Celebrating Easter Italian Style

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - April 04, 2007
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Cousins Anthony Romano and Joe Tramontano of Antonio’s restaurant show off their traditional Italian Easter favorites
Cousins Anthony Romano and Joe Tramontano of
Antonio’s restaurant show off their traditional
Italian Easter favorites

Memories of the Easter goodies in the windows of the Italian bakeries where I grew up still make my mouth water. I especially remember the colorful Easter bread that was also a feast for the eyes.

I contacted two of my favorite Italians, cousins Joe Tramontano and Anthony Romano of Antonio’s Restaurant on Waialae Avenue, to see if they had the recipe for the bread. Lo and behold, I got two great Easter recipes for MidWeek readers to enjoy!

They also shared some special recollections. Anthony said that growing up in an Italian family on the East Coast, Easter was a very special time of year. One of the fondest memories was going to Joey C’s grandma’s house, where they would have a large family gathering and could share and enjoy good food, wine and desserts. Once you were invited to Grandma C’s house, you never needed to be invited again. Instead, your presence was expected every year.


On Easter Sunday they would wake up early and before going to church, would all sit down in the kitchen and enjoy the homemade Easter bread. After church, they would return home to enjoy family time together and all the delicious food that was prepared. An annual event at their home was an Easter egg hunt in the back yard.

This is dedicated to Joe and Anthony. Happy Easter!

ITALIAN RICE PIE

For Crust:

* 1 cup flour
* 1 tablespoon Crisco shortening
* 3 tablespoons sugar
* 1 egg
* pinch of salt
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 tablespoons milk

For Filling:

* 1 cup cooked rice
* 4 eggs
* 1/2 pint heavy cream
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 pound ricotta cheese
* dash cinnamon

Note: For lower fat and cholesterol, you may use egg substitute for eggs in recipe, and lowfat ricotta cheese.


For crust, mix all ingredients together. Form into ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate minimum 1 hour. Put dough on a floured surface and roll it out. Put inside an ungreased round 9-inch-deep or 10-inch baking dish. Press around sides and bottom. Set aside.

For filling, mix each ingredient one at a time together until well blended. Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Center of pie will be soft when removed from oven. Chill overnight.

ITALIAN EASTER BREAD

* 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 cups unsifted flour
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 package active dry yeast
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2/3 cup milk
* 2 tablespoons margarine
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
* 1/2 cup mixed candied fruit (optional)
* 1/2 teaspoon anise seed (optional) * 5 colored hard-boiled eggs
* melted margarine * confectioners’ sugar frosting
* colored sprinkles

For Frosting:

* 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
* 1 tablespoon milk


In mixer bowl, thoroughly mix 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and dry yeast. Heat milk and margarine over low heat until warm, add gradually to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup flour, or enough to make thick batter. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Attach dough hook. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 3 to 4 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl, turn to bring greased side up, cover and let rise until double, about 1 hour. Punch down and return to mixer bowl. Add nuts, fruit and anise seed. Knead with dough hook about 1 minute. Divide in half. Roll each piece into a 24-inch rope. Twist ropes together loosely and form them into a ring on a greased baking sheet. Arrange colored eggs in empty spaces in twist. Brush with melted margarine. Cover. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

To frost, mix together sugar and milk to make a liquid glaze. Drizzle over bread and add sprinkles while glaze is still wet.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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