Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter is Coming! (Part 1)

As Easter moves closer to us, it stirs more and more memories within me, that they just all seem to jumble up.  Forget about getting prepared for the holiday, because it just seems I never know where to start.  Yes I did just say that, I do not know where to start.  

I remember grandma starting, heck a couple of weeks before, planning what she was making, for both Easter, and Palm Sunday.  Each had their own specific, ritualistic meal, that as I sit here was pretty much the same, yet we spent weeks planning for. 

Palm Sunday always includes Pasta ca Muddica, basically her version of the dish is a pasta that is topped with blend of toasted bread crumbs, garlic and olives. She would also use the same breadcrumb mixture to stuff her artichokes, and the Italian frying peppers she would serve later in the meal. As for the meat, usually it was something simple like roast chicken, cooked to pure perfection. I sit here smiling and even though there is nothing cooking the house right now, I can smell every dish as if she were here cooking it right now.

No sooner would Palm Sunday be over and all the preparation would go into the following Sunday's dinner for Easter.  Now this had to start during the week since it there was plenty of baking that had to be done.  Such as her Italian grain pie called Pastiera di Grano, her ricotta cheesecake, let me not forget her most amazing meat pie known as Pizza Rustica.  One more preparation would round out the week and that would be her lighter than air manicotti shells, that when you eat them they just seem to melt in your mouth.

As this is Palm Sunday I thought I would share the recipes of what we would make today with you and hope that you may enjoy them as much as we do.  

Gracie's Pasta ca Muddica

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups bread crumbs,( freshly grated, plain, or panko)
1/2 cups flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Coarse salt and coarse black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Spanish green olives, chopped
2 Tbsp of olive juice
1 pound linguine, fettuccine, or tagliatelle, fresh or dried, cooked to al dente in salted water

  1. In a very large skillet over medium heat, add 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, add chopped garlic. When the garlic starts sizzling in oil add bread crumbs. Then add olives and their juice and a liberal amount of salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon of each.
  2. Stir bread crumbs until deeply golden in color, add parsley.  Transfer bread crumbs to a dish and reserve.
  3. In a large bowl, add cooked pasta to the skillet and toss with some olive oil . Then add a sprinkle of bread crumbs and toss thoroughly to combine and evenly distribute the mixture. Taste, to adjust seasonings, sprinkle more crumbs on top and serve.

Stuffed Artichokes

4 large artichokes
2 lemons, halved
1-3⁄4 cups of above bread crumb mixture
3/4 white wine
5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Using a serrated knife, cut off artichoke stems to create a flat bottom. Cut top thirds off artichokes, pull off tough  utermost leaves, and trim tips of leaves with kitchen shears. Open artichoke leaves with your thumbs to make room for stuffing; set aside.
  2. In a large pot add enough water to submerge artichokes, squeeze 1 lemon and add to water.  Cover and bring to boil, reduce to simmer for about 20-30 minutes until a knife pierced in the base goes in easily.  Then remove and let cool.  
  3. Heat oven to 375°. Spread the artichoke open so you can get to the center, remove middle leaves and scrape out spiny choke.
  4.  Working with one artichoke at a time, sprinkle one-quarter of bread crumb mixture over the artichoke and  ork it in between leaves. Transfer stuffed artichoke to a shallow baking dish. Drizzle each artichoke with 1 tbsp. oil. Mix the juice of the remaining lemon, olive oil together and pour around and drizzle over artichokes.  
  5. Then  cover with aluminum foil, and secure tightly around dish and bake for about 35 minutes. Remove foil, and switch oven to broil. Broil until tops of artichokes are golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Italian Stuffed Frying Peppers

1-1/2 to 2 lbs Italian frying peppers
1 1/4 cup of above crumb mixture
drizzle of olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut top off peppers and remove seeds.
  3. Then stuff peppers, just use a small spoon or your fingers to fill.
  4. Drizzle a casserole dish with olive oil place peppers side by side then drizzle top with a little more olive oil.
  5. Cover with foil and bake until fairly soft. Remove foil and brown.