Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Menu!

Savor this feast like it's your last!

(Disclaimer: I do know that the Last Supper occurred on Maundy Thursday, not Easter Sunday, but who throws a Maundy Thursday party?)

Sometimes the Economical Epicurean tires of always cooking for herself, eating the same leftovers all week, and subsisting mostly on coffee and porridge. So when the holidays arrive, she eagerly throws down. This Easter was no exception.

[Now switching to first person.]

I'm including here the worthwhile recipes from yesterday's feast of the Resurrection. It might seem untimely to be posting this menu after the holiday has passed, but I'm thinking these dishes could be replicated at upcoming Mother's Day and graduation parties or just served at home for brunch or a weeknight dinner. Nothing is difficult or even very expensive -- in lieu of splurging on the more traditionally Easter-y leg of lamb, I cooked up a $10 smoked ham from Shoppers. Likewise, fresh shrimp were sacrificed for frozen (though I guess the most economical thing would be to skip the surf altogether!), and the more desirable asparagus was substituted with green beans.

One thing I did not skimp on was butter -- it was a holiday, for crying out loud! But most of the butter-heavy dishes, with the exception of the scones, could be made with olive oil. Or, in the case of the tea sandwiches, one may omit all the butter and use only lite cream cheese.

If you notice there are no recipes for dessert here, it's because I didn't make any. Thanks to my guests who brought sweet treats!

Recipe: Tea Sandwiches
Makes about 30 sandwiches.
Spread can be made up to two days ahead.

2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
2 T chopped fresh dill
2 T chopped fresh parsley
2 T chopped fresh chives
1/2 t minced garlic
2 t lemon juice
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 8-oz. package smoked salmon
1 large cucumber, sliced thinly
1 loaf wheat or seven-grain bread, sliced extra thinly if possible

Combine first 9 ingredients with mixer or food processor. Set aside in refrigerator to chill a few hours. Spread on either side of bread, with a couple pieces of salmon or cucumber in between. Cut all the sandwiches into 4 squares or triangles and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Recipe: Mini Fried Egg Sandwiches
Makes 20 sandwiches.

2 T butter
1 dozen large eggs
1/2 C shredded cheddar
salt to your taste
pepper to your taste
10 slices sandwich bread (white or wheat), preferably toasted
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat butter in frying pan on medium/high heat. When pan is very hot, break eggs onto pan, about 4 or 5 at a time, depending on the size of your pan. Cook until over-hard, sprinkle with cheese, salt and pepper, and assemble sandwiches. Garnish with parsley if you're feeling superior.

Recipe: Cran-Orange Scones (click here to see link from Jan. 14 post)
For Easter, I doubled the recipe and made the scones slightly smaller than usual.
Serve with butter or lemon curd.

Recipe: Baked Brie
Jean Bernard's finest!
Never serves quite enough.

1 mini-wheel Brie (rind does not need to be removed)
1 can Pillsbury crescent rolls
apricot preserves
1 beaten egg
1 package water crackers

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet and spread out about half the crescent roll dough (squeeze together the perforations). Place the Brie on top of the dough and spread the top of it generously with apricot preserves. Fold the dough edges over the top of the Brie, and cover with the remaining dough. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Serve with crackers.

Recipe: Zippy Black-eyed Pea Salad
Serves about 30 and is great for leftovers. Can be made up to two days ahead. I believe I made it a little too zippy yesterday, as it was not the most popular thing on the table. In the recipe below, I cut back on the onion to reduce the bite factor.

1.5 bags of dried black-eyed peas
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 orange pepper, finely chopped
1 half of a large red onion, finely chopped
1/2 C chopped cilantro
juice of 1 whole lemon
2 T olive oil
1.5 t cumin (optional)
salt to your taste
pepper to your taste

Rinse peas, pick over for bad ones, cover under water, and soak overnight. Drain the next day. Toss with remaining ingredients and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Recipe: Sprightly Spring Couscous
Serves about 15 as side dish. Can be a hearty meal on its own and can be made up to 4 days ahead. Once again, I'm proven wrong about couscous: it excites! I adapted this from a fantastic Mark Bittman recipe -- the first time I made it I didn't happen to have his ingredients on hand but had all the ones below. He uses bulgur, broccoli rabe, and walnuts in place of my couscous, broccolini, and almonds, all in the same proportions.

1 lb. broccolini
2 T olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
1/2 C chopped slivered almonds
2 C water
1.5 C dry couscous
1.5 C frozen peas, thawed (optional -- good if you want to save money and reduce the amount of broccolini)
1 T lemon juice
salt to your taste
pepper to your taste
1/2 C grated Parmesan (optional)

Bring water to a boil in medium stockpot, add salt. Add broccolini and boil until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove and add to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Wash out the original pot and return to stove. Crank heat to medium, add the oil, and add the shallots once oil is very hot. Saute about 3 minutes and add almonds. Reduce heat to low. Meanwhile, bring 2 C water to boil in small stockpot; add couscous. Fluff with a fork and remove from heat. Let stand about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop broccolini into one-inch pieces. Add couscous, broccolini, peas, and lemon juice to shallot-almond mixture. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Recipe: Green Beans
Serves about 20. Can be made a day ahead.

2 bags of Trader Joe's frozen haricots verts, thawed
half stick butter
6 garlic cloves, minced
zest of half a lemon
salt to your taste
pepper to your taste

Bring water to a boil in large stockpot and add beans. Boil until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Blanch in bowl of ice water. Rinse the stockpot and return to stove. In it, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute about 5 minutes. Return beans to pan, stir into butter and garlic mixture, and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon zest and salt and pepper.

Recipe: Roasted Potatoes
Serves about 20. Can be made up to two days ahead.

1 C olive oil, divided
10 lbs. small potatoes (white or red, or both), scrubbed, freed of eyes, and quartered.
6 garlic cloves, minced
chopped rosemary leaves from about 5 short branches
1/4 C chopped fresh chives
salt to your taste
pepper to your taste
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush a large baking dish (or two, if needed) with olive oil, add potatoes. Brush more olive oil over potatoes. Roast for about a half hour and remove from oven. Baste with the olive oil and sprinkle garlic, rosemary, and chives; return to oven and roast another 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper and parsley.

Recipe: Holiday Ham
Serves 20 sparingly (10-15 seems more accurate, normally). I happened to get a really good deal on a pre-cooked, pre-sliced ham. Usually it's cheaper to buy the partially cooked, unsliced hams, in which case doneness is determined when the ham's internal temperature reads 160 degrees on a meat thermometer.

1 7-8 lb. fully cooked, spiral-sliced smoked ham
1/2 C apricot preserves
1/3 C dijon mustard

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In roasting pan, bake ham about a half hour. Meanwhile stir together preserves and mustard to make glaze. When half hour is over, remove ham from oven and glaze the skin. Return to oven and bake another half hour or so, until skin is dark and crispy. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

1 comment:

Sara M. said...

woot, woot, new post!!!