Easter Brunch Special

rabbitts_easterWould you rather brunch than lunch or dinner for Easter? After today’s icy rain, it’s not a bad idea to free up the afternoon for some outdoor fun. Hike, bike or work in the garden – however you choose to spend the day – I’ve got a great brunch menu for you to enjoy with family and friends.

What to serve? Traditional or not, hmmm! Well, it is Easter. You and your guests will love my Quiche Lorraine. If you prefer to play it a little fancy, you’ll want to serve my Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart. (Asparagus is on special at my local supermarket.) If there are children coming, you might want to add a pan of my Baked French Toast.

Don’t forget to add some fresh fruit. My supermarket is also having a sale on strawberries. Pick up a quart and enjoy my Strawberries with Yogurt Cream. Or go crazy and enjoy your berries with my Creamy Lime Custard. Next add a scone, maybe two. You’ll love my Lemon Scones or Ginger Scones.

If your sweet tooth is not quite satisfied with the fruit and scones, feel free to pass a plate of absolutely wonderful, homemade Chocolate Truffles or tiny cups of Pot de Crème or both!

Have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

What are your plans for Easter? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

Easter Dinner Special

Easter_Bunnies_Think_SpringIs it your turn to host Easter dinner this year? I’m sure it will be delicious. Just in case you’re feeling a bit frazzled and overwhelmed, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for a decidedly casual dinner. Here you go!

How to start? Hang out in the kitchen with your guests and and flip Zucchini Pancakes and serve them with a dab of tapenade. Or nibble Roasted Shrimp with Tarragon Aioli. Either or both will be lovely with a glass of Prosecco or dry white wine.

Next, it’s time for one of my favorite spring salads. Perhaps you’ll try my Mixed Greens with Grilled Asparagus, Cucumber & Avocado. Unless you want to be very healthy, with a super Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad. Both are delightful.

Next , you’ve got to try my latest and greatest lamb shanks. Braised to tender deliciousness, you’ll love my Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions. Just add a dollop of Creamy Polenta or Smashed or Mashed Potatoes.

If it’s already warm where you live and you’d rather grill than braise, try my Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa. Serve the lamb and salsa with a spoonful of Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts.

End your feast with an extra special dessert. My Lemon Cheesecake is to die for. On the other hand, a bowl of berries with my Lavender Infused White Chocolate Crème or Creamy Lime Custard would be wonderful. Hmmm … how to choose? I’ll let you decide.

Have a Happy Easter and great weekend! Bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Easter? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2016

How to Celebrate Easter & Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions

Easter_BunniesUp until I was ten, maybe eleven, my family celebrated Easter like everyone else in the neighborhood. We shopped for Easter outfits and bonnets, decorated eggs, went to church and had dinner at one or the other grandparent’s house. Then skiing and a spring vacation or two got in the way. Around that time, Mom’s parents began spending the winter and spring in Florida. So, unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas and Independence Day, Easter became a bit hit or miss celebration in our family; mostly miss.

If you share my haphazard history of Easter celebrations and need help planning your weekend, here are a few suggestions.

Fly a kite. What could be better than a sky full of kites on a breezy early spring day? This tradition began in Bermuda. Legend has it that Easter kite flying began when a teacher was trying to explain Christ’s ascension to heaven. Today, a colorful kite flying festival is held every year on Good Friday. Easter kite flying is also practiced in Guyana but on Easter Monday. I’ll let you, the weather and the wind pick your best day to fly.

Light a fire. Like many rites, this tradition harks back to pagan days. Easter bonfires are an old custom in parts of northern Europe. Usually lit at sundown on Good Friday or Saturday, it is a good way to get the neighborhood together (and burn some of the dead tree limbs that fell over the winter). The fire is meant to chase away the dark and cold of winter. Don’t forget to get a permit!

Start a parade. Early Christian processions where solemn affairs and took place both before and after Easter services. This tradition took on a decidedly festive note on New York’s Fifth Avenue in the late 1880’s. In the spirit of see and be seen, wealthy New Yorkers strolled up and down the avenue in their Easter finest. Whether you dress to the nines with a gorgeous bonnet or don bunny ears, enjoy the fresh air as you parade through the neighborhood.

Decorate eggs. An ancient symbol of new life, the egg played an important role in pagan festivals. Early Christians adopted the practice with a different spin. Eggs were forbidden during Lent so people began to decorate and color them to enjoy at their Easter feasts.

Before skiing got in the way, Mom always hardboiled a dozen or so eggs for my sister and I to decorate. I can still smell the vinegar that we used to activate the special dyes. We loved the fun of decorating but neither Brenda nor I liked hardboiled eggs. We brought them with us to Easter dinner and palmed as many as possible off on our grandparents.

