The spring holiday of Passover commemorates the flight of the Jewish people from their Egyptian oppressors over 3 thousand years ago. In their haste to find freedom in a Promised Land those who fled did not have time for the traditional yeast breads to rise. Thus was born, matzos. Matzos are squares of flat unleavened wafers made only with a mixture of flour and water and spread thin on flat boards and baked. All leavened products are forbidden during Passover.
Passover is a joyous occasion and not unlike Italian holidays; this holiday is typically celebrated with friends and family. Traditional foods are served along with prayers and the reciting of scriptures.
Of course every meal ends with sweets.
Pitigliano and ancient hill town in the province of Grosseto in Tuscany was once home to a vibrant Jewish population and it still regains traces of its Jewish heritage. The village stands out forcefully, jetting from striking wild ridges and surrounded by lush valleys carved by the Lente and Meleta rivers. The soaring tuff walls, lined with myriad caves and tower houses bare the secrets and scars of years gone by. It remembers an ancient past that dates back to prehistoric settlements marked by findings from the Copper Age to Etruscan traces found in excavated tombs.
It started in the 13th century when many Jews fled Rome and settled in Pitigliano. In the 16th century they were joined by other Jews from Castro, another Tuscan city that was destroyed by the Papal Army. The Jews lived and traveled freely. However in 1943 when the Italian soldiers surrendered to the Allied Forces, the Nazis occupied the Italian peninsula and Petigliano’s Jews were forced into hiding and were protected by many of the locals among whom they had lived among for so many years. At the end of the war and because of the ravages caused by the war to the area, many Jews along with their Christian neighbors were forced to move on to bigger cities.
However the town retains traces of its Jewish heritage with foods and customs and a rebuilt synagogue that collapsed after years of neglect in the 1950’s but was rebuilt in 1995.
Passover will be celebrated starting in the evening of Friday, April 19 and will continue until it ends in the evening of Saturday, April 27th. The little town of Pitigliano will be ready. Christians will be celebrating Holy Week, coincidentally, from Palm Sunday, April 14th until Easter Sunday, April 21st.
Of course every meal will end with sweets. From an old Jewish cookbook comes the following.
Simple, easy and delicious.
ORANGE WALNUT TORTE
6 Large eggs – room temp and separated
1 ½ Cups Granulated Sugar
¼ Cup Orange Juice – freshly squeezed
2 Tsps Orange Zest
3 Tbs Lemon Juice – freshly squeezed
½ Cup Matzo Meal
½ Cup Potato Starch
1 Cup Walnuts – finely chopped
Powdered Sugar – for dusting
Preheat oven to 325º. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat the yolks for several minutes until thick while gradually adding the sugar and beating for several minutes until the egg mixture is quite thick. Next beat in the orange juice, lemon juice and orange zest. When all combined add the matzo meal and the potato starch gradually until all is well mixed in.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, gradually adding salt. Stir one cup of the egg whites into the egg mixture and then fold the remaining egg whites in gently but thoroughly. Next fold in the walnuts.
Pour the batter into an ungreased 9” tube pan with a removable bottom. Bake on the middle shelf for 55 – 60 minutes. A tester should come out clean. Invert the pan over the neck of a bottle so that the torte cools upside down.
When cool, run a knife around the edge of the torte to loosen slightly and the carefully slide the torte out. Slide a knife under the bottom of the torte to release it and then carefully place on a serving plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
For those who will be celebrating Passover,
We Wish You and Your Loved Ones
Joy and Many Blessings
At Passover and All throughout the Year.
Charlie, Anita, Andrea and Claudia
The Entire Augello Family
The E. 48th Street Market Staff
God Bless America
God Bless Our Troops