Ribollita con Ceci

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Ribollita with Chickpeas – variation on a Tuscan soup.

I made this soup from memory last night and will try to share it as well as I can. We ate it in Italy three weeks ago and the lady cook wrote out the recipe for me when I praised her about it. The only problem is that I could not find it in my handbag so I had to rely on my memory.

The recipe is for two big appetites if you serve this thick soup as a main course.

In a large pot, sauté a sweet (red) onion in olive oil and add two cloves of garlic. Add 2 cups of cooked canned chickpeas, cover with the same amount of water and simmer for at least ten minutes.

Remove half of the chickpeas and purée what is left in the pot. Once this is done, put back the chickpeas and add two cubed middle-sized tomatoes and two handfuls of frozen or fresh spinach, cover the pot and simmer until the tomatoes seem cooked. I’d say at least 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Add two cups of stale bread and simmer again until the bread has almost “melted” into the soup.

Add some oregano, red pepper flakes and drizzle with olive oil.

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Family Meals

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It is not only the best meal of the week, it is often the only meal at which family members gather, talk, and eat together.

I came across this sentence last night as I was reading a book about Judaism by an American Jew. The author was obviously referring to the Friday Shabbat meal.

It reminded me of a conversation I had had a month earlier with a friend. During the holidays she had met a Belgian executive who had gone to the US on a business visit. He was there for several days and got invited to evening meals by several American colleagues. The thing that surprised him the most was that he shared a family meal in only home: that of an African-American family – who incidentally was also the only one where Grace was recited. I have no idea who the other families were.

In France family meals are an institution and if people cannot always eat lunch together they certainly try to do so for dinner. Those that do not are considered dysfunctional. In addition a lot of people do not have the TV on while eating. It is something I enjoyed as a child and still do now.

Is this totally different where you live or in your family?

Panzanella (Italian Summer Salad)

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Panzanella is a salad of bread and tomatoes which is popular in Tuscany and the rest of central Italy.

2 cups bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (day-old Italian or French bread works best)
2 cups ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/4 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
10 basil leaves
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for topping
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the bread in a large salad bowl, add the tomatoes, and stir to combine. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, as the bread absorbs the juices from the tomatoes and softens.

Slice the basil leaves into thinly. Add the cucumbers, onions, and basil to the bowl, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to mix.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. At the last minute, add in the vinegar and mix again. Drizzle with olive oil.

Optional: for extra flavor, rub the bowl with fresh garlic before you add the other ingredients.

News and an Ethical Question

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I have not totally disappeared from the blogosphere but being on vacation in a place where there is only one wifi spot inside the common room of the little restored village, I have not had the opportunity for much online presence. Besides I am also busy with visiting lots of fantastic places and enjoying the beauties of Italian nature and architecture.

This morning I finished The Sunday Philosophy Club by Aleaxander McCall Smith – the author of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series. It is a fine holiday read where the main character has a keen interest in ethics. Here is a passage which caught my attention. Two characters are discussing whether one of them should help and get involved after witnessing a crime and they get into a debate about involvement and moral duty in general.

“We can’t have moral obligations to every person in this world. We have a moral obligation to those we come up against, who enter our moral space, so to speak. That means neighbours, people we deal with, and so on.”

Do you agree?

Early Weekly Review

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On My Blog

Photo Memes:
Paintings with Red for Ruby Tuesday
Seafront Lunch for Summer Stock Sunday
Breton Bakery with Flowers for Ruby Tuesday

Halakhah Quiz

Book Reviews:
The Search for God at Harvard
The Koren Sacks Rosh Hashana Mahzor

Recipe: Thai Fishcakes

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

Batya hosts the latest edition of JPIX

The AV (Love) edition of KCC – the Kosher Cooking Carnival – is up at Adventures in Mamaland

When I was a Lad: Rabbi Josh Yuter writes about turning 34

A Message for Orthodox Jews in the wake of Joel Alperson’s Op-Ed on Tikkun Olam, a post by Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

Menus for the Nine Days:
Nine Days Meals, lots of ideas from Leora
Nine Days Menu Ideas, more suggestions from Laura

Women Who Inspire Us: Maxine Clark, Rivki is starting a series of interviews

Shabbat Shalom!

Thai Fishcakes

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Serves four people:
600g white fish (cod or pollack)
Spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp Thai curry paste
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 egg
2 tbsp matzo meal
Handful chopped fresh coriander or parsley

Sauce:
Sweet chilli sauce
Juice of 1 lime

Blend the fish, spring onions, curry paste, soy sauce, egg, matzo meal and coriander in a food processor, until broken down but not totally smooth.

Using slightly wet hands, shape this mixture evenly into 12 fishcakes. Put into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the sweet chilli sauce and lime juice.

Heat oil. When hot enough gently place cakes in oil. Allow to fry 30 seconds to 1 minute before turning, gently lifting cakes from the bottom of the pan (they may stick a little). Fry until golden-brown and drain on paper towel.

Serve fish cakes immediately with the chopped cucumber and sweet chili sauce drizzled over.