Easter Ideas - A Story From Past Posts

Some traditional Italian Easter appetizers.   Pizza Rustica   , fresh tomatoes and burrata, crisp fennel/olive oil.

Some traditional Italian Easter appetizers. Pizza Rustica , fresh tomatoes and burrata, crisp fennel/olive oil.

Here comes that bunny hopping down the lane. Chocolate and candy and weird marshmallow treats will fill grass lined baskets, for the strangest mash up of a religious holiday and spring rituals. Forget the odd Cadbury egg which oozes some strange goo from its center, or those spongey artificial colored bunnies. Let’s talk real food. Nutritious, delicious food. If you find yourself hosting this holiday clash of traditions, I’m here to help with some ideas. As we know, Easter marks the coming of Spring and all things fresh and new. But I believe revival is just as good as new, if not better. So, instead of overwhelming you with new recipes, why not resurrect a few from past posts to parse out some suggestions to guide you through the food choice conundrum.

Let’s start at the very beginning… A very good place to start. Appetizers. Here are few.

3 Dips a Dipping

Given that there are 3 distinct dips/flavors and 3 different hearty veggies for dipping in the recipe, you can serve just this for an appetizer and be done.

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5 Appetizers That Impress

This post featured 5 different appetizer options that fill the tummy and impress your guests. Pick one or two and call it a day.

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Smoked Trout Cucumber Bites

Crisp and refreshing, these are as easy as slice, scoop and top.

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Salad Course
Moving onto the next course, salads are ideal for an Easter dinner because it marks the freshness of spring. So, why not start the meal with salad first before you even bring out the main course. Here are a few ideas, including the one where I plated the salad and encouraged, (alright, maybe ‘forced’) my guests to eat it first. It worked, they ate it up.

Citrus Bowl Salad - One by One

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Graped Up Bibb Salad

A fresh salad that offers crisp fennel and hint of sweet pop from grapes. Easy and delicious.

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Pretty in Pink Salad

For a super special salad that serves both as an appetizer and salad course, try this gorgeous salad that features figs and burrata. This one will really wow your guests.

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Main Courses

Lamb is the Easter/Springtime king of meats. It is traditionally served for this holiday. But…

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…if you feel like doing what we have done a few times, switch it up and serve other meats. Here are a few ideas.

Oh So Yummy Osso Buco

This is hearty and with a sauce that makes it feel luxurious. Serve it with polenta or pasta and your guests will feel like royalty… well fed royalty.

A Belly Full of Pork
This is another hearty alternative to lamb that offers a rich sauce that can also be served with a starch such as potatoes, pasta or polenta.

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Roasted Lemon Sole
For those who may not eat meat, serve a lemon sole, simply roasted with parsley, onions and tomatoes. It’s light but makes a satisfying fish dish.

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Of course, the blog is filled with lots of other recipes and ideas, including table settings and flowers. Please browse, search and reminisce from past posts to help you plan a wonderful holiday meal to enjoy with your guests. Hosting is about sharing. Sharing food, drink, laughter and above all LOVE.

Happy Easter

 
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Yellow, Yellow Burst of Sunshine Tablesetting

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Here's a bright idea for your Easter table, or a Spring event. This bold, burst of yellow will welcome everyone with a big, happy grin.  The colors here are simple.  Yellow, white and pop of cobalt blue.  It's a commitment to a color theme that makes this jump with joy.  So start with what brings you joy.  Since I found white tulips and yellow daffodils, I made that the theme of the my table.  Using white dishes and a bright yellow and white table cloth, that set the stage for a monochromatic setting that still sprang forth with a huge punch of color. 

Lay out the tablecloth, and see how you feel. If you want that extra hit of color, now's the time to add the next layer.  It could be a runner or placements or a fabric overlay.  Whatever floats your boat.  Since there is blue in my dining room, I decided to introduce that accent color by using placemats.  This also helps delineate each guest's place.  With so many place settings I didn't want to fully cover my beautiful tablecloth, so I flipped the placements 90 degrees, letting them hang over the table.  This takes up less table space, gives you a landing pad for the plates, while covering the tablecloth where people are bringing food towards their mouths.   A little trick to avoid spills on your beautiful linens!

