Before we know it, spring will be upon us – a time for renewal and rejuvenation. I know as a Catholic I am making huge leaps over the season that precedes Easter – The Lenten Season. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself because Lent is filled with sad reflection, fasting and abstinence. (And yes, we do refrain from the culinary celebration of fish during Lent). All these thoughts of spring might just be the result of a warm day in February – birds are singing and it truly feels like spring. So allow me to run, arms spread wide, toward the jubilant time of Easter and all the promise it holds.
This menu has been streamlined, with only one soup course. (Formal affairs of old would have served both a “clean” and “cream” soup in two courses). The main entree course consists of meat, vegetable and potato served together as one course rather then spread out over several main courses. This particular menu has also been “Americanized” in that the salad course follows the soup course rather than after the entree as a palate cleanser. You could move it if you like. Or place another palate cleanser between the main and dessert course such as a sorbet. There’s a wide selection of wonderful sorbets in the ice cream section of most grocery stores today. My personal favorites are Blood Orange, Mango or Lemon Sorbet.
The bread is brought to the table with the soup and remains until just before the dessert is served (or is gone – as in gobbled up – which ever comes first). The bread is super easy to make – it starts with a frozen loaf of bread dough that is “doctored” up with fresh herbs. It’s awesome! Just remember, there are several courses to follow, so don’t fill up too much on the bread.
- Easter Bread
Place frozen bread dough in a pan, cover with plastic wrap and let thaw according to package directions, about 16 hours in the refrigerator.
Lightly flour a flat work surface, add savory flavors such as rosemary and oregano onto the floured board to incorporate the herbs into the whole loaf. Kneed dough lightly.
Use olive oil to grease a bowl, place the dough in the bowl and flip the dough over so it is coated on top and bottom with oil.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk, about 1-2 hours.
Punch dough down, form into desired shape or place in a pan of desired shape such as Wilton’s Lamb pan. Let dough rise for about fifteen minutes. While bread is rising, preheat oven to 350-degrees.
Place bread in the center of the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden grown, with an internal temperature of 190-degrees. Check the bread about mid-way through if using a mold pan – the bread may rise up out of the pan. Should that happen, don’t panic. Simply remove bread from oven, press top mold down and place a weight (such as a small cast-iron pan) on top, then continue baking. For those wondering – that little tip came from experience.
Allow bread to cool, then wrap baked bread in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The bread can be made the day before, and warmed just before serving if desired.
Place bread on a serving platter. If desired, garnish with fresh Rosemary and tomato rosettes or egg-shaped pats of butter.
- First Course – Soup (recipe from 12tomatoes.com)
Smoked Salmon, Leek & Potato Soup
2 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks, halved and finely sliced
1 bay leaf
1 head fennel
About 2 lbs potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb smoked or cooked salmon
A small bunch of dill for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the butter in a large saucepan until melted. Add leeks and bay leaf.
Cook over low hear for 8-10 minutes, or until leek is soft.
Add and stir in the potatoes until well coated in butter. Add the chicken stock and heavy cream.
Bring to a simmer, and let bubble until the potatoes are tender (about 10-15 minutes), stirring frequently.
Add two-thirds of the salmon, and stir through to season. Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve and garnish with remaining salmon, dill, and pepper on top.
- Second Course – Salad (recipe from myrecipes.com, adapted from a recipe in Southern Living) I picked this particular salad because of its wonderful presentation. Food isn’t just fuel for the body, it’s also a treat for the senses – and this is a beautiful salad. I stumbled upon it while searching for Spring Menu Ideas.
Bacon-Feta Cheese Salad With White Wine Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 medium cucumbers, peeled
3 cups mixed baby greens
2 cooked thick-cut bacon slices, halved
1/3 cup shredded or matchstick carrots
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350º . Place chopped pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Let cool 30 minutes or until completely cool. (This can be done ahead of time, store in an air-tight container).
Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, cut cucumbers lengthwise into very thin strips just until seeds are visible. Discard cucumber core.
Shape largest cucumber slices into 4 (2 1/2- to 2 3/4-inch-wide) rings. Wrap evenly with remaining cucumber slices. Stand rings upright on 4 serving plates.
Fill each cucumber ring evenly with mixed greens, next 3 ingredients, and toasted pecans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle each salad with 1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinaigrette, and serve with remaining vinaigrette.
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Whisk together 1/4 cup white wine vinegar and next 3 ingredients until blended. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in salt and pepper to taste. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 1 week.
