Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter Ham & Egg Pie

No matter what your religious affiliation, there is no denying that Easter symbolizes a celebration of life: new life, new love, new beginnings. It is a breath of fresh air deep in our lungs. A rae of warm sunshine blanketing our naked face. A glimpse of color and light in our eyes.  A thousand moments sparking a spirited youthfulness in us all.
With Spring comes the memories of friends and family and the urge to reunite. It is this time of year when I plan for the rest of the year: plant the garden, plan a summer vacation and organize gatherings with friends. Pouring over plant catalogs and Do-it-Yourself magazines, calendars of events and travel guides, my diary is quickly filled with notations of sleepovers for my stepson, school vacations, festivals, parties, dinner dates, and if I am lucky, vacations for me and my husband and visits from family and friends from overseas. I love including my past in my present day life and look forward to brining it into my future. If I can bring the memories of my ancestors with me, what better ways to do this than through the recipes that have been shared with me? The collection of all moments makes me happy and it only gets sweeter when the opportunity to share these moments arises. This is why I plan, why I love to share and ultimately why tradition is so important to me.

Easter has always been a uniquely joyous and happy time in my family – one that hosts a very different mood than Christmas or Thanksgiving. We never had Easter egg hunts but we did have jelly bean hunts. To this day my father finds petrified jelly beans lodged in the cracks of the exposed hand hewn beams in the farmhouse. We always found beautiful baskets filled with tiny chocolate eggs, marshmallow peeps and a single large chocolate Easter rabbit for each of us. My mother always sang the “Peter Cottontail” song, substituting the names for ours. When she’d get to that point in the song, we’d all chime in “there’ll be jelly beans for Gina, colored egg for Michael John, chocolate bunny for Andrea, and a present for Dad and Mom!”  She’d finish the song on her own as none of us knew the rest. And of course, we would always dye Easter eggs! 

There were a lot of traditions we developed over the years. Some I have left to memory and others I have taken into my heart and shared with many friends. To this day I still make my family’s Ham and Egg Pie recipe every Easter. And, as with many other recipes handed down to me, I count on my mother to repeat it to me each year when I realize I misplaced the last scrap of paper on which I jotted the recipe down the year before. That is sort of a tradition unto itself.

As with most old world recipes taken out of their homeland and dropped in the middle of a new culture, my family’s traditional Easter Ham and Egg Pie is based on traditional techniques, cultural ethos and everyday lifestyle only with an American twist. You used what you had. And it wasn’t always the case that available ingredients were the same that were commonplace in the motherland. Making due is what they called it. And making due was just as much fun, delicious and festive as always.

Ham & Egg Pie
(Long ago the actual directions were lost or may never have been passed down. However, I’m sure you’ll figure out what to do!)

Make a basic pastry crust to line the bottom of a large 9” or 10” spring form pan.

8 hard boiled eggs (quartered)
3 cups diced ham
¾ lb. diced mozzarella cheese
1 lb. ricotta cheese
12 raw eggs
¼ cup parmesan cheese

Beat the eggs, add the ricotta cheese, mix in the hard boiled eggs, ham and remaining cheeses. Add salt and pepper to taste (sometimes I add a bit of nutmeg) and pour into pastry lined pan. Bake at 325° Fahrenheit for one hour or until done.

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