Watch the sun rise. Several local churches are holding special sunrise services. These services commemorate the empty tomb that greeted Mary at dawn on Easter morning. Enjoy the hymns and celebration of the resurrection. Alternatively, a quiet, solitary meditation in a favorite place may suit you better. Sunrise is at 6:37 on Easter morning.

Gather friends and family. In spite of my spotty history, I like to invite friends around for an Easter dinner. More often than not, the weather is far from springy so I rummage through my files for festive but cozy recipes. Chocolate bunnies and eggs decorate the table and we at least pretend that spring is here.

However you celebrate, have a lovely Easter and bon appétit!

Lamb Shanks with Mushrooms & Pearl Onions
I love lamb at Easter and these shanks are a homey favorite. Add a spoonful of creamy polenta for a delicious Easter feast. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 ounces slab or thick cut bacon, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large or 8 small lamb shanks
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with a piece of string
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes or to taste
2-3 cups dry red wine
4-6 cups chicken stock
Olive oil
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
1 pound pearl onions, peeled and trimmed or use frozen

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and reserve.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper, raise the heat to medium high and, working in batches, brown the lamb in the bacon fat. Remove the shanks and place them in a casserole or roasting pan large enough to hold the lamb in a single layer, sprinkle with the bacon and add the herbs.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with dried chili flakes, salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more.

Evenly spread the sautéed vegetables over the lamb, add 2 cups wine and enough chicken broth to cover about 3/4 of the shanks. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven. Turning the lamb shanks once, cook at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

While the lamb is cooking, add a little olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high. Add the mushrooms and sauté until golden. Turn the lamb shanks again, add the mushrooms and pearl onions and more wine and/or stock if needed. Continue cooking uncovered for 1 hour.

If using large shanks, remove the lamb from the bones. If using smaller shanks, let each of your guests have their own. Transfer the lamb, mushrooms, pearl onions and a few spoonfuls of sauce to a deep serving platter or individual plates and serve. Pass the remaining sauce.

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One Year Ago – New Hampshire Mud Pie
Two Years Ago – White Beans Provençal with Bacon & Baby Kale
Three Years Ago – Moroccan Spiced Grilled Lamb with Roasted Eggplant Salsa
Four Years Ago – Linguine with Shrimp, Artichokes Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Olives
Five Years Ago – Roast Chicken
Six Years Ago – Roasted Asparagus with Walnuts
Seven Years Ago – Roasted Eggplant with Peperonata

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2016

La Dolce Vita & Tiramisu

spanish_steps_romeEaster is this coming weekend. Anyone who lives in northern New England knows that spring comes in two parts: Mud Season and Black Fly Season. Easter falls firmly in the former. Which means that, more often than not, Easter is windy, wet and wild. When we were little girls, my dad’s cousin Ginny or my grandmother bought fancy dresses for my sister and me for Easter. Regardless of the weather, we wore those light and frothy dresses to church and Easter dinner. While we were truly adorable, our outfits were hardly appropriate for the icy rain and whipping winds of a typical early spring day in New England.

That’s not the case in Italy. Fast forward a few decades … to the long Easter weekend I spent in and around Rome. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. I was living in Geneva at the time and dating an Italian. We had four days off and he decided it was time to take me home to meet the family.

Unlike New England or even Geneva, spring had arrived in central Italy. Daffodils bobbed in the warm breezes and the sun gave everything a soft, golden glow. Now, I don’t want to disappoint you but if you are conjuring up visions of a sporty little convertible zipping through the Italian countryside and streets of Rome … well, stop. In spite of his roots, my beau drove a very practical sedan of some sort. I think it was German.

Anyway, we traveled light with no heavy coats or muddy boots to weigh us down. With sweaters casually draped over our shoulders, we wandered through the ancient streets of Rome. We sipped espresso in Piazza Navono, visited the Spanish Steps and Saint Peter’s square. It had been rainy and cool when we left Geneva and we reveled in the sweet life of the Italian spring. Ahhhh, la dolce vita.

Early Sunday morning we headed up into the nearby Apennine Mountains to meet the family. We spent a delightful day in a picturesque medieval village. It was the kind of village you see in the travel books or on picture post cards. Thick stonewalls protected the entire village. Narrow three- and four- story houses were jammed together. We meandered through the winding, cobblestone streets, past my friend’s boyhood home, his grandparents’ old house and the houses of numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and school chums. Along the way, he entertained me with stories of his family, a young boy’s mischief-making and, of course, soccer games played here there and everywhere. It was a wonderful glimpse of what it was like to grow up in a tiny village in central Italy.

