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Venetian Hours

By Monday, February 1, 2016 Permalink

Lost in Venice

by Jonell Galloway

I was looking for a new home. Home used to be Kentucky, with its hot hot sun, heady smell of horse sweat, and burly bouquet of drying tobacco; then it was France where I wolfed down tons of good food and fine wine, and Switzerland, with its snow-capped mountains, always there, hugging me and making me feel secure like a mother’s embrace.

After my mother died last year, I no longer knew where to call home. Home became an abstraction, because without Mama’s heart beating in Kentucky, it no longer fit the description. Even with the horse sweat and Burley tobacco.

Kentucky tobacco drying barn, near Hardinsburg, Kentucky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used to say I’d call my imaginary memoir From Biscuits to Baguettes, so much did I feel like France was my second home, even though the first time I set foot in Venice over 30 years ago, I felt I’d come home. How that could be I still don’t know, since I don’t have an ounce of Italian or Venetian blood in my veins. I’ve visited it many times for both short and long periods, and every time, I’ve felt the same, so after my mother’s death, it was a natural enough decision to spend six months here and try it out.

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Book Review: The Portable Feast

By Tuesday, April 26, 2016 Permalink

Book Review: The Portable Feast, by Jeanne Kelley

by Jonell Galloway

The Portable Feast: Creative Meals for Work and Play is the first cookbook I’ve read by Jeanne Kelley and I’m already a fan. It’s rare to find a cookbook that is both doable and in pace with the times. We all buy more pre-prepared food than we’d ideally like to. It is undoubtedly less healthy and more expensive, but in a fast-moving, do-too-much society it suits our needs. Carryout food also produces an inordinate amount of waste in terms of packaging. These recipes encourage wholesome eating for people on the go, dishes we can make ahead and take to work or school, on an airplane or a picnic, without producing waste, because Kelley also explains how we can equip our kitchens with reusable containers and gives us the names of manufacturers, making it all easy. The recipes are easy to follow and when she lists ingredients that might not be available all over the country, she takes care to suggest substitutes. This is the perfect gift for millennials or for anybody who is health-conscious, a bit taste-adventurous, and on the move. No more need to buy carryout, nor to feel guilty about not cooking. You’ll tantalize your taste buds, be healthier, and pollute less.

The Portable Feast: Creative Meals for Work and Play, cookbook by Jeanne Kelley, published by Rizzoli, April 12, 2016.

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Unleavened Bread for Passover

By Wednesday, April 13, 2016 Permalink

Unleavened Bread for Passover

by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, translated from the French by Jonell Galloway

Ahava is sitting in the middle of the courtyard, a large terra cotta dish in front of her. She is displaying her riches: freshly ground flour in an earthenware jar with a handle and an amphora containing spring water, a bowl half-full to dip her hands into: the simplest of accoutrements. Across from her, Malka, a child with a sharp, somewhat pinched nose, gossamer skin, and long fingers that turn inwards; Ahava is teaching her 10-year-old granddaughter the art of bread making. Unleavened bread, flat bread, bread for survival. Malka is now of the age to learn to make matzo to be shared at this evening’s Passover seder, the ritual meal marking the start of Pesach. The movements, the setting, are timeless. “An encounter, a meeting,” explains Ahava. “Pesach starts with the union of flour and spring water in an earthenware bowl.” The jar is deep. She has to dig down into its very depths to get the flour. She plunges her hand in, then her forearm, then, slowly, her whole arm, as if she had to give her whole self to it, finally drawing her arm out of its depths and back into the daylight. Her hand, cupped to hold the immaculate white powder, now opens. Though her fingers are closed together, flour disperses into the air like rain caught by a gush of wind, scattering, causing a flood of silence. “On its journey from grain to powdery substance,” says Ahava, her hand still taut and cupped, but open, “the flour has never encountered water.” “It’s never touched water?” Malka says with surprise in her voice. “Never,” replies Ahava.

Translated from Ayzme, by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, published by Actes Sud, 2016.

 

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Venetian Hours: 500th Anniversary of Venice Ghetto

By Thursday, March 31, 2016 Permalink

Venetian Hours: 500th Anniversary of Venice Ghetto

by Jonell Galloway

Growing up in rural Kentucky, there were no Jews or Muslims. I wasn’t taught to distinguish between Gentiles, Jews and Arabs, and had no preconceived ideas about any of them. The only thing I knew about Jews was what I learned at my rather liberal Sunday School, where Jews were presented in a good light, since Jesus had been one, after all, and the Old Testament was part of our Bible.

