Easter holds a happy place in my heart. No, not because I was the fat kid and my family would give me fruit baskets instead of chocolate to open up (every Easter morning for a number of years) that was terrible! But because Easter - in our home - was celebrated with an all out protein party. We’re talking salamis, provolone, ricotta salata, hard boiled eggs, lamb and or goat. I still recall sitting in church, in my too tight and too pastel Easter costume - scalp itching from some stupid straw bonnet - with a bow, of course - fantasizing about young spring goat and lamb and how tasty and tender they are. I was 9. What kind of 9 year old fantasizes about goat meat covered in wine, eggs, cheese and peas? A smart one, yes. That was me.
I didn’t think I’d celebrate Easter this year. I imagined it would be much like my Christmas Day. A good one on one chat with the Chinese food take out lady, an order of steamed chicken and broccoli shows up and I stone myself on Netflix and dark chocolate until I fall asleep - waking up only to realize my hand is down my pants and I should really go for a late night walk and see a depressing film.
Instead, I took control of the situation. With my family no longer close by, I decided it was time to woman up and cook goat for some friends.
I contacted my Aunt Jo - and by contacted - I mean she texts! I can’t believe my little Italian Aunt texts. But when the goat and artichoke instructions got too lengthy, we settled on a phone call. And I’m glad we did. Between my Aunt and my Mom’s memories of grandmas goat, I was armed to cook a true Neapolitan Easter dinner and maybe even channel the spirit of my grandma. My Aunt reminded me that my Uncle Gino would serve an antipasto of hardboiled eggs, ricotta salata and salami. All deliciously salty and belly bloating, so we’d be pretty full before we even arrived to the presentation of the goat and oil slicked artichokes.
While scoping out the Astoria scene for an abundance of ingredients, I set my eyes on some fava beans and asparagus. Spring is in the air indeed - and I love a fresh green fava bean and long lean stalk of asparagus.
I started feeling guilty for not having enough vegetables on my table, so the addition of a fava salad and roasted asparagus quelled the fear I had of my guests frowning on my fatty protein fest and my own fear of never pooping again. I was going for a Spring green motif with my table, with some pops of color by adding in tomatoes and salami where I saw fit.
Traditionally, our family would have a fuit plate and pastiera di grano for dessert - which is a grain pie that could be likened to a lumpy cheesecake with citron chunks in it. I made it one year, omitting the citron because that shit is sticky and gets stuck in your teeth. This is also dessert people and fruit is not dessert. I know, I can hear all of the women in my family - but it’ll help you digest. Bullshit. In my adult life I’ve read enough food combination books to know that fruit should not be eaten within an hour of any meal. Simply put, fruit is a pre-cursor to dessert so you don’t feel like you’re being a total fatty by closing right in on some cake and cookies. I have no shame. I always go right for the good stuff.
I served homemade truffles for dessert. Thank you, Ina Garten, you’re brilliant. Rather, the little gnomes in your test kitchen are. I delicately placed some strawberries beside the truffles and, wouldn’t you know, we ate them all. Ok, I was responsible for eating one because I could hear my mom yelling at me for skipping over the fruit.
Although I miss holiday arguments, crowded tables, my grandmother walking around hunched over with a corning ware dish, rationing out portions of goat and artichokes - I’m glad to know I can cook a meal, like her, without a problem or a worry as to whether or no it will taste ok. Sure, I’m insecure before I cook a meal - but Easter goat was proof to my palette that a little old Italian woman lives inside of me. Creepy, I know.
And I wish I knew then what I know now, maybe I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself about my weight and food and emotions. Who knew that being a smallish, chubby food loving fiend would make me nostalgic and appreciative later on in life. That things wouldn’t be so bad and that I’d lose 160lbs and grow up to have a good job and a nice apartment and friends that indulge my food memories.
If grandma could only see me now.
I’d like to think she was smiling all day on Sunday - although she’d probably say “Teenoocha, you lose a all of this a weight and can make a this meal - and you still no have a boyfriend? What do you do? You make a nice with the boys or no? I told you - marry a someone who make a money and make a you happy.”
I’m working on it grandma. All of it.
I’m also still working on my St. Patrick’s Day blog post which, I’m guessing, I’ll get to this weekend.
Fava Bean Salad
1 c. fava beans, cleaned and removed from pod
10 red cherry tomatoes
10 small yellow tomatoes
1T. olive oil
Fresh Lemon juice
Shards of Pecorino
-Pepare a large bowl with ice water and put aside
-Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add fava beans, boiling for 1 minute
-Strain fava beans and quickly place in ice water bath (this will ensure your beans stay bright green)
-Remove fava beans from ice water and peel back the waxy outer shell of the bean and discard (repeat)
-Place fava in a bowl with tomatoes, salt, lemon juice and oil - then toss to coat
-Spoon fava salad into endive leaves and top with pecorino
6 small artichokes, cleaned and quartered
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
20 black Italian olives, pitted
1/4 c. good olive oil
1/4 c. water
-Begin to clean artichokes and, as you’re cleaning, place them in a pot with cold water, lemon and 1T. of flour - this will keep them from turning black
-Over medium low heat, add oil to a large stock pot, then add artichokes + garlic cover for 5 minutes
-Remove cover and add water
-Replace cover and continue to cook for another 7-10 minutes - watching that there is enough liquid in the pot so the artichokes do not stick and burn
-Remove cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until outer leaves of the artichoke are tender (admittedly, mine were a little tough - I should have peeled back more leaves)
-Salt and serve with cheese
1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed
2T. good olive oil
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees
-Line a baking sheet with asparagus and toss to coat with olive oil and salt
-Roast for 12-15 minutes until asparagus are medium brown but still maintain a somewhat firm stem
Grandma’s Goat With Eggs + Peas
1 1/2 lbs. goat, cut into 2” pieces, rinsed and patted dry
1/4 c. good olive oil
3 shallots, minced
1 1/2 c. white wine
1 1/3 c. peas
3-4 eggs beaten + 1/2 c. grated Locatelli cheese
Fresh parsley + lemon for garnish
-In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, set over medium high heat, add olive oil
-Add goat, cooking until browed and remove from pot and put aside
-Add shallots and reduce heat, covering, and cooking onions for 20-30 minutes until melted down
-Transfer goat back in the pot, add 1 c. of wine and cook uncovered until wine reduces - about 30-40
-Add peas and the remaining wine and cover, cooking for an additional 30-45 minutes
*If your liquid is not reducing, cook with lid slightly open
-Add eggs and cook until eggs are completely formed - but they should be soft and fluffy, coating all of the goat and peas
-Remove from heat, plate, garnish and serve