In his book Mangiare alla Giudia, historian Ariel Toaff traces the origin of many traditional Apulian dishes to the presence of Jews and Muslims in the area. As with liturgical poems some of the traditions of the dispersed Apulian Jewish communities were maintained among the Jews of Corfù in Trieste and the Jews of Rome, whose customs preserve one of the most significant links to the Temple Era. Unmistakable combinations of ingredients link Apulian and Roman Jewish cuisine to the history of the Mediterranean.
Friselle are small crunchy hand-made bread pies which can be kept for weeks in a dry container. After quickly immersing them in a mix of water and vinegar, which was a traditional thirst-quencer known throughout the Middle East since Antiquity, they can be seasoned with olive oil, fresh diced tomato, basil, oregano and a pinch of salt.
Concia alla griglia
Eggplants are a staple of Apulian cuisine whose classic recipes mirror those known in the Italian and Mediterranean Jewish tradition. Slice the eggplants, brush them with olive oil and grill them for about 5 minutes on each side. The traditional aromatic wood barbecue, can be replaced with an electric one but not with artificial coal. When the slices have turned soft and light brown arrange them on a serving dish seasoning each layer with a marinade of olive oil, aromatic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, basil, parsley and fresh mint. This recipe is also made with fried eggplants.
Cut the eggplants in two parts on the vertical side. Remove part of the pulp and dip them for a couple of minutes in boiling water. Dry and brush them with lightly salted olive oil. Fill each part with one of the pastes described below, spread with olive oil and bread crumb. Bake at very low temperature until the outside skin takes a parchment look and the top turns gold.
Chop finely the eggplants pulp with: (A) garlic, hard boiled egg, olives, capers, tomatoes, dried ricotta and parsley; (B) garlic, black olives, pecorino, capers and mint; (C) garlic, tomatoes, black olives, capers and anchovies.
Ciceri e tria
Boil the chick peas in lightly salted water and leave enough broth for a soup. Sauté the onions until gold and add green, red or black pepper and a pinch of cumin. Add more water (1 1/2 parts of the soup) and boil freshly made egg tagliatelle until cooked. Some broth should remain. Decorate with fresh mint.
Clean the fresh anchovies and arrange them in a terracotta pan brushed with olive oil. Make a marinade with olive oil, garlic, ground green pepper, capers, home-made bread crumbs, lemon peel, oregano and mint. Alternate one layer of anchovies and one of marinade. Sprinkle the last layer with bread crumbs and olive oil. Bake until gold. This dish can be also made with mackerel.
Heat olive oil in a pot and add onion, garlic, and chili flakes. Sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add tomato paste and sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, water, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add the whole fish to the pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer. When ready remove the fish to a serving platter. Serve with rice or potatoes and sprinkle with cilantro.
Orecchiette con le rape (Bari)
Sauté half of the broccoli rabe with olive oil and garlic. Add anchovy paste at the end. Boil the orecchiette and the rest of the broccoli in abundant salted water. When ready, drain the orecchiette and pour over the sauce adding olive oil, grated ricotta salata, fresh red pepper and fresh basil.
Clean the fish (mackerel or anchovies). Dip it in white flour and fry it in vegetable oil. Melt saffron in white or red wine vinegar (not aromatic) and imbue enough bread crumb (the soft part of the bread) with it. In a large glass jar alternate a layer of wet bread crumbs and a layer of fried fish. Let it rest for 24 hours. Serve the fish with some of the bread crumbs accompanied by fresh white onion, diced tomatoes, parsley and sprinkle of lemon.
Make a dough with finely chopped raw almonds, flour, sugar, lemon peel and sesame oil. Let it rest for a few hours and make 1/2″ balls. Bake them over a light layer of oil until brown. When ready let them cool down and immerse each in a fondu of dark chocolate or a think syrup of sugar and orange peel and water. Let them dry. Instead of balls you can make small roscas and brush them with sugar syrup and cinnamon before baking.
Make a bread dough with the addition of olive oil and sugar. Roll a thin dough pie and cut out 3″ round discs. Fill them with a paste made of boiled and ground chick peas, ground dark chocolate, cinnamon powder, black pepper, sugar and honey. Fold the discs and pinch them at the edge to close the sweets as if they were ravioli. Brush with egg yoke and bake until gold.