Good Friday: 2 vegetable dishes (individual torta pasqualina + oven roasted baby artichokes) and Sorrento’s processions
|April 22, 2011||Posted by ameliaps under easter, Italia, Italian, italy, vegetables, vegetarian|
Easter (Pasqua) in Italy is an even more holy holiday than Christmas. When I was growing up in Sorrento, “la settimana santa” (Easter’s holy week) was truly a week-long event. School would close on Wednesday and open back up the Tuesday after “Pasquetta” (Easter Monday). Thursday was dedicated to cooking together as a family. We baked casatiello (Easter yeasted bread: savory –with pepper, salame and boiled eggs woven in – or sweet – with raisins soaked in rum-) and pastiera (traditional Easter pie with wheat and custard cream baked in a wood oven). There is no meat on Good Friday, so we would make a vegetable torta (savory pie) and some seasonal vegetables, like asparagus or coal roasted artichokes. On the Sunday it was always lamb. On Easter Monday it was always pasta e piselli (pasta with peas, pancetta, an parsley). The exact same menu year after year, the same rituals. Traditions give us a predictable and comforting feeling. I clearly miss not being there this year…
On Good Thursday evening we would first walk through “I sepolcri” (literally means “the burials”: churches decorated with wheat to commemorate Jesus) then go over to my grandmother (Nonna Paola) and watch “la processione Bianca” (the white hooded procession) along the main street, from her 2nd floor balcony. It represent the last night of Jesus Christ. The statue of the crying Virgin Mary (Maria addolorata) is carried around representing the search for Her Son, sentenced to death. On Good Friday night (venerdi’ santo) the processions turn from white to black, representing Jesus’ crucifixion. A large group of over 500 people walk all night long carrying torches and symbols of the passion. They have been doing this for over 400 years. Funeral marches play and older men, as well as the haunting white voices of children, chant in Latin following the statue of the dead Christ (Cristo morto). I have never experienced anything so dramatic, mystic and spiritual: a unique mix of Christian and pagan traditions.
You can watch a video here to get a sense of the experience. But nothing comes close to being there at 3am in the middle of the night.
In this post you will find two vegetable dishes for Good Friday.
You have probably seen “torta pasqualina” a lot and it is very traditional. It is a savory pie filled with spinach, ricotta and eggs. The dough can be an olive oil bread dough or you can substitute frozen puff pastry. I have made here a mini version of this pie: individual portions, each with its own egg.
For the side, I roasted some baby artichokes and seasoned them very simply with salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and parsley, serving with fresh lemon. My aunt Silvana does the best coal roasted artichokes: they are filled with very finely chopped garlic and parsley and roasted very slowly until the whole artichokes is tender and edible. These baby artichokes were inspired by her recipe, but are more practical and fast.
In case you are looking for a Pasqua (Easter) menu, last year I prepared the following lunch (post and photos here):
Roasted lemon-rosemary leg of lamb over onions, and wild mushrooms served with Mint-macadamia dipping sauce
Steamed (blanched) asparagus with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
Colomba pasquale (Easter dove) – mini-cakes
Strawberries marinated in sugar, lemon juice and orange juice
Individual torta pasqualina
|Individual torta pasqualina|
- 2 sheets puff pastry (one package of two), thawed (take about half an hour)
- 3 lbs (1.5 kg) of fresh Swiss Chard or spinach, steamed, squeezed well and chopped (= 2 cups cooked spinach, or one 10 oz package of frozen, defrosted)
- 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt, pepper, fresh grated nutmeg, TT
- 8 oz (~ 225 grams, 1/2 cup) grated Parmigiano/Parmesan cheese
- 15 oz. (2 cups, 1 container, 425 gr.) ricotta, preferably whole milk
- 6 eggs
- Optional: egg wash for the top (1 egg yolk + 1 Tbsp water whisked together) or olive oil
- Heat the oil in a large pan with the garlic and remove the garlic when golden. Add the chard or spinach and sauté for a couple of minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the Parmesan and ricotta.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- On a floured surface, unfold the 2 puff pastry sheets and cut each one in 3 rectangles, then cut each in half to make 6 squares. Gently roll out each square of puff pastry. Oil 6 ramekins and place one square in each one. Fill with the ricotta-chard mixture, making an indentation in the middle. Break one egg in each indentation. Cover with the other square, sealing at the edges, and poke a few holes with a fork on top. Brush with egg wash (or olive oil), if you wish.
- Bake them for about half an hour or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. You can either serve them in the ramekins, or try to unmold them.
Roasted Baby Artichokes
2 lbs (~1 kg.) baby artichokes
3-4 Tbps extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 lemons (juice of one for the acidulated water; the other one to serve with the artichokes)
Salt and pepper to taste
Some fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley (about half a cup)
Preheat the oven to 400F (200 C).
Prepare a large bowl of water with the juice of a lemon. Trim one artichoke at a time so they don’t turn dark and when done put it in the acidulated water. To trim: pull off as many tough outer leaves as you can until you reach the yellow leaves, the heart. Cut off the top and bottom and cut each artichoke heart in four (or half, if very small). (You can also watch this step-by-step tutorial by Saveur). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then lay all the drained and pat-dried artichokes on it. Drizzle with olive oil, add the minced garlic, season with salt and pepper, and toss well. Roast for about a half an hour (maybe a bit more), tossing occasionally, until browned and softened. Top with fresh chopped parsley. Serve with lemon halves to squeeze over.