- Main Course – Meat with two vegetables sides: Rosemary Balsamic Glazed Ham (the original recipe can be found at spendwithpennies.com), Gruyère Herbed Potato Gratin and Crêpe Wrapped Asparagus With Garlic-Tarragon Hollandaise Sauce
Rosemary Balsamic Glazed Ham
1 Cooked Bone In Ham
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Rosemary Crushed
1 teaspoon Black Pepper (or to taste)
1 Cup of White Wine/Champagne (optional)
Soak ham in cold water in the refrigerator overnight before cooking, discard water.
Score diagonal lines across ham each way creating a checkerboard (this allows the glaze to get into the ham)
Mix together brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, dijon, pepper and rosemary and brush over ham.
Put ham in a dish just big enough to hold the ham. Add wine/champagne to the bottom of the pan. Bake uncovered according to ham package directions, basting with leftover glaze occasionally.
Once ham is done, remove from oven and cover. Allow to rest 15 minutes. Slice and serve tableside for a more dramatic presentation or carve and transfer to a large serving platter.
Gruyère Herbed Potato Gratin
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoon flour
2-½ Cups half and half
3 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
1-½ Teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
freshly ground black pepper
4 russet potatoes, (peeled optional) cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
4 Tablespoon finely diced onion
1 ½ Cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
butter or cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a small saucepan, heat the butter and flour, whisking until smooth. Cook the flour over medium heat 1 minute. Whisk in the half and half until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Place a third of the potatoes in a casserole dish (buttered or sprayed with cooking spray). Season the potatoes with a pinch each salt and pepper. Top with half the onion and a third of the herbs and a third of the cheese. Sprinkle on half the chopped garlic. Repeat, layering potato, salt, pepper, remainder of the onion and garlic, and another third each of the herbs and cheese. Finish with the remainder of the potatoes and a last pinch of salt.
Pour the prepared half and half over the potatoes, using a rubber spatula to be sure to get it all out of the saucepan. Bake, uncovered, for 50-60 min until the potatoes are cooked through. Sprinkle on the remainder of the cheese and herbs. Serve once the cheese on top has melted.
1/2 Cup Milk
1/3 Cup plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Combine milk and egg in a blender; cover and process until blended. Add flour; cover and process until blended.
Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat a lightly greased 8-in. skillet over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter into center of skillet; lift and tilt pan to coat evenly. Cook until top appears dry; turn and cook 15-20 seconds longer. Remove and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing skillet as needed.
The Crêpes can be made in advance. Wrap well in plastic wrap and store in an air-tight container.
24 Asparagus Spears, trimmed, par-cooked and drained
Bring water in asparagus steamer to a boil. While water boils, trim asparagus.
Place the asparagus on the steaming rack. Cover. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp-tender.
Place six asparagus spears on one side of each crepe; roll up. Place seam side down in a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish. Set aside until ready to bake.
Bake, uncovered, at 350-for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Make sauce while asparagus is baking. Keep warm until ready to use. If desired, asparagus can be dusted with Parmesan Cheese and the sauce can be passed table-side to use as desired.
The Garlic-Tarragon Hollandaise Sauce
5 Tablespoons Butter
2 Egg Yolks
1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
1 Garlic Clove, pressed
Pinch of Tarragon Leaves
Melt the butter in a small pot. Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic and cayenne into a blender.
Blend the eggs for 20-30 seconds at medium to medium high speed until lighter in color.
Turn blender down to lowest setting and slowly drizzle in the hot melted butter while the blender is going. Continue to blend for a few seconds after all of the butter is incorporated. Gently fold in tarragon leaves. Taste the sauce and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. Keep warm until ready to use.
- Dessert Course – Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake With Buttercream Frosting (original recipe from myrecipes.com)
Lemon-Orange Chiffon Cake:
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Edible Flowers & Kumquats for garnish
To Make Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine first 4 ingredients in bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer.
Make a well in center of flour mixture; add oil, egg yolks, and orange juice. Beat at medium-high speed 3 to 4 minutes or until smooth. Stir in zest.
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into flour mixture. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.
Bake at 350° for 17 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).
Spread Lemon-Orange Buttercream Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.
Lemon-Orange Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 (32-oz.) package powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon additional fresh orange juice
Beat butter, orange zest, and lemon zest at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy; gradually add powdered sugar alternately with lemon juice and 5 tablespoons fresh orange juice, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Add up to 1 tablespoon additional fresh orange juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.