Of course the first thing was to figure out how to pronounce the name of the dish. Here’s my best try:
Then there was making it sound as if it were something to eat and not me yelling to get TONY to come in for dinner or take out the garbage. Hmph. A tiny of furrow of the brows and then a barely-there right shoulder only shrug as I said this luscious word…. and I nearly sounded Italian. Well, to me, anyway.
above: table set for the dinner that began with the appetizer, polpettone
The second problem was making the darned thing. I have nothing except patience and time when it comes to attempting a new cooking feat…but there’d best be no husbands wanting a meal anytime soon or any dogs jonesing for a walk either.
below: Tucker, left and Rosie (aka Miss Bo-Bo) right at our front door
My time is in the morning when lunch appears a mere glimmer on the horizon and dinner is someday, if ever. The kitchen is clean…not clean as a whistle…but clean. The dishwasher is empty. Decks cleared. Mind fresh. You get the picture. A clean slate, so to say.
It all began with a goal to find an Israeli dish to make and feature here as we’re recently home from a long trip to Italy, Greece, and Israel and while Italy was sort of a piece of cake for me, Israel took a bit of thought. Enter a vague memory of beautiful book out 6 or 7 years ago by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (ok, had to learn how to spell those, too)…. aptly called JERUSALEM.
Said book was on my shelf…and I’m embarrassed to say that while I know I looked at it briefly a time or two when it first came out, I really hadn’t a good hold on it. Now was the time. It was me, the book, the chair, the tea cup, and JERUSALEM. Buy the book here.
above: Dave and I in Jerusalem on October 8, 2018
What had I been doing all these years? How had I missed being taken in and down the road to Jerusalem all this time? The book held me hostage and made me think about the city in totally new ways…and I had just been there. Certainly I have nothing to say on the subject that hasn’t been said before myriad times and I had only a fleeting acquaintance with the city…the place..the land…the people…
but Ottolenghi and Tamimi take you there via the main line…the stomach. And you’re somewhat stuck. I had no idea what to make, but found myself drawn to Polpettone over and over again, despite the fact that it was uh, somewhat involved. Sort of like Jerusalem and maybe even Israel itself where the struggle between two peoples is palpable.
below: The Church of All Nations (Gethsemane) in Jerusalem
Just before I began to think about what my post was to be, the murders at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue took place. While I don’t bring the rest of the world into the blog every day, I found myself lost and horrified over these killings in a way I haven’t been with all the others as they so echoed the horrors of Germany before and during World War II. It only felt right to reach for material from within a Jewish community and share it because this is how we, as humans, can begin to stop fearing “the other” right in its tracks. By becoming familiar with voices, traditions, meals, places, ideas, literature, music, art, etc., from other places and peoples. By reaching out to understand the material, ideas, or issues that speak directly and personally to each of us. I had a boss once who said, “The most inclusive thing you can do in life is to learn another language.” And while Hebrew is a bit beyond me at 65, there are other things. (Luckily my daughter, who is a Presbyterian pastor has some Hebrew! below, left) In my house, there’s prayer, books, poetry, worship, music, food, and more.
WHAT CAN WE DO? WHAT CAN WE DO? It feels like there isn’t anything; we feel helpless and removed. Only, in this case, I wasn’t so removed. My husband Dave, who is on a temporary assignment working in Denver for several months, works with a man who commutes from Pittsburgh each week; that man is a member of the Jewish community there. Dave was beside himself; I was more horrified with each passing news report. Finally a text was returned; Dave’s co-worker and his family were all ok though his son at Hebrew school had called to report police guarding the building.
And we’re not helpless. We must stand with Jewish communities and we have to look to see who’s next and why. We can join others in supporting our local synagogues, pledging to help support them. We can #ShowUpAtShabbat. Google: Shabbat services near me.
As a progressive Christian who has worked with the local Jewish congregations feeding the homeless and sharing sanctuary space for a number of years in a conservative town, I wonder and watch. We talk safety at church (we are about to begin locking the doors 10 minutes after worship begins; 1 guarded entrance in another part of the building will remain open), but we also know we must fight the fear, work to abolish the hatred, and focus on love. Each of us has a way, a platform, a place…and it’s not a bad beginning to use whatever you do to reach out. So if you’re a food blogger, for instance, cook a little food; blog some Jewish food. Reach out, jump clear of your cooking box.
Polpettone is, from what I can find out, a dish of Italian origin, but was favorited by Italian Jews who brought the much-loved recipe to Israel as they made aliyah. As it’s definitely a time consumer to make, it was often cooked up for holidays when spending a bit of extra time in the kitchen was expected–just as we make fancy Christmas cookies and Easter breads. Ottolenghi’s grandmother made it often for Passover. I’ve cooked for a Passover Seder a time or two and could see the charm Polpettone would have. I was attracted by the idea that it could be made ahead by a couple of days (in fact, had to be) or even frozen… which, as I mentioned, I ended up doing with half of mine. So what makes a polpettone? Ok, here goes:
It’s a meatloaf studded with pickles and pistachios, patted out and topped with an omelet and some ham or boiled sliced tongue… (more below photos)
…rolled up and tied in a tea towel and simmered for a couple hours in some chicken broth and vegetables. Phew. Say that ten times fast. The mummy-like roll is then chilled, still in the towel, and weighted down over night.
Sliced and served with a salsa verde, it really is a perfect appetizer. Dave and I had it for a scrumptious cold dinner, however, with a vegetable mash one night. I froze the better part of it and then did serve it as the starter for a big Italian lamb braise dinner I made for friends to celebrate our birthdays. Not specified in the recipe, but I made a batch of thinly sliced grilled baguette, spread with Dijon mustard, for serving the sliced meat and sauce.
Copyright prevents me from including the recipe here, but we’re in luck; the recipe is online. So try this:
Recipe for the polpettone from JERUSALEM via THE GUARDIAN, “Christmas Starter Recipes” by chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
above: Church of St. Catherine (bottom) and Church of the Nativity (top) in Bethlehem, Israel (West Bank)
New Yorker article about the cookbook JERUSALEM, Yotam Ottolenghi + Sami Tamimi
Yotam Ottolenghi’s guide to eating in Paris
“Jewish Food Bloggers You Should be Following”
“Jewish Food 101: A Whirlwind Tour of Essential Dishes” (The Spruce Eats)
Best Palestinian Street Food Dishes You Need to Try
Need to start thinking about Thanksgiving? More Time Thanksgiving Basics.
Sing a new song; cook a new dish with interest in and love for our world,
BTW Here’s my take on the election:
Our enemies are not folks of a religion we don’t understand or republicans or people of a color not our own, or women, or independents, or gun owners, or children raised in another country, or gays, or democrats, or men, or vegans, or pro-choice candidates. Our enemies are hunger, poverty, isolation, hate, hurricanes, pain and illness, fires, injustice, floods, intolerance, distracted or reckless driving, illiteracy, scarcity of family and community, homelessness, lack of or poisoned water, tornadoes, inequality, violence, apathy, and murder. Together, we can be a better country. But only if we agree on the enemies and vote every day to eradicate them.