Next, place the flowers to help define the space a bit more, then set the charges and dishes onto the placemats. 

A effortless stacking of the salad plates make up the next layer. Followed by a simply folded napkin with the utensils on the top.  I mixed up the water glasses, since I don't have enough of one kind for a big dinner party. In fact, I quite a fan of the mix and match look.  So I took that not match-y theme a step further and decided to alternate the napkin set up as well.  Every other setting had the napkin under the salad plate.  Lastly, add some small votives around the table. No need for candle sticks in this set up as there is plenty height with the flowers.

One place setting with napkin on top, the other goes under the salad plate.  If you notice, I have two types of salad plates.  I used the under method on the ones with the gold rim and leaf design.  Why not show a pretty plate?

One place setting with napkin on top, the other goes under the salad plate.  If you notice, I have two types of salad plates.  I used the under method on the ones with the gold rim and leaf design.  Why not show a pretty plate?

If you don't have these colors, use the idea of monochromatic layering to create your own bold, burst of spring. And welcome both spring and your guests to the table.  Below were some of last year's Easter food offerings from appetizers to dessert.

Fennel with olive oil, sea salt, and crushed pepper

Fennel with olive oil, sea salt, and crushed pepper

Roasted Leg of Lamb with onions.

Roasted Leg of Lamb with onions.

 A Feast of roasted vegetables.

 A Feast of roasted vegetables.

Piled high fruit filled Pavola was the fresh dessert to accompany the traditional Pizza Grano. (I used  Ina Garten's Pavola  recipe.)

Piled high fruit filled Pavola was the fresh dessert to accompany the traditional Pizza Grano. (I used Ina Garten's Pavola recipe.)

Citrus Salad Bowl - Served One by One

With Easter fast approaching, you might need some ideas for dinner.  I thought now might be a good time to share a little wisdom, and fun trick I learned from hosting last year's Easter dinner.  It was a small gathering with both our immediate families and we decided to keep it really simple with a select few offerings.   When it came to the salad, I got it stuck in my thick skull to serve it individually plated instead of one big bowl.  This idea sprouted from a clear vision I had on how the salad should look. Little did I realize that the individual plating and serving before the main meal would work out even better than I could have imagined.  

Traditionally, I make a big salad and place it out with the main course.  Without fail, everyone says, "Wow, that looks amazing but I'll have salad later.' Then they dive into all the other offerings, getting too full, and thus leaving lots of yummy salad left over.  This brilliant, new plan allowed me to serve the salad before the main course came out. An added bonus was timing, as the hunger meter was beginning to tick, with our guests starting to want more after appetizers.  Perfecto mundo!  cue the individual plates and witness the entire salad course disappear.  Now, I'm no magician, but this was a nifty trick in having no left over salad and plus I got them to eat greens!!!  I wholly recommend plating your salad and forcing your guests to enjoy your nutrient rich offering.

The salad I served was a variation on one that I've made many times.  This time I scaled back on some ingredients and focused on the Boston lettuce with citrus fruits to keep it clean and fresh, like a burst of Spring.  I think this is a light, colorful salad to serve for Easter or brunch during this time of year.  It is one of those salads that can actually be prepped a day in advance, making the day of your event much easier.  Each of the items below can be cut and stored in containers, then just assembled 15 minutes before serving.

Your starting line up of glorious greens and oranges colors of nutritious, deliciousness.

Your starting line up of glorious greens and oranges colors of nutritious, deliciousness.

Ingredients

(makes approx. 10)

Salad                                                                                                     
3 heads of Boston lettuce, leaves carefully separated
3-4 red grapefruits, segmented
4 oranges, segmented
3 avocados, cubed
4 Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber, sliced
1 c fennel, shaved
1 c celery, sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 Scallion, thinly sliced

 

Dressing * 

1/4 c chives, chopped
Fennel fronds, chopped
1/3 c Juice of grapefruit & orange
1/2 c Olive oil
Salt, pepper

* This mixture using only the citrus juices is quite mild. If you want more punch, add a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Instructions

Cut the cores from the lettuce so the leaves can be separated and kept whole.  Wash and set aside to let dry.  (If prepped the day before, make sure they are dry, then store them with a slightly damp paper towel and place them in a container or plastic bag in the fridge.)

