Easter gives us permission to finally celebrate the arrival of spring. Until then, we privately celebrate each new rise in the temperature. With that in mind, I’ve put together some of my favorite Easter cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner recipes. Of course, none of this may be consumed until the egg hunt is over!
I love sparkling wine on Easter because unlike a martini or other hard liquor drink, one can still navigate the tasks of the day without needing to take a siesta. The two cocktails below are my favorites.
Portions of the two hors d’oeuvres featured can be made the day before. You may add a nice spring crudite or cheese tray if you like. My ex-mother-in-law used to serve a simple crudite with celery, radishes and sea salt and maybe a shrimp cocktail before Easter dinner. I always thought that was a wonderful idea because we all still had plenty of room in our stomachs for the main meal! So, instead, maybe do a crudite with the Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp or shrimp cocktail with the Pea Puree Crostini. Don’t feel bound by what is written here. The whole idea is to make it your own; add your own signature to your efforts. And most importantly, enjoy the day!
Kir Royales– Champagne, Proseco or Cava with a splash of Chambord liqueur and a twist of lemon
Italian Mimosa– Proseco, a tiny splash of Cointreau, and a splash of orange juice and pomegranate juice
Roasted Garlic-Pea Pureé with Arugula & Parmesan on Crostini- 2 dz
1/4 c. EVOO
2 large heads garlic- roasted
lg. piece parmigiano-reggiano or Pecorino Romano(about 3/4 lb)- freshly grated
two 10-oz pkgs. frozen peas-thawed
2 tsps. lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
Purée these ingredients.
Fresh arugula leaves- 24
1 sourdough or French baguette or ficelle
Slice baguette on angle, bake-off with olive oil, salt & pepper or just toast alone.
Top each slice with tsp. of purée, then an arugula leaf, then a slice of shaved parmesan or romano.
36 jumbo shrimp- raw, peeled and deveined
36 thin slices prosciutto
36 fresh basil leaves
36 bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
4 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. chopped garlic
1 cup olive oil
Place individual pieces of prosciutto on work surface. Place basil leaf on end of each piece of ham. Place 1 shrimp on each basil leaf. Roll up shrimp in the prosciutto. Can be prepared one day ahead.
Combine vinegar, mustard and garlic in blender. Gradually add oil, blending well. Season with kosher salt and pepper.
Grill shrimp three minutes per side. Serve hot or room temp with sauce.
Rosemary and Garlic Roast Leg of Lamb- Serves 8
There are many ways in which to roast a leg of lamb, but I always go back to the flavors which most naturally enhance the flavor of the lamb- lemon, rosemary and garlic. You can’t go wrong with this dish. It is amazing!
When choosing a wine to serve, you’ll want one that is as assertive as the flavors in this dish. I would personally go with a Bandol made from the Mourvedre grape or a domestic Syrah. These wines both have a peppery, herby quality that would go well with this rustic dish.
1 leg of lamb, bone in (about 6 to 7 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (combination of rosemary, chives, and parsley)
2 cups diced onions
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup good red wine
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using your hands, rub the lamb all over with the lemon juice. Pat the garlic and rosemary evenly all over the surface of the meat. Season the meat with the salt and pepper and place the lamb in a roasting pan. Place the lamb in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to cook for about 1 hour longer for medium-rare, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the roast registers about 135 degrees for med. rare. Remove lamb from pan and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
Position the roasting pan over your stove burners. Add mixed herbs and onions to pan, and stir to combine with pan drippings. Add chicken stock and wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to release any fond. Reduce over high heat until sauce consistency. Strain before serving, if desired. Slice lamb and serve with sauce drizzled over the top.
Quick pan roasted new potatoes- serves 8
2 lbs. tiny new potatoes
10 garlic cloves- smashed and peeled with flat end of knife
1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place baking sheet in oven with oil. Fill pot with water and tablespoon of salt. Bring to boil. Set potatoes in water and boil for about 30 minutes. Drain. Put potatoes back in pot. Add the garlic cloves and with wooden spoon just smoosh the combination a tiny bit. Take baking sheet out of oven and add the potatoes to it. Return to oven and cook for 15 minutes. Turn them over with a spatula and return to oven for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and pepper and serve. They should be nice and caramelized!
Sauteed Spinach and Swiss Chard- serves 8
With all the rich foods above, I like to bring in a vegetable that will cut the heaviness of them. I love mixing greens like spinach and swiss chard. The combination of bitter and sweet lends itself well to the lamb and potatoes. And, it’s simple to make.
Two bags of spinach
Two bunches of swiss chard- cut into 3″ wide strips- I keep the stalks on- very sweet!
1/4 cup olive oil
Wash the spinach and swiss chard in a colander. Without draining too well, place the greens in a large pot and place on medium heat. Sprinkle the greens with a teaspoon or so of kosher salt. Cook down for a few minutes and strain out water. Place empty pot back on the heat and increase temperature to med. high. Add the oil to the pot and warm. Add in the greens and saute using tongs to move the greens around. Test one of the chard leaves for doneness. When tender, they are done. Do not overcook.
If you’ve never tried this famous Italian custard, trust me… amazing.
It is light, airy and rich all at the same time. Served over fresh berries, it is a refreshing finish to a rich lamb dinner. For those guests who can’t imagine how lovely this delightful dessert is, have on hand some Easter cookies or lemon bars.
The basic ratio for ingredients is one egg yolk to one tablespoon of sugar to one tablespoon of Marsala wine. Since we are making this recipe for 8, I will be adding slightly less Marsala and sugar.
Zabaglione- serves 8
8 egg yolks
~ 8 tbsp. sugar- a touch less
~ 8 tbsp. Marsala- a touch less
3-4 small cartons (six to eight ounces each) of any combination of fresh berries- blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, sliced strawberries
In a pyrex bowl or other heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks, Marsala, and sugar together until smooth. Place over, not in, a pot of slightly simmering water. Continue beating at medium speed (handheld mixer) until the mixture becomes a pale yellow and looks like ribbons, about 8 minutes. If you do not beat the mixture continuously, the mixture will curdle (same if the bowl touches the water below). Remove from heat and serve immediately over fresh berries in glass dishes.