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Easter Ricotta Pie

Have you started planning your Easter dessert yet? Easter is one of my favorite holidays for the plethora of traditional foods that are found on most tables in Italian or Italian-American homes – from appetizers to main course to dessert. See the end of this post for more ideas. One of my all-time favorite Easter desserts is this ricotta pie, and there are endless variations, including one with the addition of chocolate chips. I have nothing against that – I’d happily eat a couple of slices — but for Easter, give me a pure, unadulterated ricotta pie with a hint of orange – the Italian version of cheesecake – and one that’s very popular in my household.

Feel free to use your favorite homemade pastry crust recipe or a store-bought one. I relied on Trader Joe’s this time, but it can be a bit fiddly to use since it has a tendency to split when you’re placing it in the pie plate. No problem, just press the pieces back together. Prick the pie crust and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Make sure you drain your ricotta (full-fat only please) thoroughly. I line a sieve with paper towels, add the ricotta, cover with plastic wrap, then put a weight on top and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Look how much liquid came out. If you don’t take this step, you risk having a soggy bottom crust.

I started out with three pounds of ricotta and was left with a little over four cups after draining overnight.

Mix with the orange and lemon peels as well as the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have orange blossom water, use some orange flavored extract. Mix it all well then place into the prepared crust.

Cover with lattice strips and crimp edges. It’s easier to weave the lattice strips if you cut them out and place them in the freezer for a bit before placing on top of the pie.

Bake and let it cool thoroughly before serving.

Buona Pasqua tutti!

Here are a few more ideas for Easter dinner:

Ricotta Broccoli Rape Torta – This is a dish my son makes as an appetizer for Easter, using broccoli rape. No, that spelling is not a mistake, it is rape in Italian, while most Americans spell it broccoli rabe or raab. Any way you spell it, it’s delicious, and a lighter alternative to the heavier, meat-laden pizza piena.

Braided Easter Bread – This bread, studded with hard boiled eggs, is braided with soppressata, olives and cheese, and would be perfect with drinks before dinner.

Grilled Leg of Lamb – Marinated and cooked on the grill, this lamb recipe from Julia Child, is tender and full of flavor.

Honey Baked Ham with roasted grapes – This recipe will make you forget those prepared hams purchased from franchise ham shops – and it’s so easy to make too.

 Neapolitan Pastiera – This traditional Southern Italian dessert is made with ricotta and wheat berries.

Colomba Pasquale – It wouldn’t be Easter in most Italian households without this Easter dove, which you can make at home too.

Coconut covered lamb cake – A childhood favorite, I continue the tradition with the same cake mold my mother used more than sixty years ago.

chocolate lamb cake – Why not give equal time to the black sheep? This cake, decorated with crushed cookie crumbs, will please the chocolate lovers in your family.

coconut cream Easter eggs – These are a weakness of mine, which is why I can’t make them more than once every few years. Otherwise, I’d end up eating dozens of them.

Perfect hard boiled eggs – And if you don’t make any of the above recipes, you’ll probably make hard-boiled eggs at some point. If you’ve ever struggled with peeling them, here’s a primer that will help you avoid frustration.

Buona Pasqua a tutti!

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Easter Ricotta Pie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • Two of your favorite homemade or store-purchased pie crusts (one for bottom and one for the lattice top)
  • 4 cups drained full-fat ricotta cheese
  • (I started out with 3 pounds of ricotta from the supermarket and there were more than 4 cups when it was all drained.)
  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • juice of one orange (a little less than ¼ cup)
  • grated rind of two oranges
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • ½ teaspoon orange blossom water (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
Instructions
  1. Drain the ricotta cheese overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. To do this, I place a paper towel in a sieve, put the ricotta cheese in the sieve, then cover with a piece of plastic wrap and finally, a heavy weight.
  3. Roll out the pie crust and place it in a deep-dish pie pan.
  4. Prick the crust with a fork.
  5. Place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes while you roll the lattice.
  6. Roll out the other pie crust on a cutting board or something that will fit in the freezer.
  7. Cut nine lattice strips and place the whole thing, cutting board and all, in the freezer.
  8. Make sure you can keep it flat.
  9. This technique of putting the strips in the freezer for a few minutes will help keep when the lattice strips from breaking apart when weaving them on the top after you have placed the filling inside.
  10. Beat the eggs gently (but don't beat too heavily or the pie will rise too much, and then deflate too much.)
  11. Mix the eggs with the ricotta and the rest of the ingredients.
  12. Place the filling in the pie shell.
  13. Place the lattice work on top, weaving over and under till you get the desired effect.
  14. Swipe the lattice with either some beaten egg, milk or cream.
  15. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven forr one hour.
  16. When cooled and ready to serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with grated orange peel.
 

 

Garlic!

 What you’re looking at is one of my favorite vegetables – broccoli raab — topped with lots of toasted garlic cloves.  It’s also got anchovies in the recipe, but honestly if you’re squeamish about them, you’d never know they’re in there. They kind of dissolve into the oil when you’re smashing them with a wooden spoon. But they do add a certain “umami” flavor that kicks up the taste a lot, and leaves you wondering “mmm” what’s that taste in there?
This recipe is similar to the way I’ve been making broccoli raab for decades, and it’s found in a book called “Garlic” by Robin Cherry. It’s an edible biography of the history, politics and mythology behind the world’s most pungent food.
My book group read it recently and gathered to talk about it, as well as prepare food from the 100 recipes included in the book.
Each of us brought a recipe from the book that featured garlic. One of the appetizers couldn’t be more garlic themed if you tried – roasted garlic. After the heads of garlic, drizzled with olive oil, roasted in the oven for 45 minutes, we smeared it on crackers and gobbled it down.

