Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter in Cleveland

Easter in Cleveland means lamb (which I hate) and dry biscotti and fiadone (which I love). It use to also mean the whole family squeezed around the table eating my grandmother’s ravioli, but we have gotten older and it’s harder for us all to make it to the table, anyway Grandma Argie doesn’t cook much any more. This Easter my mom made the biscotti, usually they are dry little lumps of dough that must be covered in icing and dipped in coffee before they can be swallowed, but mom cheated and added a cup of sour cream to the dough and lemon juice to the icing and they were unexpectedly moist and lovely, nearly a miracle. I considered attempting the ravioli but instead made the fiadone while Grandma Argie watched. We quickly discovered that we had nothing to zest the orange and lemon with and I had to resort to using some weird cheese grater from the 1950’s but that was to be expected, making fiadone never goes as planned. It’s a finicky recipe; every time it has passed from generation to generation something has been added or left out. Did we always use lemon and orange zest, should we double the crust—last year there was extra filling and we had to throw it out, where are the pans we usually use, these are the wrong size. In all the hard-to-read hand written recipes the ricotta is measured in pounds but no one ever has a scale and after some discussion we usually demand that the men in the living room tell us how many cups are in a pound and they laugh at us. Then we must beat the egg yolks longer than anyone thinks is reasonable while remembering to not over beat the whites, the kitchen must be cleared while the fiadones bake because the slightest jar fill make them fall, and opening the oven to see how they are doing before they are done baking? Don’t even think of it. Making the fiadone isn’t easy, but the reward… sitting at the table and watching everyone taste, consider, remember, look at the piece in their hand then nod and say, “It came good this year.” I’m including my version of the recipe but I make no promises, as Uncle Dennis said this Easter, “It’s got a good flavor but it’s so flat, didn’t you beat the eggs?”

(makes enough for 2 pies, sometimes more…)

Preheat oven to 350°

3 eggs
2 tbls sugar
4 tbls oil
1 ½ cups flour plus more to make a soft dough
1 tsp baking powder

Beat eggs with sugar until sugar dissolves, then beat in oil. Mix the baking powder with the flour and then add to the egg mixture. Stir and add additional flour as needed until very soft dough is formed. Cover and let rest while you make the filling.

2 lbs ricotta
6 eggs, separated
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ tbls melted butter, cooled
Rind and juice of an orange and a lemon

Beat egg yolks until lemon colored. Add sugar, butter, rind and juices to the yolks and beat until all the sugar is dissolved.

In a separate bowl beat the ricotta on high speed until it is smooth and creamy. Add it to the yolk mixture.

In yet another bowl beat the egg whites until they begin to hold their shape but aren’t still. Fold them into the yolk mixture.

Divide dough in half and roll each half out thin, stretching the dough as you roll it. Line the pie pans and let the edges hang. Fill each pan with half the filling and trim and tuck under the edges of the crust. Put into oven and turn heat down to 325°. Bake for an hour, no peaking or jumping, don’t let the fiadone brown.

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