Because Easter and Passover are almost back to back this year, just about everyone I know is preparing for a celebration. Some will have the pleasure of being guests at the table, while others will have the pleasure of hosting.
J and I have been hosting our families for Easter dinner for almost as long as we've been married. They all came when we lived in a one bedroom apartment; when we had a rambling, century-old house; and still now in our not-so-downsized condominium. This year we will be fifteen--ranging in age from 6 months to 92!
I love Easter. Maybe because it comes at the beginning of Spring and brings with it promises of starting anew. Maybe it's the gathering of family. Maybe it's the food. As a child I remember lasagna and roasted leg of lamb. But mostly I remember stealing jelly beans from my Easter basket on Easter morning and eating them on the way to church. You see, we children always gave up sweets for Lent, so by the time Easter Sunday came, we just could not restrain ourselves.
I usually start with a Mixed Antipasto that I have been making since it appeared in Gourmet in 1991--perfect for a large crowd. This year I am cooking a smoked ham with a peach-honey glaze; rigatoni with prosciutto and fontina cheese baked in a bechamel sauce; roasted asparagus; and whipped sweet potatoes.
There will be jelly beans, chocolate eggs, biscotti, lemon bars and always Aunt Louise's cheesecake--the best.
Whether you are celebrating Easter or Passover, I hope it is joyous.
Aunt Louise's Cheesecake
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
1 lb. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T. flour
3 T. cornstarch
1 pint sour cream
3 T. white creme de cacao
1 T. vanilla
1 T. orange extract
Cream together ricotta and cream cheese. Gradually add sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and cornstarch. Mix. Add sour cream, vanilla, creme de cacao and orange extract. Mix well, and pour into a buttered 10" springform pan. Set pan in large pan of water.
Bake at 325 for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off oven and let cake remain in oven for 2 hours or longer. Do not open oven door. Chill.
Although the original recipe calls for a 10" pan, I find there is too much batter. I have not had luck finding a larger pan, so I usually bake the remaining batter in an 8" springform pan.