Next we feasted on gambas al ajillo – the classic Spanish tapas dish featuring shrimp, lots of garlic and a generous splash of brandy.

We had a garlic soup course too, a remarkably mild and sweet soup served with strands of vermicelli.

The main course was a perfectly cooked beef tenderloin, slathered with a mustard-garlic-herb crust before roasting, and served with a garlic horseradish sauce (not pictured here).

We couldn’t forget vegetables, and a few people brought those, including this roasted garlic and quinoa salad that included arugula, olives, cherry tomatoes and feta cheese.

The roasted eggplant with garlic and LOTS of olive oil was so delectable, I had to refrain from eating the whole plate.
The broccoli raab with toasted garlic and anchovies rounded out the vegetables and you can find the recipe below.
If you are a garlic lover, you will love this book, not only for the recipes, which are terrific, but for all the garlic legends and lore you’ll learn about, and how it’s viewed by different cultures around the world.
The book even includes a few dessert recipes featuring garlic, but we decided we’d prefer a little sorbet to cleanse the palate after a night of eating garlic in each course. It didn’t stanch my love of garlic in any way, in fact, eating all that garlic in different courses gave me appreciation of the different flavors garlic can have, from very mild to very pungent, depending on how long you cook it and how much you use.
The book also gives instructions on how to plant garlic, something I did last fall, after a friend of my son’s, who owns McCollum Orchards in upstate New York, gave me some produce from his farm, including several beautiful, big heads of garlic. Most of them we cooked in various recipes, but I saved a couple of bulbs to plant, separating the cloves and putting them in the ground last fall.
They’re coming up beautifully and should be ready to harvest in late June or early July. You can plant them now too, but the bulbs will undoubtedly be smaller than if you had planted them in the fall.
Even if you can’t grow your own garlic, try to find garlic grown locally for the freshest taste and highest quality.
I’m including the recipe for the broccoli raab, but you’ll have to buy the book for the other recipes pictured above. It’s well worth the read.
**********************
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Broccoli raab with toasted garlic and anchovies
from “Garlic” by Robin Cherry
makes 4 servings
1 1/2 lb. broccoli raab, stems peeled
3 tbsp olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, or more to taste
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the broccoli raab and cook it until it is bright green and barely tender, about 3 minutes. Immediately transfer it to a colander and rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking. Let the broccoli raab drain well.
Combine the oil and garlic in a sauté pan and heat it gently over medium heat until the garlic is golden brown and crisp. Lift the toasted garlic from the oil and set aside.
Add the anchovy fillets and red pepper flakes and sauté, smashing the anchovy with the back of a spoon until it dissolves. Add the drained broccoli raab and continue to sauté, tossing or stirring until it is evenly coated and very hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Season the dish with salt and pepper.
Serve the broccoli raab at once, topped with the toasted garlic.

Broccoli Raab, Rape et al

 This vegetable goes by many monikers, both here and in Europe. Most Americans call it broccoli raab or broccoli rabe (pronouncing it “rahb.”) I’ve always know it as broccoli rape (pronounced “RAH-pay”) as Italians call it. But it’s also called cima di rapa, rapini, and sometimes broccolini or broccoletti. Who knew that this delicious vegetable, a staple of Chinese diets as well as Mediterranean ones, went by so many names? 

One of my readers emailed me, asking me to post more vegetable recipes, so I’m going to attempt to do that more often. This is one of my favorites.
Broccoli rape is related to the mustard family and is packed with vitamins A, C and K. But I eat it because it tastes great. It’s got a bitterness to it that I love, but I tame it with a little blanching. Don’t worry, it’ll still have a bitter edge. It’s nothing like regular broccoli.
It’s a beautiful sight to behold yellow fields of it in full bloom in springtime. They’re related to the bitter greens I pick in the wild each year for free! Click here for more info about picking your own in the wild. But if you wait to pick them when you see the flowers, they’re way too bitter to eat.
I’m usually disappointed when I eat it in restaurants, because it’s either overcooked or the stalks are fibrous. To overcome that at home, I peel each stalk a couple of inches from the bottom, something most restaurants won’t take the time to do. But it makes such a difference since the cooking time will be shorter and the stalks will be tender.
You can see the difference here, between the stalks on the left – that were peeled – and those on the right, that weren’t peeled and that look much tougher and more fibrous.
My favorite way to eat them is a simple preparation: Just parboil them for a couple of minutes in ample water, drain and toss with some olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and salt. A little squirt of lemon at the end adds a nice finishing tang.
If you’ve cooked too much and have some left over, you can easily refashion them into another meal. Add a few sautèed mushrooms to the broccoli rape, and toss everything together with a little cooked pasta. Top with grated parmesan cheese.
Or use it as the base of a sandwich with slices of roast pork, roasted peppers and melted provolone cheese.

Sautèed Broccoli Rape

printable recipe here

Trim the bottom couple of inches from the stalks. Boil the broccoli rape in water for two to three minutes. Drain well. In another pan, sautè some minced garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the broccoli rape and toss in the oil. Add a generous amount of salt, and a few shakes of crushed red pepper. Arrange in a bowl and sprinkle the top with a squirt of fresh lemon juice.

If you have leftover the next day, sautè some mushrooms in a bit of olive oil, add the leftover broccoli rape and some cooked and drained pasta. Serve with parmesan cheese on top.