One of the joys of travelling is reliving those precious moments even years later. When I travel I have always taken hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. Long before blogging I was taking photos of the food at my table while on even the smallest of adventures. There’s something so evocative to me about pictures of food and the power they have to vividly remind me of mouth-watering meals and moments that I’ve had on my travels. I can look at my culinary photos and remember exactly where I was, the scent of the dish placed in front of me, and the way the flavours opened up on my palate. In many cases the taste or smell of something in my past is capable of painting a picture with richer, deeper brush strokes than any snapshot in my photo album. Recreating those same dishes in your own kitchen is pure magic.
The Amalfi Coast seduces its visitors not only with the wonderful panoramas and the intense blue sea, but also with the flavours and tastes of the local cuisine. Sheltered amongst plantings of olive trees, bright orange and yellow lemons, oranges, and mandarins dot the lush green landscape where almost every inch of space seems to be used. If you celebrate holidays with Italians, you probably associate Easter with a lot of delicious foods. We must never forget dessert and since it is Easter it brings to mind a golden, creamy, almost-cheesecake-like pie called pasteria or “wheat pie.” It’s made with a sweet pastry dough, and the filling includes a combination of creamy ricotta and orange or lemon zest along with the texture of cooked wheat.
Easter is filled with traditional desserts, the most important being this Neopilitan treasure... pasteria, a centuries-old disc that appears in innumerable versions. Each family has its own closely guarded recipe and discusses it at length with friends and neighbours, everybody tasting each other’s and commenting on them all. This pastry is offered to guests for at least a week around Easter time (and that is how long the pasteria will keep if kept refrigerated).
"The first thing that strikes you about Pastiera Napoletana is its scent. It’s like smelling a bouquet of orange flowers. Indeed orange flower water and orange peel go into this pie, which has a crisp golden crust and a soft, creamy filling of ricotta, sugar, eggs and cooked wheat, flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla."These days you can purchase the cooked wheat in cans at your local Italian grocers. It is a little more time consuming but you can also make your own as in the recipe below. Once the wheat has soaked the recipe comes together quite quickly. Why not try a taste of the Italian coast at your Easter table this year with this lemony version based on a recipe from Food.com.
**Easter Wheat Pie (Pasteria di Grano)**
18 ounces whole milk
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
8 large eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 lb whole milk ricotta cheese (drained if very wet)
2 cups cooked wheat (about 1/2-3/4 pound of dry wheat should = 2 cups cooked) or 1 1/2-2 cups cooked drained arborio rice
1/2 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2-3/4 cup butter
3 eggs or 2 extra large egg yolks
2 1/2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon rind
Lightly butter 2 9-inch cake pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To Prepare the Crust: Mix flour, sugar and lemon peel together in a bowl. Work butter into flour using your fingers until it is the size of peas. (I always like to grate my butter into the flour mixture. A tip I learned years ago on the Food Network).
Add eggs one at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon.
Knead the dough lightly until it holds together well and clears the bowl. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill it for about 1/2- 1 hour before using.
To Make Filling: Fill the bottom of a double boiler with enough water so that its insert doesn't quite touch the water; bring the water to a boil.
Mix the whole milk, 3 egg yolks, sugar, flour, 2 tablespoons lemon zest together in the insert of the double boiler which has been set in to the bottom pan.
Cook the"cream," stirring constantly until it has thickened and is the consistency of a thick pudding (about 20-30 minutes).
Remove the insert from the boiling water and set aside to allow the"cream" to cool, stir occasionally to keep a skin from forming.
Note: I sometimes put the insert pan with the"cream" mixture into a bowl of very cold water, to help it cool down faster, don't forget to stir it.
To a saucepan add the cooked, soaked, well drained wheat (see below) with the milk and butter.
Cook the wheat mixture, stirring occasionally until the butter melts, and mixture starts to boil; boil for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and let cool.
In a separate bowl mix ricotta, 8 eggs, sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon zest together. Beat mixture by hand, with a wooden spoon, until smooth and creamy.
Add the"cream" mixture and the cooked and drained wheat mixture to the ricotta filling, stirring until all is well blended.
Leave a 1/2 inch overhang of dough. Re-roll scraps and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips to use as a lattice top for the pie.
Pour or ladle the filling into prepared pans (to within 1/4 inch of the top of the pan).
Place the strips of dough across the filling, spaced about 1 inch apart (at right angles) forming a lattice top.
Fold the 1/2 inch overhang over the edges of the lattice and flute well.
Bake pies in a preheated 350°F oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the bottom of the crust is light brown, the center is set, and the top of the pies are golden.
Turn off oven and let the pies cool for an hour in the oven with the oven door slightly ajar.
Remove pies from oven and place on a wire rack. When completely cooled, cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill until serving.
If you like, you can give the pie tops a light sprinkle of powdered sugar before serving.
A hint: Its best to serve this pie directly from the pan, as trying to plate the whole pie is more trouble than its worth, and causes breakage.
NOTE: PreparingThe Wheat: If"soaked" or"precooked" canned wheat is not available, dry wheat may be used.
Cover the dry wheat with cold water (water should be about 2 inches over the wheat) and boil it for 15 minutes or until the wheat berries crack open.
Remove pan from heat and allow wheat to soak for a full 24 hours.
After soaking, drain well before using.
If canned wheat is used, add the wheat to a pan of boiling water and cook it for about 5-10 minutes (most of the wheat berries should be open and they should be chewy but tender).
Drain well, let cool.
Other Easter Pies on the Web…
Ciao Chow Linda
Barefoot Kitchen Witch
Pastiera with Balsamic Strawberries and Basil - Sass and Verasity
Due SpaghettPasteria, Neapolitan Ricotta and Rice Pie
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