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Monday, April 21, 2014

Savory Easter Pie, Pastiera (Torta Rustica)

 Happy Easter! After all this fasting in preparation, for this wonderful feast, it's nice to come across something,  I have had out of my Grandmother's kitchen but never tried to make myself, until today.   My Grandmother,  Barbara had a kitchen rich in Tradition.  No wonder, she was Neopolitan.  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, 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, helping patrons choose such delectable, delights.   She would be quick to say, that the very traditional crust was originally made up of milk, honey and flour.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, Neopolitan 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  Originally made with pastry cream and eggs, It was used to celebrate Roman weddings as a sign of Fertility and presented as a gift to the bride and groom in celebration.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 varied, cured meats, that were left from the cooler months,  were all added to signify the richness and abundance of the on coming season.   So, I pose a question to all you following me here.  How did we become a society of over processed foods and a society,  overly  concerned about 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!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stinco di Agnello con Carciofi (Lamb Shanks with Artichokes)

I don't think I have ever seen such small Lamb shanks in any market in Memphis, TN.  As you all know, I have to drive at least 85 miles sometimes in a quest for something different.  I don't think a Mississippian would ever have had a Lamb shank on their dinner table or know how to cook one.  As an Italian girl, growing up in New York, it was a staple in our kitchen, especially around the Spring time.    I came across some large Globe artichokes  locally and thought, what an interesting combination of flavors.  Why
not give it a try. 
This recipe served 2.
The general rule is an artichoke and shank per person.

Ingredients:  2 large, globe artichokes, cleaned and quartered, in a bowl of lemon water and set aside
2 lamb shanks  (about 2 pounds or so)
1/2 large sweet Italian red onion sliced thin
(you can substitute 1/4 Spanish onion sliced thin)
2 cloves garlic diced (about teaspoon and 1/)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 cup of white wine
approx. 8 cups of Artichoke water (The water you will use to boil your artichokes)
1/3 cup minced parsley
optional fresh mint for garnish
Clean your artichokes by peeling away the hard outer parts until you see an uniformed light green, yellowish color.  Remove the spiny end and split in half.  Clean at the choke and split.

  Place quickly in lemon water until the rest of your artichokes are cleaned.  Meantime, add about 4 quarts of water to a pot with a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic and bring to a boil.  Add your cleaned, cut artichokes and bring to a boil.  Boil for approximately 15 minutes and drain, reserving your water. 

In an 8quart covered casserole dish with an oven proof lid, heat your olive oil.  Add your lamb shanks, a teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of pepper and brown on all sides.
Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add your cut up onion, garlic and saute until fragrant. Add your artichokes and split them again if you need to.  When it begins to sizzle, add some of your artichoke water again and let reduce.  Add your lamb shanks back to
 the pan. 

Preheat your oven to 325 F.
Give it a gentle mix.  Add the rest of your salt, wine and let reduce for about 5 minutes.
 Give it another gentle mix and add your liquid 3/4 up the pot. 

Bring to a simmer and add your lid. 
Place your pot into the oven for approximately 1 hour and a half.  Check it at the hour mark.  If you need more liquid, add more artichoke water. You can even add some water.  Gently give your lamb shanks a turn.  It is normal to see them begin to fall apart.  You will also notice the liquid slowly evaporating.  This is normal.
Gently remove your hot pot from the oven and remove the lid.
Remove your meat and place into your serving dish.   Turn your heat on under your pot again and reduce your liquid. 

Carefully remove your sauce and artichokes and pour over your meat.  Serve with plenty of crusty bread and a good glass of red wine like Chianti or Shiraz.  Buon Appetito. 

Special note:  When shopping for Lamb shanks try to find the shanks from Australia.  The American lamb can be quite large and very fatty at times.  American lamb is quite good for Leg of lamb or chops.   Australian lamb is much smaller and very tasty.  If you find the smell gamy, try marinating the shanks ahead for a few hours in some white wine.   Enjoy!

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