Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eating Easter

Easter just wouldn't be Easter without certain foods, and I am not talking about chocolate bunnies! It is inconceivable to celebrate Easter without having some traditonal Easter bread, a challah-like braided bread, coiled into a ring, adorned with eggs (often dyed) before baking, and decorated with a sweet glaze and (often) candy sprinkles. Being a pretty imcompetent baker (I've killed more yeast than Monistat over the years), I delegate the responsibility of bread-making to the local bakeries (this year, I went to Artuso's Pastry Shop on McLean Ave for my Easter bread, though any Italian bakery will be able to provide this delicacy).

Pizza rustica is a pie (similar to a quiche Lorraine) that is traditionally served on Easter Saturday. The pie, which is richer than Scrooge McDuck and C. Montgomery Burns having a money-fight in Fort Knox, is an emphatic declaration that Lent, the season of privation and penitence, is over. While the exact ingredients of a pizza rustica are a various as the cooks making it, the pie incorporates eggs, several pork products, and a bewildering array of cheeses. It's the perfect dish to make with the ends of your cold cuts- if your local deli or supermarket sells the ends at a bargain, they make the perfect addition to this dish. To give you an indication of the richness and complexity of ingredients that one can employ when making this pie, I am linking to a recipe from Domenica Marchetti, originally published in The Washington Post- count the number of cheeses used! The lemon juice in the pastry dough for the crust is a nice touch as well, a little acidity to counteract the richness of the filling is inspired! A lazy cook could always use a pre-packaged pie crust, cut down on the variety of cheeses (again, making this dish is a perfect way to use up any leftover bits of cheese in the fridge). Myself, I picked up some fresh basket cheese (Mexican panela cheese might be a good substitute, but you want an unsalted or low-salt cheese to offset the salt of the cured meats), sopressata (Genoa salami would make an acceptable substitute, or addition), and a (this will break some people's hearts) finger-wide slab of prosciutto- since it's going to be cooked, I bought the Canadian product, rather than the expensive stuff. I'll add some tail-ends of Romano, Parmiggiano, and Provolone to round out the "cheese spectrum" in my pie. Again, this dish lends itself to customization- use what you have on hand, clean out the fridge- whatever you use, the end result will be fantastic enjoyed with a green salad (to counter the richness of the dish) and a glass of Chianti or a nice Primitivo.

Another, traditionally Neapolitan Easter dish is the pastiera di grano, the grain pie, a sweet confection made with well-soaked wheat berries and rich with ricotta. I must confess that I have never made a grain pie, but I had an old manager who would typically make them around Eastertime, and I was usually able to persuade him to bring me a slice.

So, as a postscript, I ask, who needs a chocolate rabbit, anyway?

1 comment:

  1. Pizza rustica sounds extraordinary. It would feed a football team with one pie.