What a fun, relaxing day!

You’d think with 15 people coming to dinner, little kids, a crazy dog, and a dozen dishes to prepare that there would be just a little bit of chaos or angst. There wasn’t. It was as smooth-sailing and drama-free as a day could be.

Part of it was because we actually planned out what we were doing. The other part was we’ve been doing this for awhile, now. Moving furniture to create the table and all is done by rote. Phone table to the powder room, wicker to the living room. There’s no running around looking for stuff – it’s already been found.

We started off with hors d’oeuvres and wine in the dining room – a room way too small to actually eat in. We start here with Uncle Rudy’s Easter Pie. It’s a family favorite and definitely one of mine. Victor makes this every year and a couple of years back went from making a full double crust to a lattice crust. It really lets the filling shine! Recipes at the end!


I went down to Reading Terminal Market on Monday and picked up stuff for appetizers and sides. It’s a great food emporium!  I picked up a Valencay French Goat Cheese form Downtown Cheese, and a sharp provolone left over from the Easter Pie.


And caperberries, stuffed peppers, marinated artichokes, and a slew of different olives…


When I ordered the ham from Robertson’s in Oklahoma – yes, our dinner ham came from Oklahoma – I also got a stick of jalapeno summer sausage. Outrageously good. The ham, thick slices of prosciutto, and really awesome aged pepperoni were also leftovers from the Easter Pie. Waste not, want not…


Another RTM find was golden beets. Victor has never been a huge fan of beets – those pickled things in a can will never be found in our home – but he’s learned to like the golden ones – and we even grew red beets this past fall and he liked them, a lot!


They were definitely a hit! And really easy to put together. Recipe follows.


The two main entrees were our Ham From Oklahoma and a side of salmon. I went for a boneless ham for the first time just to see how they were, along with ease of preparation. I was impressed. They do a good job with them, as well.


The salmon was a take on a recipe I found in Fine Cooking magazine. It’s a unique combination of spices and flavors served with braised fennel and apples.


Some things are just meant to be…


Green beans and carrots…


And roasted potato medley… Having double ovens really makes the job easy.


Marie brought her Pineapple Bread Stuffing… Easter is the only time she makes it so we have to take advantage of it no matter where Easter is held. It’s really good!


And that glass you barely see at the top of the picture? It’s a Star Wars promotional glass from Burger King in 1977. Yes… once upon a time the giveaways at the fast fooderies were actually made of glass. I had a whole bunch of them once upon a time. Down to four…


But back to food… Instead of dinner rolls, I opted for a loaf of one of my favorite breads – Pane Pugliese. Instead of my normal Italian ’00’ flour, I went with King Arthur’s Artisan Flour this time around – and wasn’t impressed. For this bread, anyway, I really do prefer the ’00’ flour. I’ll try some other recipes with the King Arthur – maybe a San Francisco-style sourdough. But I won’t be using it for my Italian breads…


And then, of course, we had desserts. I had been staring at the cover of this La Cucina Italiana magazine for two years and finally decided it was going to be a part of Easter. It’s definitely a special occasion dessert because it is a bit of a production to make… But worth every step.


Leah made a Ricotta cake that really rocked! I wish I had gotten a better picture – this one doesn’t do it justice.


Marie brought cookies…


and cookies for the kids…


And when I was at Reading Terminal I picked up a pound of sesame cookies at Termini Bros. Sorry to say – they sucked. Totally flavorless – and $20/pound. Even Nonna wouldn’t eat them – and she will eat almost any cookie on the planet. Into the trash they went…


But one bogus store-bought cookie didn’t ruin the day. Three year old Miles finally petted Blanche – she outweighs him by 40 pounds, easily – but they’re making peace. It gets easier every time. We also celebrated three March birthdays and Uncle Tom winning United Pilot of the Year. Pretty cool.

A great day of fun, food, and family… The next big event will be Nick & Sam’s wedding in June – and then we get to fly west to see all my family for Sean and Maggie’s wedding in September. Can’t wait!

The recipes:


Easter Pie


  • 1 1/2 lb whole milk Ricotta
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cheese – we used cubed provolone this time, but any grated cheese will also work
  • 1/4 lb ham, diced
  • 1/4 lb prosciutto, diced
  • 1/4 lb pepperoni, diced
  • Garlic Powder
  • Pepper
  • Italian Seasoning
  • Parsley

Place pie crust in plate. Mix all ingredients and pour into crust and top with second crust.

Bake at 375°F/190°C for 45 minutes to 1 hour – the crust should be nice and golden brown and the filling set.


Golden Beets


  • Golden Beets
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.

Clean and trim beets. Rub with olive oil and place in oven-safe dish. Add 1/4″ water to dish, cover with foil, and bake until tender – time will vary depending on size of beets. Cool and peel.

Mix minced garlic with olive oil and let sit to infuse. Drizzle strained oil over beets, drizzle good-quality balsamic over, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Finish off with chopped parsley.


Salmon with Fennel


For the spice rub:
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 2 tbsp ground sumac or sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
For the fish and fennel:
  • Four 6-oz. salmon fillets
  • 4 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and sliced lengthwise
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cut into matchsticks
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Fennel pollen

Preheat oven to 425°F/220°C.

Mix coriander, sumac, lemon zest, and salt. Rub liberally over salmon. Place in hot oven for about 10 minutes or until desired doneness.

Cut apples – a mandoline really works, here – and mix with with lemon and honey. Set aside. Saute fennel in olive oil until soft. Remove from heat and let cool, slightly. Stir in aples and mix well. Add salt and pepper, if desired.

Remove salmon from oven, plate, and top with fennel and apple mixture. Sprinkle with fennel pollen.


Chocolate and Sour Cherry Torta



  • 1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces plus more for greasing pan


  • 3 large eggs
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70%), finely chopped
  • ½ cup blanched almonds
  • ⅓ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 1½ cups sour cherries in syrup, drained (from 24-ounce jar)
  • 1 bittersweet chocolate bar for shaving

For Crust: Place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor; process for a few seconds to combine. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With machine running, add 3 tablespoons ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube, just until the dough holds together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds. Turn out dough onto a work surface; flatten to form a disc. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day before using.

Heat oven to 350º with rack in middle. Grease the 9-inch springform pan with butter, then dust with flour. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to a 12-inch round. Fit crust into pan. Chill in refrigerator until ready to fill.


For Filling: Separate eggs, placing 3 yolks in one bowl and 2 whites in another (save remaining white for another use). In a heatproof bowl in a microwave oven, heat chopped chocolate at medium power at 15-second intervals, stirring between intervals, until melted, about 1½ minutes; set aside to cool. In the bowl of a food processor, combine almonds, flour and salt; pulse until mixture resembles fine flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat together butter and 7 tablespoons sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With machine running, add egg yolks one at a time, incorporating between additions. In a slow and steady stream, add melted chocolate. Reduce speed to low, then add almond flour, mixing just until incorporated.


Fold in half the cherries. In a large, clean bowl, beat together egg whites and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar until shiny, soft peaks form.


Gently but thoroughly fold whites into chocolate mixture. Spread remaining cherries in bottom of prepared crust, then pour in batter.


Bake until filling is puffed and just set, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Let cake cool completely.

Just before serving cake, hold chocolate bar with a paper towel. Pass a vegetable peeler over the side of the bar to create shavings. Pile shavings on top of cake. Dust with cocoa.