Saturday, March 14, 2015

Savory Easter Pie, Pastiera (Torta Rustica)

  In preparation for Easter celebrations?   It's nice to come across something  I have had out of my Grandmother's kitchen.   My Nonna Barbara had a kitchen rich in Southern italian tradition.  No wonder, she was from Naples.  I particularly remember the smells coming out of her kitchen at Easter time,  that could lure anyone within a mile of the house. She still cooked everyday although she helped out in her son's bakery on 116th street and 2nd avenue in New York,  on a daily basis,  You would always find her smiling in the window of the bakery luring patrons by offering them a taste.  Her infectious smile was hard to pass up and so were those sugared donuts.  I could remember getting off the 3rd avenue Sunday stopping by for a huge bag of pastries to go.  Her Easter pie was like a brick in a box.  Of course it could feed an army.    She would be quick to say, that the very traditional crust was originally made up of milk, honey and flour.   I am not sure how or why this pie has changed over the years.   It is not a thick cake by tradition, but rather a thin layer of flavors coming together to merge as one.    Today, a simple Pate Brisee or Buttered pie crust, works wonders,  when your kitchen doesn't allow for a complexity of ingredients.   A fresh pie crust is always best and I always have them prepared for sweet and savory, ahead in the freezer, ready to go.
 In order to understand this savory delight and it's montage of caloric ecstasy, we must look at it's history.  Originally made with pastry cream and eggs, It was used to celebrate Roman weddings as a sign of Fertility and presented as a gift to the bride and groom in celebration.    It was also used in Pagan celebrations as sign of the celebrations of Springtime.   Fresh Ricotta and cured meats that were left over from the cooler months,  were all added to signify the richness and abundance of the on coming Spring and Summer seasons.   So, I pose a question to all you following me here.  How did we become a society of over processed foods and caloric content?  Perhaps we need to take a look back at our ancestors again, their joy of life, and celebrate today and everyday!   By all means, have yourselves  an extra piece.    
To all of you around the world, Buona Pasqua!  HappyEaster!
Sunday at the Giacometti's
(This recipe can be prepared a day ahead)

Easter Pie (Torta Rustica)
One tart pan, 8 inch, preferably, non stick.
One baking sheet
One 8 inch Pate Brissee
6 ounces boiled Ham cubed in tiny pieces
6 ounces Genoa Salami cubed in tiny pieces
6 ounces Capocollo cubed in tiny pieces
15 ounces of Whole milk Ricotta
6 ounces Mozzarella  (I used a few Bocconcini)
One pinch of ground Nutmeg
2 large eggs
4 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
handful of Parsley chopped fine

Take out your ingredients about 30 minutes before you are planning to prepare your pie.  Prepare you pie crust.   Pre heat your oven to 350F degrees.   Roll out your pie crust, rather thinly.  Line your pie crust along the pan.   Remove the excess by rolling your pin over your edges.  Then, with the remaining pieces combine again and roll out.  You may need additional flour to keep your pie crust from sticking.   If you not particularly good at rolling out, keep some extra pie crust on hand.   Combine all your ingredients into a bowl and set aside.   Place your pan right on top of your baking sheet.  Bake your crust 10 minutes.   Gently pour your ingredients into the pan and smooth evenly  With the remaining crust, roll out again and gently cover your pie.   With the edge of your fork, press some holes, gently through the middle to allow air to escape while baking.
Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until golden and inflated.
Let cool, about 30 minutes before serving.

If you made ahead, remove from refrigerator and warm up to 200 degrees.
Buon Appetito!
 After it cools, it will pop easily out of this pan.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Merluzzo alla Siciliana~(Codfish with Black olive paste in Red potato Crust)


I set out Saturday evening to have something a little different,  something I haven't had in such a long time, a visit to Sicily.  I started thinking about those wonderful oil cured olives you could only get in Sicily.  That wonderful fresh, fish. Those fabulous capers from the sunny Island of Pantelleria, south of Sicily.   How could I get that feeling again in Tupelo, Mississippi?   I had ordered some Sicilian oil cured olives sometime ago by mail order and stuck some in the back of the refrigerator.  What a nice surprise to find them hidden in the corner, ready for me.  How could I forget such a wonderful thing?
 Olive paste requires, a few olives, some garlic, parsley and a little olive oil.  I have even made olive paste without garlic.  The best part of all  is it requires very little effort.  Spread over some  Cod fish fillets,  it adds wonderful flavor to a very bland fish.  Setting out to do the impossible, duplicating something I had long ago, seemed impossible.  I must admit, I got pretty close.  
Olive paste:
1/4 cup Sicilian oil cured olives/ pitted
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
One clove of garlic (optional)
1 cup of flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon of Capers (optional)

Into the food Processor place your  olives, olive oil, garlic, parsley and about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Salt is optional as the oil cured olives have some salt in them.  I always add just a little.    Pulse everything  until your parsley is processed fine.  You will have a beautiful thick paste.
Pour into a bowl and set aside

Potato crust:
5 -6 red potatoes sliced like chips.  Set your oven to 375 bake.
Place sliced potatoes into a bowl filled with water.  Set aside for 10 minutes. Your water will turn cloudy.  This means your potatoes are releasing their starch.  Drain, dry, and set aside in a bowl.  
Toss your potatoes in Olive oil, salt and pepper and place them in a hot skillet.  Place them in your oven for 15 minutes.   Your potatoes will cook and become slightly crisp.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Set your oven now to bake 400. 

In a large,  flat  oven proof skillet enough to handle your four pieces of fish,  begin to line your pan with potato slices in the shape of your fish, as if you were creating a blanket for your fish.   Lay your fish on top of each potato blanket.  Squeeze some lemon over each piece of fish.  Spread your olive paste over your fish. Cover with remaining potatoes to create your blanket.  Bake in a  400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Turn your oven to broil for 5-7 minutes more.   Being careful not to burn your potatoes.   Codfish is quite thick and requires longer cooking time when it's inside the potato crust. 
Serve with salad and wonderful dry Pinot Grigio~ Buon Appetito