Casa Mia

Casa Mia

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Morning

It's 8:30PM Saturday night before Easter. I'm 13, Mindy is 8, Stephen 5. My sister and I are in our bedroom smelling the asparagus, scallions and dried sausage sauteeing downstairs in the kitchen. Our new Easter outfits, shoes, hats, and underwear have been laid out on our dresser earlier in the day by my mother who has spent the last several days baking cookies and preparing the pizza rustica which we happily sampled earlier that morning. My brother is still bouncing off the walls, pleading with me and Mindy to let him into our room, as my father yells at him to "leave [us] girls alone" and go to bed. Soon the vacuum will be whirring and we will all be lulled to sleep, visions of chocolate bunnies, licorice jelly beans, and marshmallow eggs dancing in our heads!

As Easter morning breaks and we dress for 8AM mass, we tear into the baskets that the bunny has brought us through the very capable hands of my mother (and father), and sample a piece of bunny here, a jelly bean there. My mother gets the holiday spirit rolling with shrieks of reprimand for the chocolate she smells on my brother's breath, pins the corsages onto Mindy's, mine and her own spring coats, and we are off to church. I pray God forgives me for what I am about to admit but throughout the hour that the congregation is rejoicing over Christ's resurrection, I'm only noticing the color of Bonnie's dress, Anne's new shoes and Kathy's hat and thinking about the delicacies that are awaiting. And here's the bigger sacrilege: in spite of the delicious, aromatic, vinegar and garlic basted leg of lamb with accompanying greasy potatoes that is our usual Easter lunch, breakfast is the best part of the day!

Once back at home, the dining table welcomes us with a pink linen table cloth, fresh tulips, dyed eggs and Grandma's Easter bread and babies. Mom immediately heads for the kitchen and, using last night's sauteed asparagus, scallions and sausage, as well as cubed mozzarella, ricotta and lots of eggs, begins preparing our frittata - an Italian omelet reserved just for this holiday. Meanwhile, my father gets the coffee perking and I bring all the other Easter goodies to the table, like the dishes of diagonally-sliced homemade sausage, pizza ghiende (commonly known as pizza rustica), birds nest cookies and apricot pastries, while Stephen and Mindy continue to munch on the contents of their baskets. After half an hour or so, some champagne and oj and an Easter basket down, the weeks of chopping, stuffing, drying, rolling, twisting are finally fulfilled. As a joyous family, we proceed to the dining room to enjoy our breakfast feast.

Fast forward about 15 years: Mindy is 25, Stephen 22 and I'm 30 with 2 kids, ages 3 and 1. Although I'm not hosting Easter breakfast, I made the pizza rustica on Good Friday, a tradition I uphold to this day, managed the construction of 2 Easter baskets, vacuumed the entire 4 rooms of my house, purchased the girls' dresses, hats, ruffled socks and maryjane shoes (at Lord and Taylor!) and dressed them both, pinning on corsages, in time to meet my parents and sister at 8AM mass. Once again, I am occupied throughout the hour with Noelle's squirming, Jessica's hat falling off and thoughts of our traditional Easter breakfast. When we get to my parents' house, I hold the girls off with a piece of bread from their very own Easter baby while my mother works her magic with the frittata. My  sister and her fiance (now my brother-in-law) are serving the champagne and OJ, bringing the sausage and cookies to the table as my kids open their baskets of goodies from Grammy and Poppy's Easter bunny. And Stephen is nowhere to be found.

Over the years since he was a child rebutting my mother's fashion advice,  Stephen has creatively managed to evade the Easter church police posing as our parents so it's no surprise that he is MIA now. But just as I get Noelle settled into her highchair and Jessica's V-8 juice is served, just as my mother starts serving the frittata and we are about to take our first delicious bite, my brother comes pounding down the stairs, with the family Newfoundland/Lab, "Max," in tow, loudly singing his crass versions of otherwise popular songs, and all is lost. Jessica gets out of her seat, running to the stairs to meet her "Stevie Wonder"; Noelle starts squirming, whining, begging to be let loose to join the fun that is Stephen. All decorum is lost; all the weeks of preparation, shot to hell as quickly as you can say Peter Cottontail. Because in spite of the fact that my brother, like my sister, parents and in-laws, has a huge Easter basket for my kids, he has not one shred of Easter tradition in his bones. As he comes into the dining room, teasing and taunting everyone in his path, including my sweet old grandmother, he is dressed in his Easter finest: no shirt, no shoes, black and white striped boxers and his omnipresent "fro." Perhaps he is still rebelling for being forced to wear those suits with short pants or perhaps he's just the Easter grinch, a charlatan in fun uncle clothes. I believe the latter for with not an ounce of shame, he sits at the head of the table and chows down, critiquing every morsel along the way, throwing black jelly beans at my sister, demanding 16oz refills of iced water from my mother, tossing the ball in the living room to Max, singing Bad Boys with Jessica, taking the food out from a shocked Noelle. And so our Easter begins….

Here’s hoping yours is calmer or at least made a little bit funnier, definitely more interesting and hopefully tastier since reading this story from our crazy family's past. To thank you for bearing with us, I share our prized Easter recipe.

Pizza Rustica (aka “Ghiende”)
Pillsbury pie crusts (2) or double recipe of pastry dough
18 eggs beaten with grated locatelli cheese
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 lb of thick sliced prosciutto, cut into pieces
1-1/2lb fresh mozzarella (in water) cut into cubes
1 large packaged mozzarella, cubed
1-1/2 lbs. fresh sausage, browned and sliced in rounds

-Make the pastry dough or roll out one sheet of pie crust for the bottom of a large rectangular roasting pan.
- Beat the eggs in two batches in a blender with cheese
- Pour into a bowl and mix with the other ingredients. Then pour into the roasting pan.
- Top with the other rolled out pie crust.
- Brush with beaten egg and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

1 comment:

  1. I am here Val!!!

    Loving your blog and looking forward to more recipes and stories!