Easter in an Italian family may be celebrated with several different specialty items such as Pastiera (wheat pie) Quaresimali (Lenten biscotti) and Pizza Rustica. Pizza Rustica also called pizza ripiena (stuffed pie) or some Italian Americans call it pizza gain, as my family does. Pizza gain is a savory dish filled with ricotta cheese, diced cheeses and pork products. It is made to celebrate the end of Lent and the fasting from eating meat. As I now have a granddaughter, I felt the need to continue the family tradition of making pizza gain.
Just about every morning I make the quick version of oatmeal dressed with a bit of brown sugar, chopped walnuts and craisins. On the weekend my husband makes his long cooked version of oatmeal topped with bourbon infused maple syrup, chopped walnuts and craisins. However, in the March 21st issue of the New York Times food section, Melissa Clark’s A Good Appetite column had a recipe for Brown-Butter Chocolate Oatmeal. Intriguing, right?
Recently I was given four pheasant breasts from a former co-worker. Her husband belongs to a New Jersey hunting club and periodically goes hunting for various game birds. My husband enjoys eating wild game. It’s unfortunate that when you visit a local restaurant it’s just by chance you’ll luck out and find venison or quail on the menu.
Last fall, I contacted local area restaurants where I’ve heard game has been served. Apparently, the chefs must rely on local hunters to provide the game for impromptu meals.
Many years ago, on WOR710 AM radio there was a food show called Food Talk hosted by former NY Daily News executive food editor and restaurant critic, Arthur Schwartz. It was a terrific show that talked about food, its trends, recipes and restaurants. Arthur Schwartz has written seven books; I have two, Naples at Table and Soup Suppers.
In Naples at Table he has many recipes from the Campania region of Italy. Many years ago, I made one of his recipes, Pastiera, also known as ricotta and grain cake and even wheat pie. I decided to make it again this year and started my search for canned cooked wheat. Back then, I was able to find it at the old Piancone’s Deli and Bakery in Bradley Beach, NJ. However, they’re long gone. In Cranford, NJ there is an Italian specialty food store called Pastosa that has both Italian specialty food products, fresh meats and prepared foods. I was lucky to find both the cooked wheat and orange flower water that is part of the pastiera recipe adds a unique flavor.
My husband and I were recently reminiscing about childhood meals. In his house fried chicken was made with legs and thighs. At my house, my mother made breasts and legs. Both our mothers made pot roast for Sunday dinners; theirs included canned peas and corn rye from Freedman's Bakery, in Belmar, NJ. Weekdays in our house we had creamed peas on toast and sliced hot dogs in Campbell's pork and beans baked together in the oven as a casserole. While my mother made macaroni with gravy that had meatballs, pork neck bones, sausage and brasciole, his mother made baked ziti with cheddar cheese.
My husband and I could eat pasta seven days a week. This week I changed up our normal pasta routine by preparing the recipe that appeared in the March 7th issue of the New York Times food section. Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Blue Cheese has the simplest of preparations which brought the best results.
When I was young, every Saturday my mother took us visiting. After stopping to see her sisters, Fran in West Orange and Chick in Vailsburg, we were off to my father's sister, Angelina, in Newark.
Food memories from visiting my Aunt Angie include stopping for just out-of-the oven Italian bread from Paramount Bakery on Davenport Avenue, Neapolitan ice cream blocks (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) on crisp waffle crackers or icebox cake (chocolate pudding and graham crackers). One Saturday we were in her pantry when I spotted a well-worn wooden board. My aunt said that my grandmother Giuseppina used this to serve polenta topped red gravy and sausage. My aunt said my grandmother also made polenta in a black cast iron frying pan, cut it up, fry it and served with escarole and beans instead of bread.
A former teacher, shop-a-holic, empty-nester redefining quick, family approved dinners.