Easter is a time for re-birth and new beginnings. Spring is here for the most part and life begins to move outdoors…finally. When I was growing up, Easter was a special time. that was steeped in religious as well as food traditions. Lent ended and with it all the fasting, abstaining and giving things up. To say there was a food frenzy may be a bit of an overstatement, but it was definitely a time for enjoying eating.
I loved the Calzone. We sometimes called it Easter Pie and it was baked on Holy Saturday, not be eaten until after Easter Sunday mass. It was filled with ricotta and sausage, with egg in every part of it. My mother and my aunt both made it and I couldn’t wait for Easter morning to have it. If I timed it right, I could have my mom’s and then go upstairs and have my aunt’s, too. They each had their own version, my aunt’s often having ham and hard-boiled eggs in it.
This is my mother’s recipe. She would make it every Easter. If I was lucky, I’d have it again at Christmas when her side of the family served it as Egg Pie. Whenever it was made, it was one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve ever had.
When we think about Fat Tuesday, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras is the first event that comes to mind. The Big Easy seems to grab most of the attention, but many countries and cultures celebrate the last day before Lent and spend several days or even a week or two to get ready to tighten their belts for the forty days until Easter.
Italy is no exception. Carnevale is celebrated throughout Italy. It shares many of the same trappings as Mardi Gras, but as with many things Italian, with a little more elegance. The exquisite maschere (masks) and fancy balls lend a more sophisticated air to the celebration. Carnevale is not just fancy clothes, it has its share of merrymaking and tomfoolery. In fact, the prevalent attitude, “A carnevale ogni sherzo vale” (anything goes at carnevale) is easily aligned with “Laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll) in New Orleans.
Food and eating is a large part of every celebration and there are certain foods that are traditionally served. These foods tend to be rich, hearty and meat laden, again to make going into the Lenten season of fasting and abstinence from meat less painful. This recipe from Naples is typical of Carnevale celebration food. It has a Fat and Sodium content that will likely require the next forty days for your system to recover. The ingredients are simple;
Yes, lard. It is responsible for the almost creamy texture of this savory cake. I made a large round, thick cake, but baking it in a small sheet pan would allow cutting into bite-size squares that would be perfect for a Fat Tuesday Party. Just remember to adjust the baking time by a few minutes so it doesn’t dry out.