“Let’s do Hanami on Easter Sunday”, I said. “I am off all day.”
I had been truly surprised by the glorious flourishing of blooming cherry, apple and almond trees all around London. It evoked in me images of Japan in this season, with tea rituals and picnics under thousands of tiny pale pink flowers. Japan during Sakura is one of those dream trips that occupy a special place in my heart.
We chose a very simple menu that could work well for a picnic. On Easter Sunday, though, we woke up to a gray, damp weather as it has never been since we moved here. Flower blossoms had been partialy blown away by the chilly wind and the rain. The grass was wet, the air humid. A classic Londoner weather. It had to come sooner or later.
We stayed indoor and prepared our meal as it was. A small appetizer, a sping tart, and a fresh and light dessert to go with pomegranate scented water. Instead of cherry blossoms, our faithful orchid cheered our simple table.
Even if I come from Northern Italy, I am still linked to the Easter tradition of fave e pecorino, which comes mainly from the Central part of the country. I like to snack on them while I wait for the main course to be served, or during Easter Monday’s traditional hike and picnic. Last year I was lucky enough to find both in Illinois. This year I haven’t been able to find fava beans anywhere in London. I bought edamame instead, since Japan was somehow pertinent to the whole menu idea. Later, I happily found out that they work very well with pecorino cheese on toasty baguette, served as a simple antipasto.
In the meantime, a rustic home-made tart was baking in the oven. Fresh leeks , spring onions and thyme in a wholemeal shell. To me, savory tarts are a must on the Easter table, much more than any meat dish. I love grabbing a slice with my hands and biting into the crunchy crust trough the fluffy, creamy filling, savoring the flavor of fresh herbs and spring produce. It is true comfort food. One slice is usually not enough –a second serving is more likely to happen before I even start tackling the salad on the side.
I have to admit that I truly wanted to make pastiera this year. I said it and meant it, but in the end I didn’t. I was turned down by the cost and quality of the ingredients. Sheep’s milk ricotta is hard to find here, and so is good quality candied citrus peel at an affordable price. So, I chose not to compromise, and I made a completely different dessert. Vanilla scented fromage blanc topped with cream, Bronte pistachios and cane sugar, served on top of a grapefruit salad. Refreshing and only slightly sweet, it was the good end for our light meal. Far from being perfect, or festive, it was somehow meanigful to us, full of reminescences and silent dreams.
- good crunchy baguette
- 60 gr mid-aged pecorino cheese
- 100 gr edamame, fresh or frozen
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- fresh thyme, to guarnish
Bring about 400 ml of water to a boil. Add the edamame and boil for 5 minutes –they have to be al dente. Drain and let sit in cold water until ready to use.
In the meantime, turn on the oven broiler. Cut the baguette lenghtwise, place the bread slices on a baking sheet and toast until golden and crunchy, about 3-4 minutes. Remove.
Drain the edamame and season with salt and pepper. Shave the pecorino cheese over the toasty bread, and guarnish with thyme. Serve immediately with the edamame on a side.
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp fresh or dry parsley
- 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 large organic egg
- ½ cup crème fraiche
- pinch of salt
- 1 large leek
- 2 small spring onions
- fresh thyme, to guarnish
- grated pecorino cheese, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 10-inch tart pan and set aside.
To make the tart shell combine the flour, parsley, salt in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the flour and stir in. Drizzle the cold water over the flour and mix just until it is absorbed. Knead just until the dough comes together into a ball. On a lightly floured surface use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a circle. Place the pastry into the tart pan and press it evenly along the corners and edges. Trim away any excess dough. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. After the resting period, prick the crust evenly with a fork, then line the pastry with parchment paper and fill the tart with weights (coins, beans etc). Bake for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the filling. Rinse and drain well the leek and spring onions. Quarter the leek and half the onions along their lenght. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with the crème fraiche and salt. When the crust is ready, remove the paper and weights, then place leek and spring onions on top and pour the egg mixture over. Bake for 15 more minutes, then remove, grate some pecorino cheese and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 mintues. Garnish with fresh thyme. Serve warm.
- 1 pink grapefruit
- 100 gr fromage blanc
- 1 vanilla pod
- 2 T fresh cream
- 2 T raw cane sugar
- 2 T unsalted pistachios
Cut the vanilla pod lenghtwise and remove the seeds from the pod using a sharp knife. Mix the vanilla seeds and 1 T sugar with the fromage blanc and set aside.
Toast the pistachios in a small skillet over low heat until fragrant and crunchy.
Cut the grapefruit in two halves and remove the flash. Divide between two plates or bowls. Top with the fromage blanc anc one tablespoon cream each.
Sprinkle with the rest of the sugar and the toasted pistachios.
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