Resources were scarce during those centuries, and frying foods in oil was one of the cheapest--and therefore most common--ways to make dinner.
As a result, oily dishes like carciofi alla Guidia (fried artichokes), fritto misto (fried mixed vegetables), and filetti di baccala (fried cod filets) were commonplace throughout the year, not only in celebration of the Maccabees' miraculous Hanukkah lamp.
When Hanukkah arrived, however, neither of the traditional fried dishes familiar to American Jews--latkes and sufganiyot--were on the menu. Instead, Roman Jews celebrated the festival of lights with lemony fried chicken and torzelli, a savory side dish made of curly endive that is battered and deep-fried. Curly endive (sometimes labeled frisee or chicory in grocery stores) comes into peak season during the cold winter months--not coincidentally, right around Hanukkah. Those thrifty-by-necessity Roman Jews understood that seasonal cooking equaled economical cooking.
Dredged in flour and slipped into sizzling oil, torzelli adds a touch of much-needed bite and freshness to the winter table. And brightened with salt and lemon zest, it boldly rivals a plate of latkes.<<< Less
1large head of curly endive Safflower oil (for deep frying) 2eggs 4 Tablespoonswater 3/4 cupunbleached flour (or more as needed for dipping) Salt and pepper Zest of two lemons