Around noon, we found ourselves in the village square with its ancient church. The ringing bells announced the end of mass. Within minutes, people, shouts and laughter filled the square. It was like a scene out of a movie. Widows were dressed in black from head to toe. Men played Bocce. Extended families and friends came together to celebrate. Hugs and kisses were exchanged. New babies were admired. Foreign girlfriends were eyed and not so surreptitiously.

Next, our walk took us out of the protective walls and into the surrounding hills. It was time to stop strolling and work up an appetite for the feast to come. Several hours later, showered and changed, we settled down to an enormous family dinner. The food was perfect and, in a word, abbondanza. We were treated to delicious springtime delicacies – beautiful artichokes, delicious lamb and bright spring greens. Everything was fresh from farms in the nearby valley. Everyone was full of good cheer, the conversation was animated and laughter flowed like good wine.

Have a wonderful Easter with your friends and family. Buon appetito!

Tiramisu
London to New York to Tokyo and everywhere in between, Tiramisu gained worldwide popularity during the 1990’s. For many, it is still the quintessential Italian dessert. Enjoy!
Serves 12

12 egg large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups Marsala
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 cup very cold heavy cream
About 30 crispy ladyfingers
About 1 1/2 cups freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee
4-6 ounces dark or milk chocolate, grated

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with water and ice. Set a medium bowl in the ice water and have a fine mesh sieve handy.

Put the yolks, 1 1/4 cups sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a heavy saucepan and whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly add 1 1/4 cups Marsala and whisk until smooth. Set over medium-low heat, and stirring constantly, cook until the mixture is thick and reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Immediately remove the pan from heat and pass the custard through the fine mesh sieve into the bowl sitting in the ice water. Add the vanilla and, stirring frequently, let the custard stand until cool.

While the custard cools, put the espresso and remaining sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the Marsala and stir to combine.

When the custard has cooled, put the mascarpone and cream in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the custard into the whipped mascarpone and cream.

Cover the bottom of a deep 9×13-inch glass or ceramic dish with a single layer of ladyfingers and drizzle the cookies with half the espresso mixture. Let the ladyfingers sit for a minute to absorb the espresso. Top the ladyfingers with half of the custard-mascarpone mixture and smooth the top. Add another layer of cookies and drizzle with the remaining espresso. Top with the remaining custard-mascarpone, cover and refrigerate for several hours.

To serve: generously sprinkle the tiramisu with grated chocolate, spoon into individual bowls and serve.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Sauce
Two Years Ago – Confetti Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago – Magret de Canard Provencal
Four Years Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Five Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Six Years Ago – Spicy Olives
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

It’s an Easter Dinner Weekend Special

Nye EasterI’m still waiting for the final headcount for Easter dinner. So far it looks like a relatively small group, probably six. I think I’ve got the menu more or less under control.

Here’s what I’m planning:

How to start? I’m hoping to find artichokes in the supermarket. If I succeed, I’ll serve up some Artichoke Leaves with Shrimp. Many years ago I spent Easter in Rome and the artichokes were in season. For four days, we enjoyed one beautiful artichoke dish after another. Since then, I have always associated artichokes and Easter. In addition, I’ve got Spicy Olives and some Rosemary Cashews to nibble.

What about dinner? To keep it simple, we’ll sit down to Caesar Salad. Then it’s on to the main event. I’m not a real fan of ham, so lamb is my go-to for Easter. If it’s cold and dreary I braise it with artichokes and mushrooms and serve it with creamy polenta. If it’s sunny and clear, I’ll roll the grill out of the garage for Grilled Lamb. Asparagus is another Easter staple and Asparagus Risotto is delicious with grilled lamb.
Easter_Bunnies
And dessert? Most of my family are happy with anything chocolaty. Just in case the Easter bunny forgets to stop by, I need to come up with something, anything chocolate.Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake is pretty special and delicious. That said, Lemon Cheesecake with a generous spoonful of strawberries would be delicious.

Have a lovely weekend and a Happy Easter! Bon appétit!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2014

How Will You Celebrate Easter? & Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake

bunny_in_snow_w_crociI don’t know about you but I have trouble keeping track of Easter. One year it’s in March, the next it’s in April. For a while there, I thought I must have missed it. But no, it’s this coming Sunday. In case you are wondering, Easter is tied to the lunar calendar. It is the Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. That said, I have enough trouble figuring out if it’s Thursday or Wednesday. Keeping track of the phases of the moon is probably beyond me.

Then again, knowing the current moon phase does have its perks. Being on the beach on just the right summer night to see the full moonrise over Kearsarge is one of life’s special gifts. (It more than makes up for winter full moons. While the moon on the snow is lovely, to steal a phrase from Clement Moore, it gives “a luster of midday” that tends to keep me awake half the night.)