Segment the citrus fruits, collecting all their juices and reserving for the dressing. Shave, slice and dice up the remaining ingredients and combine them in a bowl.

Chopped and ready to go. The most important part of an assembly line, having everything prepped.

Chopped and ready to go. The most important part of an assembly line, having everything prepped.

To prepare the individual plates, place 2-3 full lettuce leaves in a bowl like shape on the plates.  Then add several pieces of grapefruit and orange to each plate.  

Lettuce bowl

Lettuce bowl

Assembly line awaiting their topping and a rain of citrus juices

Assembly line awaiting their topping and a rain of citrus juices

In a separate bowl, combine the citrus juices, oil, salt, pepper and some of the fennel fronds. Whisk together. Since this will be individually plated and not all tossed in a bowl, I recommend combining all elements minus the lettuce and the citrus and lightly dress these items, reserving some of the dressing to drizzle and finish off each plate.

Top with the sliced mixture and drizzle the remaining dressing over each salad topping with some of the fronds.  Serve immediately. 

Drizzle some dressing over top as the final touch.

Drizzle some dressing over top as the final touch.

Have I mentioned just how pleased I was serving the salad this way?  Instead of praying our guests leave room for salad at the end, it was a slam dunk that they ate up every last bite.  Truly savoring this super fresh, vitamin packed salad first.  And because it is light, they had room for the rest of the meal, too. A ploy I may just employ a bit more often. I hope you do, too.

Side note:

This salad tastes equally delish if served in one large bowl.  You can decorate this any way you like. You can toss all the ingredients together for a green and orange rainbow of color.  Or you can present it similar to the individual plates, placing all the lettuce on the bottom and focusing all the other ingredients in the middle. Any way you toss it, you and your guests will get a fresh bite of salad that will brighten more than your senses.

Print Ready Recipe

 

Pizza Rustica - An Italian Easter Tradition

"Tradition!  Tradition! "  As Zero Mostel so famously belted out in Fiddler on the Roof, it is what grounds us to our own history.  I love family traditions. They fill me with memories and smiles, good times and laughter of being together as a family.   And for me, a big part of that was being in the kitchen with any one of the 3 incredible women who inspired my love of cooking and baking.  My Italian grandmothers and mother: Powerhouses in the Kitchen. As a little girl I would watch them and help whenever and wherever I could.  I studied, learned and committed most of what they did to memory. Thankfully, some recipes, like this one, Pizza Rustica were written down, so I can keep the tradition going.  Today's recipe is brought to you by these two amazing woman, my grandmothers.  

Trofimena Carmela Annunziata aka - Mildred Majewski, mom's mom Photo Credit: Paul Majewski

Trofimena Carmela Annunziata
aka - Mildred Majewski, mom's mom
Photo Credit: Paul Majewski

Carmela Marie Giovanna aka - Mildred Perri, dad's mom

Carmela Marie Giovanna
aka - Mildred Perri, dad's mom

The 3 Powerhouses of the Kitchen - Literally making Pizza Rustica.  That's my gorgeous Mom. I can't believe I found this photo!!!  A treasure.

The 3 Powerhouses of the Kitchen - Literally making Pizza Rustica.  That's my gorgeous Mom. I can't believe I found this photo!!!  A treasure.

For the past few years, I have been making Pizza Rustica for Easter.  What is that, you ask? Well, pizza, in Italian, simply means pie.  Rustica means rustic. Duh! So this is a rustic pie packed with cheeses and meats served typically at Easter to break Lent.  For those who might not know, Lent is that period of time prior to Easter when Catholics are supposed to abstain from eating meat (which I do daily anyway, so no sacrifice for me, hehe). Thus, this 'more torte than' pie celebrates the return to eating meat. It was a definite tradition in our home growing up and one I'm trying to keep afloat. 

