This is a page from an Italian manuscript published in 1490 stating the rules for the celebration of Rosh Hashana, which began the Jewish High Holidays earlier this week.
Quite by chance we were in the Ghetto for dinner the night before at a restaurant which had been recommended in one of the tourist magazines. Ba’Ghetto is one of four or five restaurants on Via portico d’Ottavia and advertises itself as “the best Kosher restaurant in Rome”. And if one goes by food alone it is exceptional, their Concia of zucchini was perfectly spiced, the goulash fork tender and the steak cooked to perfection. I would like to be able to comment on a few other dishes on the menu but it seemed that every second item was unavailable as were certain (cheaper???) wines. And we were told so with a take it or leave it shrug – and that was the major problem: the service. You become use to arrogant waiters here, it is all part of the game in certain restaurants and can be, believe it or not, entertaining. Sadly this young man could not carry off arrogance and was simply rude. At one point he walked away as Laurent was giving him his order. And the entire staff seemed disorganized – even for Rome!
I looked longingly across the street to La Taverna del Ghetto where we had eaten two weeks ago – there the food was excellent, the owner friendly and the staff – well they perform in true Roman tradition. And they had one of my favorite Roman-Jewish starters – Roast Half Tomatoes.
There is a very strong Jewish tradition in Roman cooking and many of the dishes that are consider local have their roots in the Ghetto kitchens – Carciofo (Artichokes) alla guidia, Tortino di aliciotti e indivia (anchovy and endive pie), many of the salt cod recipes and traditional dolci such as Prune and Pistachio torte.
And of course those tomatoes – strange how I love food that seem to have the plural case ending “toes” – I mean don’t get me started on potatoes!
Here’s the recipe for those roast tomatoes – that can be used as a side dish or even as a dressing for pasta with a little bit of the cooking oil.
Roast Half Tomatoes
9 ripe medium tomatoes or 6 large ones
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic or to taste
Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper
Wash the tomatoes and slice them in half across the width. If there are a large amount of seeds, remove at least part of them.
Preheat the oven to 325f – 170c
- Use a flameproof baking dish large enough to hold all the tomato halves in a single layer – they can be crowded tightly as they will shrink in cooking.
- Arrange the tomato halves cut side up and sprinkle them with the parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Pour in the olive oil until it comes 1/4 inch up the side of the pan.
- Cook on top of the stove over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes until they are tender.
- When the pulp is soft, baste with a little of the oil and transfer the dish to the next to highest rack in the oven. From time to time baste with the cooking oil.
- Cook for about 1 hour until the tomatoes have shrunk to about half their original size – don’t worry about some blackening they aren’t burnt.
- Transfer them with a slotted spoon to a serving dish, leaving all the oil behind.
They can be served hot or at room temperature.
They can also be prepared several days ahead but since they are to be reheated they should be refrigerated with some or all of the cooking oil covered very tightly with plastic wrap. To reheat, return to a 325f-170c oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
PS: In answer to CP’s comment – if they are drained properly there should be a good deal of oil left but I’m not sure how good it is for other uses but I do use it when the recipe is for pasta and it should be used to moisten the pasta when it serves as a saucing.
20 settembre – Sant’Andrea Kim Taegon e i Santi martiri corean
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- Rosh Hashana, Circa 1919 (nytimes.com)