I love elevenses. The English tradition of it, the way it cuts through the aimlessness of that lag in the morning. It is too early for lunch (is it though?), coffee isn’t quite doing the trick. It is the time you stand up, stretch your legs, maybe walk around and see what your colleagues are doing or check Instagram (again). For our purposes here elevenses is an occasional round-up of ideas, recipes, plans, things to read, consider and appreciate. A break, really. With light refreshment.
Thanksgiving and Christmas steal the culinary scene but there is no reason Easter shouldn’t be a decadent food-centered holiday as well. The once welcome, now stodgy, foods of winter have given way to verdant shoots and leaves. Baby lettuce, English asparagus, rhubarb, leeks, spring peas and purple sprouting broccoli take over menus. Easter is ideally situated to clear through your kitchen cobwebs and help you set your sights on the summer goodies to come. The right Easter menu makes Easter the debutante ball of a new season of food.
So, given the season, and given my druthers, here are the eleven dishes I would like to see served this Sunday and how to execute my dream dinner.
Easter is still another family holiday. With family holidays comes stress. Even WebMd has a column on it. Let’s kick things off by holding our tongues, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, saying something nice and handing over a delightful Champagne cocktail as our guests arrive. Even if they are late.
This Elderflower Herb Cooler from BBC GoodFood magazine is perfect to get you in the mood for a light, bright, cheery spring gathering.
And while kids are getting hopped up on chocolate and your brother is closing a *very* important deal on his iPhone (probably playing Angry Birds but remember, we are holding our tongues) put out a basket of Joy the Baker’s adorable little strawberry scones for snacking.
English asparagus occupy a fleeting and delightful season. Easter falls right at the beginning of it. This is a show stopping appetizer that happens to be extremely easy to execute. Roast the asparagus in advance and then soft boil the eggs as people begin to arrive. A generous pinch of salt and pepper on top and preset the table with the eggs in egg cups. Seconds before announcing that people should take their seats, cut the top 1/2″ off of the egg and stick three asparagus spears into the soft yellow. It makes for a beautiful table setting and tempting first course.
Have a chilled green pea soup already served and garnished when you sit down for your eggs. Set the bowls aside to an allocated place in the kitchen and nominate the boys at the table to pick up the egg cups, bringing them to the kitchen and then have them return with a bowl of soup for themselves and one for their partners.
Naturally you’ve already set the table with your very best homemade Challah egg bread, courtesy of Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen, so bread is taken care of.
Now, time for the main event: Roasted lamb served with new potatoes and two salads.
Sara Jenkins recipe for herb and mustard crusted lamb is a simple way of preparing an outstanding Easter lamb. It cooks for just under and hour, then rests for 15 minutes before carving. Prep it in the morning and then set it aside. Put it in the oven as guests begin to arrive and take it out of the oven 50 minutes later as people are serving themselves soup. After soup, while dishes are being cleared and your guests are filling their red wine glasses, you can bring it to the table and carve and serve. (Hint: Kids should get one bone, adults 2-3 of them. Take that into account when deciding how much to purchase)
For something slightly more interesting than roasted potatoes try Judy Kim’s rosemary potato tart as a side dish with the lamb. Simple. Gorgeous. Can be prepped in advance and then left in the oven to cook while you are eating the first courses so there is no last minute cooking to stress you out.
Two colorful side salads plopped down in the middle of the table go well with the lamb and also give non lamb eaters plenty of choice. This carrot, dill, pearl barley salad from BBC GoodFood Magazine is salad #1…
And a fresh, bright Ottolenghi salad rounds off the main course options. both salads can be made in the morning and stored, covered, on a cool countertop while they await their moment to shine. They actually improve with a bit of time to let their dressings settle in.
As everyone pushes back from the table and remarks about how relaxed you are and how delicious everything has been you can snap your fingers to signal to the children to bring out a tray of Joy the Baker’s chocolate puddings. premade in tea cups. How cute are you? It hurts my eyes. I can’t stand it.
Naturally a few little lemon meringue swirls on the side for anyone who has *gasp* had too much chocolate would be the kind thing to do. This recipe is really simple, can be made days in advance and comes complete with a video. Thank you, Martha.
And that’s it. Easter thinking has been done for you. Now, what time should I show up?