culinary Instructor, has been in the food service industry for over 20 years. He has worked as a pastry chef for Balducci’s and as executive chef for Tastings Restaurant in mid-town Manhattan. He has also done catering, worked as a specialty food purveyor and produced his own line of baked goods for the NY City Farmers Market.

Chef Avram Wiseman, Senior Culinary Instructor, is a highly experienced professional chef and culinary educator. When he isn’t catering parties for hundreds or thousands, Chef Avram teaches the professional training program at CKCA’s main campus, as well as an ice carving course, a class on Chinese Dim Sum, and a number of weeklong advanced workshops.

Chef David Ritter joined the team from the culinary school at The Art Institute of New York, where he was a Senior Lead Instructor, and had been teaching for over ten years. Before teaching, Chef Ritter served as a restaurant consultant and was the owner/chef of an award-winning restaurant in Queens — The Footbridge Gourmet. In 1995 the restaurant took home the “New York State Beef — It’s What’s For Dinner” award, for Chef Ritter’s signature brisket.

Video Tips by the chefs of the CKCA:

Writing with melted chocolate, Chef Mark Hellermann:

Making traditional gravlox,  Chef Avram Wiseman:

Making classic small sauce Béarnaise, Chef David Ritter:

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We’re on a Roll!

The Tootsie is truly an American institution. This edible icon, the rounded piece of chewy, chocolaty candy still looks and tastes like the very first Tootsie Roll® made over 113 years ago! It was the first “penny” candy to be individually wrapped in paper. And, even more astonishing, is that even after more than a century, this little candy roll, the tootsie remains a “penny” candy!

Looking back at the Tootsie legend:

When Leo Hirschfield hand-rolled the first Tootsie Roll® in 1896, he could not have dreamed that a great confectionery complex was being set in motion.  A young immigrant, newly arrived from Austria, Hirschfield set up a small shop in New York to make candy from a recipe he'd brought from Europe.  He named the candy after his daughter, Clara, whose nickname was Tootsie.” Tootsie Rolls® were an immediate hit with children in New York neighborhoods, and soon became a household name. Its growing popularity continued and in 1922 Tootsie merged with another company and became listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

During World War II, Tootsie Roll® was one of the few candies that remained in production, because of its "keeping" or long-lasting qualities. Tootsie Roll® went to war in the G.I. rations, valued and used widely by the United States troops for quick energy.

Headquartered in Chicago, Tootsie Roll Industries, its name since 1966, is one of the country's largest candy companies, with operations in the U.S, Mexico and Canada. America (and the world) have quite a sweet tooth, and Tootsie understands this. The company now produces over sixty four million Tootsie Rolls® per day, and has introduced companion products in various sizes, shapes and flavors.

Looking forward at the possibilities:

In April of 1978, Ellen Rubin Gordon was elected President of Tootsie Roll Industries.  At the time, she was only the second woman to be chosen president of a New York Stock Exchange listed company. (Wow!)  And she has been quite successful at that, since Ms. Gordon is still President!

KosherEye was delighted to have an opportunity to interview this pioneering executive and savvy businesswoman!

We asked Ms. Gordon for the reasons the company made the decision to go kosher. She replied, “I am pleased and excited that more people will have the opportunity to enjoy the Tootsie products. Tootsie’s sister products Andes Mints and Cella’s Cherries have been kosher certified for a long time. So this decision was arrived at naturally.” In fact, Ms. Gordon explained, “There were no ingredient changes to make Tootsie Rolls kosher; the primary change is that production is now supervised by the OU.”

And from the OU:

“We are very pleased to have Tootsie Roll® join with other leading confectionery producers who have attained OU certification in recent years. It was also gratifying for OU to guide Tootsie Roll through the certification process and bring these famous candies to the growing kosher market place,” said Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, OU Kosher’s Vice President of Communications and Marketing.

Chew on this:

Yes, Yes, Yes, even without the OU certification mark on the package — and according to the OU, go ahead and enjoy the following Tootsie Industries’ products. The OU mark will appear on new packaging in 2010.  By the way, Tootsie Rolls are dairy.

Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Fruit Rolls, Frooties and DOTS


And last “licks” from our interview:

Coming soon: Tootsie Roll Industries is going to “pop" another big kosher surprise!

Just one more thing:

Tootsie Roll Industries’ products currently certified and labeled kosher by the OK (dairy) include Cella’s dark chocolate covered cherries, Cella’s milk chocolate covered cherries and Andes Candies.

KosherEye  hopes to post a list of all Tootsie Roll Industries’ kosher certified products in 2010! Contact KosherEye to tell us how you enjoy this new chew!

For more information visit Tootsie online, OU Kosher, OK Kosher Certification.

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The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts Is Really Cooking!

Center for Kosher Culinary Arts

The Center for Kosher Culinary Arts (CKCA) is located in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. The school was founded by Baruch and Elka Pinson, owners of the very successful family owned cooking supply company Happy Home Housewares.  As their business grew, the Pinsons recognized a need for instructional cooking classes and expanded by adding an in-house cooking school.