It is rich. It is dense. It is a delicious and decadent pie. One that my parents, in particular my dad, absolutely love.  Nothing brings me more joy than making traditional recipes for them and seeing their happiness.  I relive the moments of my childhood. This recipe is not difficult to make, just a little time consuming.  You may see versions where the filling combines all the ingredients together. That is the easy way out.  But my grandmas patiently and lovingly created layers. So that’s what I do.  Plus, I think it looks beautiful that way.  (Funny thing is my mom and I were in heated debate about this methodology.  She swears her mom used the layering method, of which I have no doubt.  But claims my dad's mom mixed it all together.  I remember them both layering it, so that's that. Take the time to layer it and do it the pretty way.) 

I like to think of this as a three part recipe.  1- Make the dough.  2- Make the filling. 3- Then layer the meats and cheeses.    Here we go.

Ingredients

Dough
2 lb. Flour (approx. 6 cups)
2 tsp. Baking powder
1 c. milk
1 c. oil
5 eggs
dash of salt & pepper

Combine all the above ingredients in a big bowl. I add the eggs last. Once all the dough comes together, knead on a board until dough is smooth.  Divide dough into two sections (2/3 and 1/3).  Roll out the 2/3 portion and place the dough into a 9" x 3.25" liter spring pan. (Because the pie is so dense and heavy, I suggest using a spring pan so you can remove it.  If you don't have one or don't mind serving it from the baking pan, then just us the largest pan you have. My grandmothers like making this in a deep pan, but you can make it in a long rectangle. You will just have less layers.)

Combining into a ball.

Combining into a ball.

Kneading until smooth

Kneading until smooth

Roll it out to size.  If the dough breaks, just patch it.

Roll it out to size.  If the dough breaks, just patch it.

Now onto the filling.

Filling
½ - ¾  lb. Prosciutto, sliced thin
½  lb. Genoa salami (sliced thin)
½  lb. Soppressata (sliced thin)
1 whole Basket cheese (farm fresh cow's milk cheese made & left in the basket)
3 lbs. Ricotta cheese (whole milk)
6 eggs
fresh parsley, chopped (optional, another debate. sometimes it was added, sometimes not)
Salt

Cheesy deliciousness

Cheesy deliciousness

In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, basket cheese and parsley with the eggs and season with salt.  

You have to crack some eggs in this recipe

You have to crack some eggs in this recipe

Get all the meats items ready for assembly.  Begin the layering by first adding a layer of the cheese mixture, spreading evenly to cover the bottom. You want about 1/2" of the cheese mixture. Then add a layer of the prosciutto, followed by another layer of the cheese mixture. Next layer the salami, repeat the cheese layer. Then a layer of soppressata, and repeat the process until you fill up the pan.

First layer of goodness going down.

First layer of goodness going down.

Layering up and up, overlap the meat so there is a good amount.

Layering up and up, overlap the meat so there is a good amount.

I use an offset spatula to spread the mixture around.  It makes it a lot easier.

I use an offset spatula to spread the mixture around.  It makes it a lot easier.

Roll out the remainder of the dough a little larger than the top of the pan.  Place over the top of the pan. Trim the excess but leave enough to seal. Then using two fingers, pinch to crimp and seal the top.

Since the dough is quite pliable, it's much easier if you roll it onto the rolling pin and they roll it onto the top.

Since the dough is quite pliable, it's much easier if you roll it onto the rolling pin and they roll it onto the top.

Trim the excess

Trim the excess

Using two index fingers, pinch the dough together to create a seal AND a pretty border.

Using two index fingers, pinch the dough together to create a seal AND a pretty border.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until golden brown.  Let rest and cool before lifting it up through the springform pan.

This monster of a "pie" feeds an army, so we usually serve it as an appetizer with very few, or light apps to accompany it.  Like olives, or fennel with olive oil and course salt.

Our line up of apps one year.  Roasted red peppers, burrata with fresh tomatoes/basil, fennel with coarse salt/pepper/oil and the of course, the towering Pizza Rustica.

Our line up of apps one year.  Roasted red peppers, burrata with fresh tomatoes/basil, fennel with coarse salt/pepper/oil and the of course, the towering Pizza Rustica.

Layers of rich deliciousness.

Layers of rich deliciousness.

Serve up a slice. Yes, an Italian Easter Family Tradition... but delicious anytime.

Recipe Print Friendly Version

Food photos in this post credited to: www.asithappens.me