Buona Pasqua a tutti! I can't believe tomorrow is Easter...it's so early this year, it feels a little weird. We'll be rising bright and early - not for a sunrise service, but to drive to Rome to celebrate the holiday with friends, Giorgio and Francesca. Chef Gio has been planning menus and cooking all week and we can't wait to see the results. My parents arrived back in town l'altro ieri (day before yesterday) and have finally been able to see some of Ascoli Piceno without rain hampering their view. Naturally, the weather cleared up and was glorious during their week-long absence, then turned chilly and drizzly on the day of their return. Yesterday was lovely, though, so we took advantage of it by walking all over the centro storico, showing them architectural beauties, cute alleyways, pretty houses, mountain vistas, and our favorite caffes. They are now converts to the spectacular beauty of Le Marche.
Last year I told you about the Easter eggs, the enormous and fanciful chocolate confections that are the traditional gift here. We purchased a pretty, unusual creation to take to Francesca. We'll also be toting some olive all'ascolana, big green olives that have been pitted, stuffed with a meat mixture, breaded and fried in oil. Sounds weird, but these buggers are addictive. We happened upon our landlady last year as she was preparing hers for the holiday dinner...she had just finished pitting three hundred olives. By hand. The Ascolani will gnerally not accept olives that have been pre-pitted, preferring instead to to it by hand with a knife a spirale, in a spiral around the pit to that instead of a mere hole in an olive, they "rebuild" the olive around the meat mixture. Dorina said that getting them pitted meant the hard part was behind her. She had only to grind the three types of meat, cook the mixture, roll it into three hundred little balls, stuff the balls into the olives, and then flour them, dip them in egg, then breadcrumbs, and then fry them all. By hand. Three hundred of them. Which is why I go to the neighborhood pasta all'uova to buy them ready for frying.
There are other traditional Easter foods, too. The Colomba cake, which is a reincarnation of the panettone but instead of being formed into a high dome is dove-shaped. Pass. Then there's the cheese bread...I can't remember the name but I'm told it's particular to this area. I wouldn't be surprised to find it in other regions, because often when I'm told something is very particular to one small zone, it's actually rather widespread. Boh. But this bread is golden and high, not unlike a panettone shape, but is made with pecorino cheese. It's especially good warm, but the traditional way to eat it is to lop off a thick slice and top it with salami or prosciutto. Which is very tasty.
I don't know what our menu will include at Giorgio's but know the party will be a good one. What about you? What are your Easter traditions? However you spend the day, I hope it will be lovely, chocolate-filled and peaceful.