La Lama Mountain Ovens
The best of the recipes, techniques, and methods practiced by our large extended Italian-American family - with emphasis on the legacy handed down to us by the original immigrants.
This is a cookbook-in-process project. If you try any of these recipes please let us know how they turn out, whether or not you had any difficulties, and any clarifying improvements you might recommend to make them foolproof. We will of course acknowledge genuine "test-kitchen" assistance.
Family Secrets #4
By Cece Dove, La Lama Mountain Ovens
|Continuing on with the Easter theme of the past few columns, I began to think about why Easter was such an important holiday in my life. Of course growing up in a Roman Catholic Italian family and community it had enormous religious significance. Next to Christmas, Easter was awaited with huge anticipation. The religious preparation began with Ash Wednesday, continued through Lent with its penance and fasting (and so very many good intentions!) and culminated with Easter morning Mass. In a sense the secular part of the celebrations mimicked the religious. After the cold, wet, snowy months following Christmas we looked forward to the first part of April, its teasing days of lengthening light and occasional bursts of warmth and new greenery poking up here and there. We celebrated the arrival of Spring and the rebirth of nature with our own awakening. Shopping for new spring clothes, especially your Easter outfit, was a ritual that all the woman in the family (and even a few of the men) participated in with as much abandon as our budget would allow. Hats were a passion back then and my mothers attic had a room dedicated to my hatboxes. Each year it seemed they got more outrageous.||
looked forward to this special season for another reason.
It meant that the Ohio and Detroit arms of our family and
ourselves would now be free to exchange visits. Back then
an auto trip of three or four hours from Ohio to our home
in Western Pennsylvania was a major event and never
undertaken in the winter months. We anxiously looked
forward to seeing our cousins and aunts and uncles and
sharing not only Easter dinner but all of the special
dishes of that weekend. Of course they never arrived
empty-handed. Uncle Ray would always have a bottle or two
of his red wine, which was recognized by all as THE BEST
of the homemade wines. I dont believe my parents
ever bought a bottle of wine. Every family made its own.
There were always trays of homemade cookies, and loaves
of Easter Bread, some with colored eggs baked into them.
But the one I waited for was Aunt Norma and Uncle Joe because we all knew that she had "the hand" for Fiadone. This was a special Easter-only treat that all our families made, but each one had a slight variation on the theme and it was Aunt Normas that was recognized as the tastiest.
While researching the name of this recipe, I came across a savory variation of it in Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni, translated from Italian in 1969. She included it in the section from Abruzzi. It uses Scamorza cheese and grated Parmesan and includes olive oil in the crust - definitely not a dessert pie.
Further reading took me to The Food of Italy by Waverley Root, published in 1971, in which he describes a dessert from the Valle dAosta called Fiandolein. It is a cream made from milk, eggs, and sugar and flavored with lemon and then poured into a cup over bread broken into small pieces. It seems to me that this is a more likely precursor to our family version than the savory recipe.
Our Fiadone is the equivalent of a cheese torte. It is neither a cheesecake nor a cheese pie but somewhere in between the two. In the traditional Italian style it is only slightly sweet. It is, however, very rich, and should be served in thin slices. Only the finest fresh whole milk ricotta should be used in this recipe.
Makes one 10" pie.
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour the pan.
Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add the anise seed. Beat the eggs lightly, add butter, then add this mixture to the flour and work into a soft dough, keeping an additional 1/4 cup flour ready to add as necessary. The consistency will be that of a soft cookie dough. Add only enough additional flour to keep from sticking. Chill until ready to bake the pie.
Mix filling ingredients in the order given. Roll out dough 1/8" thick. Place in pie pan and cut off excess. Flute edges. Reroll the trimmings to make the lattice top. Pour in the filling, cut six lattice strips about 3/4" wide and place three in each directions over the top. Brush with the egg wash and bake at 350 for one hour until set. Cool completely before cutting.
Altitude Adjustment: At 8000 feet I had to increase the baking time to 1 hr. and 10 min. Altitude adjustment should begin at 2,500 feet at one-third the amount shown here, two-thirds at 5,000 feet, and the full amount at 7,500 feet. Scale similarly every additional 2,500 feet.