It's Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Michael graciously opens her doors to the all the creative cooks and food- obsessed readers in Blogland. This is our favorite weekly party and we normally try to put some thought into what we're going to bring you.
Sorry, but this is a "take what you can get" week. It's been an insanely crazy week here at Casa Bramasole and preparations for Easter have consumed any spare minute I've managed to find. With my penchant for posting about the realities of life, I'm sure you'll all understand if we show you one of our traditional Easter desserts.
Nope, that's not it, but my youngest wanted me to post the cookies we made today! :)
Easter morning will begin with an early egg hunt for the kids, church, then a big family breakfast. I'll be serving Pizza Rustica, a savory Italian pie made with meats, cheeses and hard-boiled eggs. It will be baked with a small piece of the blessed palms from last Sunday baked into one of the vents on top.
Speaking of palms, the "new" palms that are being distributed are very different from those of my childhood. Our parish priest explained that these much softer fronds are easier to pick- thus less injury to the pickers which may also include children. Unfortunately, these can't be woven into the elaborate crucifixes that all Italian grandfathers made for the children after Palm Sunday dinner
the "new" palm..
Every year on the Palm Sunday morning, my grandmother would remind us all to be sure to get enough palms. That meant at least one for each person and extra for crosses and the pizza rustica. That night each of us would have a blessed palm placed under our mattress to replace the one from the previous year
We'll have braided breads with colored eggs baked in, bacon, sausage, eggs, and a large Torta Pasqualina- the Italian Easter Torte. This is a delicious, savory "cheesecake" of ricotta, spinach and artichokes with eggs baked in a crust which traditionally was made of 33 layers, one for each year of Jesus' life. Years ago, young Italian maidens were told they couldn't be married until they were able to roll out those 33 layers- quite an accomplishment!
Over time, many families went to using 12 layers- 1 for each apostle. I've always done 12 layers until this year. As some of you may know, I suffered a heart attack a few months ago and my arm strength is still not quite up to par- a fact which was hammered home when I attempted my Torta this week! After a bit of frustration and more than a little self-pity, I decided to go with the flow and try it with phyllo dough. I did use 33 layers and I'm sure my family won't boycott it :)
Pattie's Torta Pasqualina
Later in the day we'll have a big dinner, which will start with pasta and end with a variety of desserts. One dessert in particular will bring back many happy memories. Every holiday of my childhood was celebrated with Mrs. R's ricotta cheesecake. Mrs.R. was my grandma Josie's best friend "Vinnie". She lived across the street and was an incredible Italian cook. But the best part is that she always shared- whatever she made for her own family, she brought over for ours. Her ricotta cheesecake was a favorite of my Dad's and I asked her several times for the recipe. One day when I was visiting my grandma, she came by for espresso and jotted it down for me. I still have that little piece of paper. there were no amounts-just the ingredients. There was no oven temperature or time- just "cook till it's done". Over the years, I've come to where I can say I'm pretty darn close to her cheesecake. (I'm still working on the stuffed olives, Mrs. R.- you never wrote those down!)
This year, for the first time, I made one little change. Mrs. R. always made her cheesecake in a rectangular baking pan. Since I've already allocated my best decorative pans for the dinner, I decided to try making the cake in a spring form pan with removable sides. Fingers crossed that this doesn't collapse before Sunday!
Mrs. Rainone's Ricotta Cheesecake ala Pattie
3 cups flour
about 10 Tblsp. shortening
Combine flour, shortening, and egg in food processor. While pulsing, drizzle in enough ice water that the dough starts to come together into a ball. Cut off about 3/4 of the dough and roll out. You need to line the bottom and up the sides of whatever pan you use- either a 9 inch springform or an 8 x 11 rectangular baking pan.
3 lbs. whole milk ricotta
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tblsp. vanilla
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
Combine ricotta, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cream, and salt. Beat till smooth and pour into crust. Roll out remaining dough and cut strips- I use a fluted pizza or ravioli cutter. Lay the strips over the filling in a criss-cross pattern and flute the edges to seal. Bake for about an hour till the center is set (will still jiggle a bit, but should not be liquidy) If you use a springform, it may take a bit longer as the cake will be thicker. Cool on rack and refrigerate overnight
**NOTE- this isn't quite your typical, flaky pastry crust- this is a substantial crust for a substantial cake. It has an almost (but not quite) chewy quality.
We wish you all a blessed happy holiday, whether you're celebrating Easter or passover this week. My own little angel grand-babies are eating matzoh with PB & J this week and will be hunting eggs from the Easter bunny on Sunday!
Buon Alimenti, Buon Amici
Pattie and Allie