But enough of that and back to Easter. If you live in New England, chances are pretty good that you’ve searched for eggs in a blizzard at one time or another. It’s just as likely that you dusted off the picnic table for a cookout at least once, hopefully more. Yes indeed, we have shivered in our new spring finery on more Easters than I can count. Conversely, I remember one spectacular Easter afternoon when all the kids jumped into the neighbor’s pool. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for warm and sunny this year.

How will you celebrate this weekend? Will you greet the sun with a communal prayer? Host an Easter egg hunt for all the kids in the neighborhood? Gather your family for a delicious dinner? With any luck, a contingent of Nyes will be headed to Pleasant Lake for Easter. I’m not taking any chances and have already started doing my sun dance. I would love to take a walk around the lake in shorts and a t-shirt and spend some time on the beach. No, I don’t expect a swim. Still, it would be nice put our feet in the sand while we catch up, admire the mountain and watch the ice melt. Ice out is not unlike watching paint dry but it’s been a long, cold winter and we must find our entertainment when and where we can.

If I want to join the fun in the sun, Easter dinner needs to be easy. There is still a lot of snow in my yard, so eating outside is not an option. However, I’m thinking lamb on the grill sounds wonderful. Next, I’ll probably do something with asparagus but I’m not sure what. I still have plenty of time to figure it out! Finally, since most of my family members are chocoholics, a chocolaty dessert is probably in order.

Best wishes for a Happy Easter with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Chocolate-Espresso Cheesecake
This cheesecake is a family favorite and I usually save it for special occasions and holidays. I can make it one or two days ahead so it won’t interfere with family fun. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!Chocolate_Espresso_Cheesecake_04
Serves 12-16

Cookie Crust
9 ounces chocolate wafers or Oreo cookies (about 2 cups crumbs)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Put the cookies in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the sugar, cinnamon, espresso powder and salt and pulse to combine.

Put the cookies in the springform pan, drizzle with the melted butter and toss to combine. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and about 1-inch up the sides of the pan.

Bake the crust until set, about 7 minutes. Cool the crust while you prepare the filling. Keep the oven at 350 degrees.

Chocolate Layer
6 ounces dark chocolate
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Put the chocolate in a microwave proof bowl and zap on medium for 30 second (or less) intervals until the chocolate is almost melted. Let chocolate sit for a minute or two and then whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon and espresso powder in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Slowly add the chocolate and beat until it is fully incorporated. Pour the chocolate layer into the springform pan and spread in an even layer.

Espresso Layer
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extractChocolate_Espresso_Cheesecake_01

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon and espresso powder in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. Pour the filling into the pan and spread evenly over the chocolate layer.

Wrap the springform pan in two layers of heavy aluminum foil and place it in a large roasting pan. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake until slightly puffed, softly set and golden, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer the springform pan to a rack and cool. Cover and refrigerate the cheesecake overnight or up to 2 days.

About 45 minutes before serving remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator. Use a knife to cut carefully around sides of pan to loosen the cheesecake. Release the spring and remove the sides. Cut the cheesecake into thin wedges and serve.

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One Year Ago – Runners’ Chicken with Pasta
Two Years Ago – Steamed Artichokes with Bagna Cauda or Warm Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Three Years Ago – Death by Chocolate Cake
Four Years Ago – Filet de Perche Meunière
Five Years Ago – Chicken Provençal
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Easter? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2014

Easter Weekend Special

Easter_Bunnies_Think_SpringIt’s Easter weekend! How will you celebrate? With a big family brunch or dinner and an Easter egg hunt in the garden? I’m hoping to spend the morning on the ski slopes. Easter dinner is served in the evening, not at noon, in my house. In any case, my garden is still covered with a foot of snow.

If you need a little help, here are a few suggestions for a festive Easter dinner:

Artichokes are one of my favorite spring vegetables! If you agree, try my Artichoke Crostini. Or maybe you’d prefer my Asparagus Crostini with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Goat Cheese. Or both!

Around the Table: Start your dinner with a bit of crunch. Try my Crunchy Salad with Apples & Grapes or my Fennel & Feta Salad.

On to the main course: Give me a choice and I will always take lamb at Easter. Why not get out the grill and give my Grilled Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Eggplant Salsa a try. To complete you dinner, add a spoonful of Israeli Couscous.

Top off your feast with something sweet: It’s maple sugaring season in New Hampshire. Maple Mousse with Apple Compote is a great choice for Easter dinner. For a light dessert, try my Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt or Blueberry Soup with Mascarpone Cream.

Happy Easter and bon appétit!

How will you celebrate Easter? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!

© Susan W. Nye, 2013