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My Italian Cauliflower Gratin and Easter Memories

April 25, 2011 by Joan Nova in Family-Size Meals, Italian, Side Dishes, Vegetables | 25 Comments

This Easter Sunday I took a long walk down memory lane as I passed some time looking through old photos. I was reminded of my childhood Easters…and then continued the journey through the subsequent years.

Afterwards, I got in the kitchen and created a delicious twist on a traditional holiday side dish!

My memories of Easter as a child growing up in Brooklyn revolve around poofy dresses, Easter bonnets and patent leather shoes. I also remember the one year my sister and I both had measles (or was it chicken pox?) and spent Easter Sunday in our parents’ bed.

Except for that year, there was always a celebratory dinner with extended family members, but all I remember about those dinners is chocolate bunnies and what fun it was to take a big bite of the ears. Yuck, I also remember it was milk chocolate, something I detest now.

Later, as adults with children of our own, my sister and I forged our own traditions. Easter had become a little less formal and a lot more commercial…there were exaggerated Easter baskets and gifts for the kids. Real ones! Kites, pails + shovels were de rigueur in anticipation of summer, but I also remember things like bikes and other high-priced items. That was the culture we lived in.

My son (second from left) with his cousins tells me he is still traumatized by his childhood wardrobe. :)

We’ve (well, especially Mary) have carried forward the Easter bonnet tradition albeit in a very tongue-in-cheek manner.

For many years we not only had a big Easter Sunday dinner, we also got together for Palm Sunday! Palm Sunday was more about some fancy Italian dishes like lasagne or stuffed shells and Easter was a ham or something else American.

It was during that time we became aware of 2 Italian traditions that Millie/Nanny (my brother-in-law’s mother) made: Pizza Rustica (cheese + meat pie) and Pizza Gran (sweet wheat pie).

Fast forward to 2011, we stopped the traditional Palm Sunday dinner only a few years ago and, although we used to alternate who did Easter, Mary has taken it on in recent years. She has also been the one who makes Pizza Rustica and Pizza Gran which we all look forward to, year-after-year.

This year she passed the baton. Her daughter made the Pizza Rustica and my son made the Pizza Gran*. The centerpiece of the dinner was a fabulous standing rib roast which was done to perfection. (Sorry folks, no photos).

And I made this seriously delicious Italian Cauliflower Gratin.[amd-recipeseo-recipe:10]

This is one seriously delicious dish! Mangia Italiano!
And, like most families, the joy we carry forward beyond these dinners is our even more delicious children.

All the best to you and your family for a Happy Spring!

*similar recipe to ours except we use chocolate chips in place of citron

NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. Liz says:

    A wonderful post Joni! Thanks for sharing the memories and the cauliflower dish too.

  2. liz says:

    What a wonderful post Joni! Thanks for sharing Easter past and present.

  3. BEKKY says:


  4. Photo’s are great, especially the bonnets! Your recipe is much more interesting then the ones my mother and grandmother made. I will have to try it.


  5. norma says:

    Ahh…such a warm and touching post. Liz liked it so much she wrote twice. I am going to take your recipe and use it on my client. Cauliflower was a forgotten veggie until recently. I see recipes for it all over the place. One of my favorites. Thanks….

  6. Dorothy says:

    Loved this post. Great to walk down memory lane with you.
    The cauliflower dish looks delish.

  7. Buela says:

    Oh how I enjoyed seeing those old photos. I remember Jimmy best in his little shorts he was so beautiful…..

    Hope the day was wonderful !

  8. bellini says:

    It was so much fun to read all about your growing up and the family celebrations. I remember the white gloves, Easter bonnets and purses each year. Many, many more years of family gatherings and celebrations Joan!

  9. Oh, I LOVED this post…now I realized I don’t have my childhood photos here with me in paris….I love simple dishes, full of personality like your gratin.Thanks!

  10. What luxurious cauliflower. Can’t say I’m surprised that your son says he’s traumatised!!

  11. Aw, Joan! I loved the older pics, so sweet! You inspired me to do the same! :)
    As for the dish… it looks delish! Happy late Easter to you. :)

  12. Bren says:

    what a great and lovely reminiscent post. i’m sure your boys dest all that PDA! :) Hope you had a great Easter!

  13. Robin Sue says:

    Raisins, capers, and lemon zest- what creativity again Joan. Such contrast of flavors but all work so well together. I am sure everyone loved this dish. It is neat how you took a dish that can get very heavy and made it all so light and refreshing!

  14. Love your pics AND the cauliflower gratin… yum!!

  15. I enjoyed your walk down memory lane Joan. Your Easter bunny looked bigger than you in the first photo.

    I too remember being sick one Easter and watching my friends from my bedroom window hunt for eggs and have fun while I was sick.

    You’ve certainly made cauliflower exciting and I love the idea of the raisins and lemon zest in this.

  16. Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories and terrific family photos! Your cauliflower gratin sounds excellent, great flavors and I like the addition of raisins and almonds.

  17. Absolutely darling photos and memories! Love that gratin too!

  18. Katie says:

    Joan, I adored this post! Thank you for sharing memories of Easters past and present with us.

    This recipe sounds fantastic, and I just so happen to have everything on hand to make it. We’re having a big family meal tomorrow, and I’m going to try this out on everyone! Thanks.

  19. cinzia says:

    hope you had a happy time at easter, joan!
    memories and pictures are so cute.
    have a ready boiled cauliflower waiting for some suggestions … and yours are perfect for our dinner!

  20. Katie says:

    Your dish was a hit this afternoon at lunch, Joan! I loved the mix of flavors. I substituted fontina cheese for the tallegio, since it’s not available here in Argentina. I’ll definitely be making this gratin again. :)

  21. Lori Lynn says:

    Love the family photos Joan!
    I hope you all had a wonderful Easter.

  22. Oh, I feel your son….I could say the same to my mum!!! Anyhow, I’m sure I have it coming with my kids too. Payback is good.

    I love the look of the gratin!!!!! Most things Italian are great!

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