Adriana Ottolenghi is very serious about making people happy through her food. Looking at her dishes, and tasting is a delicious experience, familiar and comforting. The taste is surprising, lip smacking, simple. Adriana turned 86 last week, however she still uses to cook all the food that she, her family and friends delight in. All ancient recipes make her proud and happy.
Adriana is the vice President of the Jewish Community of Casale Monferrato where the magnificent hidden Synagogue, is a Piedmontese’s Baroque masterpiece. Located in the heart of the old ghetto, it has been declared a national monument and enjoyed unexpected growth of visitors over the past years. Through the tireless work of the only two Jewish families, Ottolenghi and Carmi, still living in town, the Community offers the visit of the Synagogue, the Museum of Ancient Jewish Art and History, the Museum of Lights, major touristic draws among Jewish Italy.
In Casale Monferrato, Adriana tells us, the goose has been a traditionally popular food for the local Jewish Community for centuries. Many people call it “the pork of the Jews” because like with pork in other cultures, with the goose nothing is left to waste when cooking it. Actually, instead of pork, Italian Jews used goose meat to make salami, to suit their needs for kosher food. A few years ago, a group of friends decided to work in getting back to the roots of the traditional and unexpected Jewish taste, such as the goose of Lomellina, an historical area of Northern Italy, the Krumiri cookies and Barbera, Brachetto and Moscato, kosher wines of Monferrato. And so, along with the “Brotherhood of Rana and Salame d’Oca”, they started “Jewish lunch”. Every year in different towns of Northern Italy they bring food and culture back to people who had eaten “Jewish” for centuries without knowing its origins. The best example is Salame d’oca (goose salami). Its origins can be traced to Lomellina, nestled between the rivers of Sesia, Ticino, and Po, and once home to a Jewish community.
Adriana explains that the quality and the freshness of lean goose meat are crucial. The preparation of the goose neck as a skin case with its characteristic external sewing gives it the particular shape of a flask. These are fundamental aspects that best express the historic authenticity of goose salami, with its typical elegance and lightness unique in the world. “When the cold weather begins to wrap the autumn nights, nothing could be better than a nice hot dish to invigorate both body and spirit - tells us Adriana - even better if we can bring to the table something seasonal and unusual. For this period, I suggest a good hot polenta (boiled cornmeal), with the addition of a few slices goose salami enriched with its excellent lean liver. It is a natural and rich dish, which brings to the table both traditional and refined flavors. Not only a way to warm up our body, but mostly a way to feel new sensations brought on by a unique product like the goose liver.”
Adriana tells us the history of the delicious biscuits called Krumiri. It is said that they came to life, a little bit by chance and a little for fun, thanks to Domenico Rossi in 1878 to honour “the king with a handlebar moustache” (Vittorio Emanuele II). The bakery in Casale Monferrato where Krumiri are produced, currently managed by Anna Portinaro, has kept intact the artisan production of this fragrant biscuits. They are made with eggs, flour, butter, sugar and vanilla. When consistency is just right, “the mixture is left to breathe” for a whole day: all good thinks only come to those who wait. “, says Adriana with a smile.
Krumiri are suggested with a cup of tea or with a sweet wine, such as Moscato, or even with a glass of liqueur, but they are equally delicious with soft creams and zabaglione cream or hot chocolate. Since 2006, Krumiri have been certified Kosher, in 2021 they obtained another important award: the Historical Brand of National Interest, a title granted by Decree of the Ministry of Economic Development. Adriana strongly suggests to take a break soon and taste all those Piedmontese delights!