Gil Marks, who made aliya from America a year ago, gave an interesting presentation at the latest ESRA cookery demonstration. We had 35 guests and it took place in a beautiful private home in Raanana. The proceeds of the event went towards purchasing sewing machines for the Netanya sewing center.
Gil, who is self-taught, cooks as we all do - sometimes finding the correct utensil, other times not. He didn't always measure out the ingredients and appeared disorganized but the end result was mouthwateringly good. We were presented with a Shavuot menu with a twist. Each item on the menu was something that we could all cook, but it's great to get the inspiration from the professional. His dishes were simple but tasty.
His Roman sweet cheese pancakes were so easy and quick to make. I made them one evening for some friends who popped in for a glass of wine and something simple but tasty to eat. Amongst other things he made were Sephardic spinach patties which were equally good. There was an unusual starter of two-color melon soup, and fish in foil which was delicious. Gil explained everything as he went along in a very easy and relaxed manner. We had a great time tasting all his dishes at the end of the evening.
Cassola (Roman Sweet Cheese Pancakes)
(Makes about 30 3-inch pancakes)
2 cups (480 ml/16 ounces/454 grams) ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
¾ cup (180 ml) all-purpose flour or 3 tablespoons (45 ml) potato starch
2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60 ml) granulated sugar or honey
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) vanilla extract or ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
Vegetable oil or butter for frying
1. In a food processor or blender, puree the cheese, eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth, or beat the eggs with an electric mixer until thick and creamy, and then beat in the remaining ingredients.
2. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Lightly grease with the oil or butter.
3. In batches, drop heaped tablespoons of the batter and fry, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides, (about 2 minutes per side). Serve with sour cream, yogurt, maple syrup, flavored butter, jam, cinnamon-sugar or fresh fruit.
Apple-Cheese Pancakes: Add 1 cored and chopped large apple and, if desired, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped almonds.
Lemon-Cheese Pancakes: Add 2 tablespoons (30 ml) grated lemon zest and, if desired, ¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice.