It’s been a while…almost four months in fact! There have been a lot of changes during that time (including new jobs for both Nick and me) and so the blog took a back seat to everything else, but I’m happy to say I’m back! I considered discontinuing the blog (after all, it is called “My Year of Italian Cooking” and I’m now entering year 3!) but when I thought about all of the wonderful things it has brought to my life, I couldn’t give up on it just yet.
First and foremost, writing this blog has given me a greater sense of purpose in the kitchen. I love to cook all kinds of food but food that I have a cultural and familial connection to delivers even more satisfaction in both the process and the product.
I also love that writing this blog has led me to the Italian Cultural Center. I’ve taken language and cooking classes at the ICC, attended events, and have recently become a member.
This blog has also encouraged me to seek out other avenues for food writing. For just over a year now, I’ve been a volunteer recipe tester over at Leite’s Culinaria. Testing for Leite’s has introduced me to a supportive and enthusiastic community of amateur and professional cooks – all of whom love to talk about food and try new recipes, ingredients, and cooking methods.
For all of these reasons and more – I’m sticking around for at least a little while longer. 🙂
Now on to the good stuff…
On March 21st, I attended Frigo’s “Taste of Italy” with my parents, Nick, and our friend Price who recently moved back to the Pioneer Valley. In case you didn’t know by now, Nick and I have a minor obsession with Frigo’s. The “Taste of Italy,” a ticketed event at the Springfield location, included several tasting stations throughout the store and kitchen. Though it was rather tight quarters, the variety of foods more than made up for the lack of space. We sampled porchetta, Easter ham sliders, and braciole; antipasto, fried ravioli, and mozzarella & prosciutto pinwheels; an orecchiette pasta dish and a flatbread; cannoli, wine, and more! It was a good way to learn more about Frigo’s offerings and a fun way to spend a Monday evening.
For Easter this year, we hosted my parents and my brother at our apartment. We started hosting Easter in 2015 with a small spread of finger foods but this year we wanted to have a more robust meal. Nick debated Easter ham vs. Easter lamb and lamb won out in the end (yay!) so we had lamb sliders which were tender and especially delicious served with a mint sauce. I cooked up mac and cheese with broccoli, deviled eggs (a Serafino/Clover-Brown Easter must-have!), salad, and an Italian Easter bread. My family brought fruit salad, cheese and crackers, wine, and Italian cookies. It was quite a feast – you can check out some of the spread below.
As it was my first time attempting Italian Easter bread (pane di Pasqua), I was a little nervous. But I shouldn’t have worried – this great Yankee Magazine recipe (with a few tweaks) yielded excellent results.
The wreath shape of pane di Pasqua represents Christ’s crown of thorns while dyed eggs signify rebirth and renewal. The bread is flavored with anise, studded with raisins and dried cranberries (candied orange peel would’ve been more traditional than cranberries but I was working with what I had and also appreciated the nod to our New England home), drizzled with icing, and dusted with sprinkles. It tasted like a mix between panettone and hot cross buns. Though I didn’t eat much of it, I knew it was good when Nick went in for a second slice (he’s not crazy about sweets). I think the bread was slightly more dense than it should be, so I’ll work on that next year as well as bringing out a more pronounced citrus flavor and perfecting the look of the bread.