Thursday, April 12, 2012

Traditional Easter

You will notice that most of my cooking is vegan.

And if you haven't noticed, then all the better :-).

Well, I am breaking that rule today. But it is for the best possible reason. You know how when you think of certain memories, the tastes from that day just ooze into your mouth? Or how when you taste a certain thing... you can be transported back to a particular place? Well this recipe is one of those for me. At Easter, my Nana would always make a pizzagaina (Italian Easter pie).

This is yet another reason why good food is so important. Without you knowing it, while you share stories with a mouthful of your Nana's famous homemade ravioli, your brain is busy at work developing this neural network. A network such that whenever you smell garlic cooking in red sauce, you are immediately sitting at the table with your family on a Sunday, while the Red Sox are playing in the background so Nana can keep an eye on the game.

Ignore my awkward phase.
I owe much of who I am today to my Nana. She was the strongest female to ever live and hilarious to boot. During one of the episodes at the end, when the doctors told her that she probably wouldn't last much longer... her response was, "ya right! I have to see my granddaughter graduate high school! And my other granddaughter get married!" And she absolutely did both of those things. Another time when we found ourselves in the ER, my parents and I were playing with the finger oxygen meters to pass the time, and my Nana shouts out, "oh! Do me! Do me next!" This from a woman who was supposedly brought to the ER with congestive heart failure. I can not say enough positive things about my Nana. Not a day goes by that I don't miss her terribly.

For Easter, I took on the challenge of making a pizzagaina. Not that it is a hard dish, it isn't, but I knew mine wouldn't taste as good as my Nana's. And it didn't. Mine ended up tasting more like a [delicious] quiche, but I am ok with that. Because what I produced did taste great, and it gave me an excuse to spend some extra time thinking about my Nana, who I know is watching over me proudly each and every day.

In all fairness, pizzagaina is traditionally a ham pie. Ham with cheese and egg. Three things I don't typically eat. So I gave with the second two ingredients and I substituted asparagus and leek for the first. I think that that may be what put this lion (er, pizzagaina) in sheep's (quiche's) clothing. I suppose it would be like if I sought out to make a pizza, but instead used a tortilla and put salsa on it. Either way, it was enjoyed on Easter... and every day for breakfast since. It was also a great compliment to the braised artichokes I made, and the other delicious food my roommates contributed (pictures still to come).

Do you guys have any special foods that intensely bring back memories?

Courtesy of my Nana (c/o my mom)
For the crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpous flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon peel
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen
  • ~7 tablespoons water

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch leeks, cleaned like I told you here
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1 inch long pieces 
  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and pepper

To make the crust

  1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and lemon peel in a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter, a work in with your hands until it is all a corse crumble with pea size pieces of butter that sticks together when you press some between your fingers.
  3. Add the water, tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.
  4. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  5. Kneed the dough a bit until smooth, smashing it with the heel of your hand and folding it over onto itself.
    • This flattens the butter, gets is nice and incorporated, and makes for a flaky crust.
  6. Divide into two balls, wrap with saran wrap, and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  7. When ready, roll out both halves on a slightly floured surface.

To make the filling

  1. Add the olive oil to a medium sauté pan.
  2. Add the leeks and asparagus.
  3. Sauté until the leeks are caramelized and the asparagus is tender, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Mix all of the ingredients together.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Carefully place one rolled out pie crust in a pie dish, and trim so there is about 1 inch of overhang.
  3. Pour the filling to the crust.
  4. Top with second rolled out pie crust. 
  5. See this website for a better tutorial than I could type about how to prettify the crust.
  6. Place in oven for 1 hour.
  7. Enjoy!
    • This can be enjoyed warm, cold, or room temperature. I always remember eating it on the room temperature to cold side.

I put a "K" in mine for "Keith" house, which is the name of our street.

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