by Julia Powers.
A must-have on the reader and eSS&SC contributor Lisa Whalen’s holiday menu is her grandmother’s Pizza Ricotta, “a citrus-scented, curd cheesecake in a short pastry crust.” Many cooks tweak traditional recipes to suit changing tastes and Lisa is no exception. She explains, “I use less sugar in mine then my grandmother did, and I omit the candied citron that she sprinkled over the bottom crust. My aunt doesn’t use citron in her pie either, which means this concession to modern tastes has been approved!”
As is the case with so many holiday cooks, Lisa’s dishes honor the past, as well as loved ones no longer alive. Lisa reflects, “First, the food is delicious and a special treat. Then, I think for my mother and me, it is a way of keeping her mother present in our lives– keeping fond memories alive. For the kids who never knew my Gram, they enjoy how happy it makes my mom (their Gram).” With several generations gathered together on a chilly December morning, Lisa believes that “they enjoy the activity (which is usually combined with trimming the tree) but mostly, I think they enjoy each other’s company. Maybe they haven’t been together since the summer and there is a lot of catching up to do now that they are in high school and college.”
Food and the love, memories, and fellowship it conveys, is central to many families’ holiday celebrations. Whether your holiday is enriched with long-standing food traditions or you want to start some new holiday food traditions of your own, hit the kitchen and celebrate the season with gusto!
Lisa Whalen’s Pizza di Ricotta
- 5 ounces unbleached white flour
- pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 ounces cold butter, cut in bits (or half lard)
- 1 egg yolk
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons ice water, approximately
By hand or with a food processor work the fat into the flour, salt, and sugar, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. (If using the food processor, pulse 12 to 15 times.)
Stir the egg yolk into the vanilla and ice water. Mix into the flour mixture with a light hand, just until lumps cling together. Quickly push them into a ball, adding more drops of water to the dry parts if necessary. If using the food processor, pulse quickly, and stop and push the dough together with a fork or knife, rather than letting the machine work the dough at all. Once it’s all in a ball wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store airtight in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Roll out dough on lightly floured surface and fit it into a deep 9” pie plate. Trim and crimp up a nice border. Chill while you make the filling.
- 6 large eggs
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 cups ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon lemon oil or 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon orange oil or 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then beat in the sugar until foamy and well-incorporated. Work in the ricotta and the remaining ingredients, combining thoroughly.
Pour into prepared crust and bake 50-60 minutes, or until filling is puffed and golden and set in center.
Cool completely. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Serves 8 – 10.
Julia Powers bakes a few holiday treats from her childhood, with her mom’s holly cookies being the hands-down family favorite. These cookies, a throwback to the 1970s, combine butter, green-tinted melted marshmallows, cornflakes, and red-hot candies—nothing fancy, but oh so good!
Article condensed and reprinted from the 2018 holiday edition of edible South Shore & South Shore. Read the full article here.