Italian synagogue jewish ghetto venice Italy

It’s not surprising that, quite unconsciously, I have friends of all persuasions and felt at ease going to the opening commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Jewish Ghetto – the first one in the world, the term which came to be used around the world to describe a segregated enclave – at La Fenice opera house last night. Five hundred years ago, on March 29, 1516, the Venetian government decided to confine the approximately 700 Jews then living in Venice to a 10-acre area, on the site of a copper foundry. In fact, the word “ghetto” means “cast” in Italian and refers to this fact.

campo gheto novo ghetto nuovo Jewish ghetto venice italy italia

Although they were allowed to go into the city to work during the day, they were to sleep, eat and live in this small, enclosed space and return by sundown, when the gates to the ghetto were locked. The truth is Venice might well have had difficulty functioning at all if they had locked in Jewish doctors, lawyers, printers, cloth and spice merchants, bankers, musicians and dancing masters entirely. During this period, they were forced to wear yellow and red badges (colors associated with shame) to signify that they were Jews; the Nazis didn’t invent this concept.

street sign gheto novo ghetto nuovo Venice Jewish ghetto Italy campo dei ghetto italia

The evening was full of guest speakers of every Jewish persuasion, but my favorite was Simon Schama, a brilliant, dynamic British scholar, who has written extensively about the history of the Jews. It was not a celebration, but a commemoration of what the Jews have suffered and the resilience they have drawn from it and of the abundance of works of art and scholarship that arose out of it despite all the hardship. This word stuck in my mind: resilience. My Jewish friends and husband are the most resilient people I know; perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to them, apart from their incredible intellect, appreciation of the arts, precision, and natural curiosity.

badge hat clothing jews venice ghetto italy italia

The ceremony was followed by the La Fenice Orchestra’s wonderful rendition of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, perhaps his work most influenced by traditional Jewish musical themes. I cried many tears, especially during the moving speech by Renzo Gattegna, President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, with his profound understanding and ability to speak of what it is to remain human, empathic and just under even the most humiliating conditions. At the same time, I drew great joy from this evening, knowing that I have the blessing of loving and being loved by so many Jews.

Interesting reading:

Timeline and history

History

Simon Schama and “The Story of the Jews”

The Jews in sixteenth-century England

East Meets West in Venice

 

 

 

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Venetian Hours: How Not to Visit Venice

By Tuesday, March 29, 2016 Permalink

Venetian Hours: How Not to Visit Venice

by Jonell Galloway

There are many ways to visit Venice, but if you want a real Venetian experience without disappointments, here are some tips.

  1. Don’t stay near Rialto or San Marco. There’s nothing at all wrong with the neighborhoods, but they are more expensive and more touristy.
  2. Don’t eat in restaurants with colored photos of all the dishes on a plastic sign outside. They tend to be touristy and unauthentic.Santi Maria e Donato basilica/church, Murano, Venice, Italy, travel
  3. Don’t take the vaporetto everywhere. The vaporetto is good for seeing the palaces on the Grand Canal on a sunny day or at night when they’re lighted, but walking lets you fall by chance on hidden palaces, churches, bridges, canals and cafés. These are the great joys of Venice.
    vaporetto water bus rialto bridge venice
  4. Don’t take Alilaguna if you’re coming from the airport. You can’t see a thing through the windows, and the trip takes about twice as long as the No. 5 airport express bus to Piazzale Roma (20′), which leaves from directly in front of the main airport exit.
  5. Don’t walk the streets looking for a restaurant. Choose restaurants in advance instead of walking in spontaneously when you’re hungry. Venice has its full share of tourist traps, especially around San Marco and the Rialto. Note: there are good restaurants in these neighborhoods, but do your research and reserve ahead of time and you’ll have a happier experience.View from Campo San Vio, looking down Grand Canal into San Marco Basin or Bacino, at Santa Maria della Salute church and Punta della Dogana art museum
  6. Don’t go to just any shop or restaurant. Try to frequent places run by Venetians and Italians. This is not racist or chauvinistic; it simply means you’re more likely to have an authentic experience and support the economy in Venice.canal venice san polo
  7. Don’t set out on your day’s sightseeing without studying where the major landmarks in Venice are located. Know where San Marco, Rialto, Accademia, Ferrovia and Piazzale Roma are in terms of north, south, east and west and your day will go much more smoothly. It’s also good to memorize the vicinity of major landmarks and the names of the sestieri or six city districts: Castello, Cannaregio, San Marco, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce and San Polo.sestieri or districts of venice map courtesty of http://www.italyguides.it/en/veneto/venice/interactive-map-of-venice#!/catid=36
  8. Don’t think you can get everywhere like you do in a city with a grid layout. Maps are not always the best way to get around. Let yourself get lost. When you’re really lost, look for the arrows near the street names marked San Marco, Rialto, Accademia, Ferrovia and Piazzale Roma.
  9. Don’t buy tickets each time you get on the vaporetto. Buy a Venezia Unica Citypass for one, two, three or seven days. Yes, it’s expensive, but so are individual tickets at 7.50 Euros a shot.
    Ponte di Chiodo, only bridge without parapet/side rails in Venice Venezia
  10. Don’t go to Venice uninformed. Do your homework before arriving. No matter what, you’ll spend a lot of wonderful hours getting lost, but you’ll make better use of the restricted opening hours.
  11. Don’t sleep in. Museums and churches tend to close early and some even close for lunch.
  12. Don’t rely on your guide books for opening and closing hours. They’re invariably out of date and times tend to change according to the season and the budget. Web sites are not always up-to-date either, but they’re more reliable. City museum opening times can be checked on the MUVE site. Otherwise, look at websites for individual museums.