It all began seven years ago with recreational cooking classes, for hands-on cooking and baking enthusiasts. The diverse curriculum attracted interested “foodies” and kitchen hobbyists of all ages and experience levels. The classes grew in popularity and now are often waitlisted. They are primarily taught by specialty guest chefs on subjects such as sushi making, chocolate crafting, fruit and vegetable carving and edible bouquets.

In 2007, because of an ongoing stream of inquiries, the CKCA started the first and only professional kosher cooking school in the United States, offering career level training programs in both Culinary & Pastry Arts. Most attendees are kosher “keepers” and, for the first time, have the opportunity to prepare and actually taste their creations. The school’s motto is, “We cook and bake, then eat what we make.”

Jesse Blonder, a trained chef himself, is the visionary director of the school and has brought in a staff of expert chef instructors with advanced culinary credentials. The professional program is scheduled year round and completion of the program includes 150 hours of study – which can usually be achieved in 2-3 months. Class times are flexible and are offered both day and night. The chef instructors are highly trained, experienced food experts and are equipped with various culinary credentials.

Classes have included diverse offerings, such as Knife Skills, Culinary Techniques, and instruction on ethnic cuisines, which include Provincial and Classical French, Asian, Rustic Italian and Greek.  Appearances by international food celebrities and demonstrations by popular cookbook authors have also been added to the curriculum.

Over the past two years, approximately 120 individuals from numerous states and abroad have completed CKCA professional courses.  In addition to students from the Northeast, recent enrollees came from Arizona, Florida, Colorado, Michigan, California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut,Texas and from countries as far as Israel, England and Mexico.

So where do the graduates go?

The school has placed all who have desired internships, and assisted many in finding professional positions. Several grads are opening their own food-related businesses, and many have found commercial success working as personal chefs and caterers. Some internships and placements include popular restaurants, such as Prime Grill, Solo, 92nd Street Y, Tribeca Cafe, Mike's Bistro, Abigael’s and more.

Grad Jordana H. operates her own business, “The Blue Ladle”.  She is a personal chef in Cedarhurst, NY  and has a client base in both Manhattan and Long Island, NY. According to Jordana, “I deliver twice a week to homes and cook for special events in people's homes. A lot of people think that to work in the culinary world you have to be in a restaurant, but I wanted to either work in my home cooking for others, or work as a  personal chef in other people's homes.”

Grad Alex Y.  had been successfully running a fine jewelry store for sixteen years, when his family leased property to open a dairy kosher restaurant in Queens, NY. He was drafted to manage it because of his business experience, but he didn’t know how to cook. “I needed to learn everything, from how to boil water to more complicated dishes, as well as organizational things like planning a menu. It’s supposed to be a small family business, but now they refer to me as the head chef,” he said.

The CKCA chefs and students also reach out to the community by holding on-site demonstrations, private cooking classes, small-catered affairs, and serving as personal chefs. Recently the school donated its time to help prepare food for the opening of a nearby food kitchen.

KosherEye is delighted to feature the CKCA. Tomorrow we will be sharing some of the school’s tips and recipes with our KosherEye friends.

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Renee Chernin of Jerusalem, Israel, formerly of Atlanta, is a multi-talented friend of ours!  She is an accomplished cook, foodie and writer. In conjunction with her work on an ongoing cookbook project, she shares ideas on her website, and contributes a monthly cooking column for

Renee told us, “My days living in the Old City of Jerusalem are incredibly full. We are happy to host many American guests for Shabbat in our home, almost every week, giving me great opportunities to try out and refine my recipes.

The best tip I can give about Hanukah is that women should plan ahead, so they can enjoy the holiday. Hanukah is a special time for women. The Greeks forbade its observance and it was restored with the Maccabee victory—a victory that was due in great part to the heroine of the Hanukah story, Yehudis. In honor of our history of dignity and heroism, many Jewish women, the world over, have the custom to sit and enjoy the candles for at least a half hour after lighting the menorah. This can be a challenge since this comes at a time when we usually have to be “on.” 

That’s why planning is crucial. Plan dinners that can be prepared well ahead and warmed, while we relax and enjoy the festive evenings. I identify on many recipes that, with a bit of pre-planning, will help you enjoy cozy Hanukah nights with friends and family. This is a time for hearty, but simple, one course meals. Entrees of Brisket, Beef Bourguignon and Garden Vegetable Chili all taste better when they are made a day or two ahead and the flavors have time to meld. The chicken recipes can be made ahead, partially, and timed to come out of the oven when you want to eat. These need only one side dish and/or a salad to make a complete meal. Latkes, Dixie Corn Dollars and Fritters can be made ahead and frozen. Keep dessert simple. End a dairy meal with store bought doughnuts and your favorite ice cream; and after any meal, who can resist an edible Cupcake Menorah centerpiece.”

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