Fritelle di Baccalà
Pickled Beet Eggs
Stracciatella (Italian Egg Drop Soup)
Agnello al Forno (Oven Baked Lamb) with Potatoes
Piselli alla Fiorentina (Florentine Style Spring Peas)
Pastiera Napoletana (A Neapolitan Easter Cake)
Easter is almost here and this week I’ve been busy juggling the duties in preparation for the big feast on Easter Sunday. From list making to grocery shopping my head has been spinning with all the to-do’s to ensure the big feast goes off without a hitch.
FRITTELLE DI BACCALÀ: For Erminio’s nonna’s Frittelle di Baccalà I had to remember to buy and soak the dried salt cod at least four days before Easter (2 days is sufficient, but I prefer four to extract all of the salt) These pillowy fritters of fried baccalà will be the perfect thing to snack on while we wait for the lamb to cook.
PICKLED BEET EGGS: For my Grandma’s beet pickled eggs, preparations begin 5 days before Easter. The beets are boiled and pickled, the eggs are hard-boiled and a spiced vinegar is prepared to “marinate” the eggs. Everything is sealed into a large jar and refrigerate until Easter. These eggs turn a beautiful deep purple lending a festive hint of color to the Easter table.
DEVILED EGGS: Made fresh on Easter morning and refrigerated until ready to eat, this is another one of my Grandmother’s classics. It just wouldn’t be Easter without these creamy and a little bit tangy halved and filled eggs. I have the perfect tray to nestle them in too, a beautiful majolica-style cabbage deviled egg platter.
STRACCIATELLA: This quintessential spring soup is uncomplicated and perfect for Easter, it consists of chicken broth, eggs and parmesan, you can also add spinach. Stracciatella means “little shred” which refers to the “shreds” of egg that dot this soup. The chicken broth is made the day before Easter and this simple Roman soup will be made to serve on Sunday.
AGNELLO AL FORNO: I decided to buy my lamb on Thursday since businesses are closed on Good Friday, marinate it on Saturday and bake or grill it (I haven’t decided yet!) on Sunday. I use a marinade of olive oil, salt and pepper, two glasses of red wine and a generous dose of rosemary, thyme and garlic. (Photo via Giallo Zafferano)
Since spring lamb is the showcase of the feast I wanted to be sure to source the BEST lamb I could, and there is none other than Kostas Meat Market in Scarborough. Run by Kostas Margaronis since 1988, this whole animal butcher shop was originally opened up on the Danforth. Business was so successful that the landlord wanted the business for himself and Kostas was forced to relocate. Since 1993 he has been in Scarborough at 259 Ellesmere Rd. Toronto, ON M1R 4E4. Here Kostas specializes in Ontario lamb which is expertly butchered on the premise. They also carry beef, veal, chicken, pork, goat, homemade sausages, and their famous marinated souvlaki. If you’re after turkey you’ll have to wait for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter.
PISELLI ALLA FIORENTINA: Here in Toronto it’s not quite as spring-like as it is over in Tuscany, but I’m still hoping to source some fresh peas at the farmer’s market on Saturday so I can create this classic Florentine dish of stewed peas flavored with garlic, parsley and pancetta on Easter Sunday.
PASTIERA NAPOLETANA: This is the Easter cake of Naples, a strange concoction of pastry, cooked wheat (grana cotto), ricotta, orange flower water, candied citrus peel and cinnamon that marries together to create an exquisitely dense cake. This cake takes at least three days to make, which sounds like a lot of work, but really it’s a string of little things stretched out over time that actually make it quite easy:
-On the Monday before Easter soak the dried wheat berries in water for three days to prep them for cooking.
-On the Thursday before Easter cook the wheat berries in milk.
-On Good Friday make the ricotta filling and the pastry.
-Saturday is baking day as the pastiera must be cooled completely in the springform pan before removing.
Pastiera is best when served the day after baking to give the flavors time to meld together.