Interactive map of Venice.

 

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Happy 1,595th Birthday, Venice!

By Friday, March 25, 2016 Permalink

San Marco and Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy

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A French Cook in Venice: Sea Bass and Potatoes

By Wednesday, March 23, 2016 Permalink

Venetian Hours: A French Cook in Venice: Sea Bass and Potatoes

by Jonell Galloway

In France, many a festive occasion is highlighted with sea bass. And since France and Venice are first cousins once removed, it turns out to be rather the same in Venice. A big fat bass is considered a treat.

Both places make sea bass in a salt crust, which is perhaps the cooking method that best preserves the juices, but when you have a nice wild one, which is rare enough these days, it will stand up to roasting.

jonell galloway holding wild sea bass venice italy photo by Alexandra Korey http://www.arttrav.com/

I got inspiration for this recipe from a traditional Venetian recipe called branzino con patate et olive, or sea bass with potatoes and olives, in which they cook the bass on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes. One finds it in the better restaurants, but rarely in the touristy ones, perhaps because it’s time-consuming, although not difficult.

I’m wild about vegetables, so I added the sun-dried tomatoes, which add not only color, but a deeper flavor and more texture, an idea I got from Hosteria Al Vecio Bragosso near San Apostoli in our neighborhood of Cannaregio. The baby Swiss chard is also my addition.

bietola baby swiss chard venice, italy, French cook in Venice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I add olives, sometimes not. Other times, I add capers, and other times both. This partially depends on whether the bass is wild or farmed. The farmed ones lack full flavor and these additions add some life as well as contrast to the dish. Onions can also add spark, especially to a farm-raised bass.

As always, my French touch means that I add a bit more wine than the Venetians. I do like my sauce. After all, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?

 

Wild Sea Bass, Venetian Hours, The Rambling Epicure, French cook in Venice

Recipe

Serves 4

Whole sea bass, wild if possible, cleaned and scaled, about 3 lbs. or 1.5 kg
4 large potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled

10 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped finely
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Parsley, chopped coarsely
2-3 cups white wine
4-5 branches of fresh rosemary
Olive oil
One bunch of young Swiss chard or 
bietola
Salted capers
Black olives (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heavy metal roasting pan

Click here for a conversion chart.

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F / 220°C.
  2. Thinly slice the potatoes.
  3. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into the roasting pan. A broiler pan or heavy roasting pan is perfect.
  4. Place the potatoes and sun-dried tomatoes in the pan, in a single layer, turning them to evenly coat them in the olive oil.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Place in oven, turning every 5 minutes and adding oil if they start drying out. Cook until the potatoes start to feel soft, but firm, when pricked with a knife or 15-20 minutes.
  7. Remove the vegetables from the oven. Turn carefully in the pan juices.
  8. Evenly distribute the onions, parsley and branches of rosemary, setting one branch aside.
  9. Place the sea bass on the bed of potatoes. Insert one branch of rosemary in the cavity.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add one cup of white wine to the bottom of the pan.
  12. Place in the oven and lower the temperature to 400°F / 200°C, adding more white wine every time it evaporates and turning the potatoes each time. This prevents the potatoes from sticking and rehumidifies the sun-dried tomatoes.
  13. After 15-20 minutes, use a metal spatula and check whether the top of the fish is cooked by carefully trying to lift it off the bone. It is important to use a metal spatula because it “cuts through” the fish; a rubber one is thicker and might mangle the flesh. If it can barely be lifted away from the bone, the top is nearly cooked, so remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn it. You may need two heavy-duty spatulas or utensils to do so because of the weight.
  14. Return it to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, checking it in the same manner using a metal spatula to see if it is cooked, and adding white wine as necessary.
  15. When the fish is fully cooked — just enough to lift it off the bone — lay the leaves of chard over the fish and vegetables and return to the oven for 1 minute, just enough to wilt it.
  16. Remove the baking pan from the oven and turn the chard in the rendered juices. Filet the fish; it will usually be possible to simply lift it off with a metal spatula.
  17. Serve immediately.
  18. Serve salted capers as a garnish.
  19. Serve any white wine left in the pan as sauce.

Tip: If you hesitate about adding this much white wine, you can substitute half of it with freshly squeezed orange juice. The exact cooking time of the sea bass varies depending on the thickness of the fish, thus the importance of using the spatula technique. There is no need to add lemon when serving, since the white wine gives an acidic edge. You can also use turbot for this dish; follow the same steps, but because it is not as thick as bass, the cooking time will be less.

 

 

 

 

 

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Venetian Hours: Rosalba Carriera’s Venice

By Tuesday, March 15, 2016 Permalink

Venetian Hours: Venice in Blue, by Rosalba Carriera

by Jonell Galloway

Rosalba Zuanna Carriera was born into a modest Venetian family in 1675, but her world was not devoid of images, since her paternal grandfather was a painter and her mother a lacemaker. Her father was steward of the Procurator Bon, equivalent to a clerk.

Forever conscious of the family’s lack of means and therefore of dowry, her mother is said to have ensured that her three daughters learned Italian, French and Latin, as well as lacemaking, hoping to marry them into good families.

pastel portrait of woman in pale blue by rosalba carriera rococco portrait painter venice venetian hours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A French Cook in Venice: Fegato alla Veneziana

By Sunday, March 6, 2016 Permalink

Franco-Venetian Cuisine

What to Eat in Venice: Fegato alla Veneziana, or Venetian-style Calf’s Liver with Caramelized Onions

by Jonell Galloway

Many say this is the ultimate Venetian specialty, but considering that Venetians eat mainly fish, one could easily argue that point. A good fegato can be the highlight of a day or weekend, however.

Everyone loves caramelized onions, but some people dislike even the idea of eating liver. Calf’s liver is finer than beef or chicken, and when it’s topped with sweet onions, it is indeed a highly refined dish.

You’ll see the influence of my background in French cuisine; I went a bit heavy on the white wine when deglazing the pan, but it renders a succulent sauce.

One of the crucial elements to the success of this dish is that the liver be of exceptional quality and thinly sliced. Thick slabs simply don’t work and take away from the refined aspect of this dish.

Another secret is to slow cook the onions and to just seize the liver, no more. If you cook it more and on slow heat, it will become leathery.

Recipe

Ingredients

400 g onions
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
400 g calf’s liver cut in extra-thin slices
1-2 cups white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian parsley, chopped
Skillet large enough to spread liver in a single layer
White polenta

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Venetian Hours: Looking for a Nonna

By Thursday, March 3, 2016 Permalink

Venetian Hours: Lost in Italy and Looking for a Nonna

by Jonell Galloway

If you live in Italy, you just have to have a nonna. Having just lost my “adopted” Italian grandmother, Nonna Margherita, in Switzerland, the time was right, and it happened in the most unlikely place: Bellaria-Igea, a seaside town in Romagna, known as the Italian region of land-and-sea because of its plentiful bounty of both fish and meat. As a result, the cuisine is varied and copious, playing on unending themes of the two. The hillsides beyond the shores are verdant and rolling, producing excellent wine, meat and cheese, while traditionally, the inhabitants by the seaside are fishermen.

Fishing net of a batana fishing boat in Adriatic Sea, Igea-Bellaria Marina, Nonna Violante, #lovingromagna

Originally, Bellaria-Igea was a village of solely fishermen and their families. Their wives supplemented the family income by renting out rooms in their seaside cottages. While the men were fishing, the wives tended to the guests by cooking, cleaning and generally making them feel at home.  Over the years, they added extra rooms and their homes became locande, or “inns,” and eventually pensioni, or “small hotels,” and this became a seaside resort. This is the story of the family of my new nonna, Nonna Violante.

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Venetian Hours: French Venice

By Thursday, February 25, 2016 Permalink

Venetian Hours: Franco-Venice and French Cuisine

French Food in Venice

The Venetians might have ruled much of the refined sugar trade in Europe, but by the eighteenth century, they were importing French pastry techniques. “Count Cavour, the first prime minister of a united Italy,” sent his personal chef to be trained in France, while the Italian royal family was eating macaroni à la Parisienne.

Today, the French influence is best seen at the Tonolo pasticceria in the San Polo neighborhood, which won a gold medal in Paris for its sweet focaccia in 1909 and has some of the best coffee in Venice. To say this is a Venetian establishment would be grossly understating it. And it wasn’t the Paris-Brest that hooked me on Tonolo so many years ago: it was the quality of absolutely everything they make, from their coffee to their Venetian pastries to their cream-filled pastries. It was the extreme care taken with the presentation and visual aspects — something many Venetian pastry chefs lack, despite the good taste. After living in France for so long, I immediately felt right at home in Tonolo, so familiar, reminding of my youth when I discovered mille-feuilles and éclairs and tried new pastries every day.

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