Here are a few recipes to whip up for Easter, whether you're looking for something gourmet to impress or something so simple the kids could prepare it.
From Sara Moulton
I love lamb, in every way and every cut. But I donít eat it very often because of the same thing that tends to make it so very delicious ó its fattiness.
Still, all bets are off during Easter, when I happily bow to tradition. In Easters past, Iíve roasted a whole leg of lamb or part of a leg, and prepared it in a Mediterranean fashion. Trouble is, thereís always so much left over. So this year Iím going with smaller lamb steaks that are cut from the leg, one of the leanest cuts of lamb (especially if you also trim away any fat).
In fact, the leg is so lean you have to figure out how to replace the flavor and moisture that goes missing when you kiss the fat goodbye. In this recipe, that is accomplished with a rosemary-garlic rub with added salt. When you rub a piece of protein with salt and let it sit, the salt eventually makes the meat juicier. It works like a brine, minus the liquid.
Having chosen a lean cut of meat, I also wanted a lean way to cook it. Grilling fit the bill. The problem is that grills are banned here in New York City. And elsewhere in the country, many people still havenít hauled their grills out of storage for the season yet.
The solution is a grill pan. In my opinion, every home should have one. Grilling done properly ó that is, as long as you donít incinerate the ingredient in question ó is a healthy way to coax flavor out of meats and vegetables, not least because it requires very little fat.
Grilled marinated lamb all by itself is pretty darn tasty, but I wanted to gild the lily a bit. After all, it is Easter. Since I already was giving the lamb the Mediterranean treatment with a rosemary-garlic rub, I thought why not top it with an egg-lemon sauce, a stalwart of the Greek culinary repertoire?
But egg-lemon sauces can be tricky because the sauce is thickened only by the egg. If you donít cook it enough, the sauce wonít thicken. If you cook it too much, the eggs scramble. So I stabilized the sauce by adding cornstarch, which makes it creamy and curd-less, and allowed me to keep it hot over low heat without any worries.
I finished the sauce with chopped baby artichokes since artichokes and lemon are such a happy pair. I like frozen artichokes because unlike the canned or bottled varieties, thereís no salt or oil added to them. Then I caramelized them under the broiler for a few minutes to concentrate their flavor. Of course, if you have the time and inclination to prep and cook fresh baby artichokes, please go ahead. You can poach them in acidulated water until tender, then add them to the sauce.
How to serve this dish? One of our problems these days is what is delicately referred to as portion control. Less delicately, we eat too much. My strategy is to present protein on a plate so that it looks plentiful, even though the portion isnít huge. In this case, 4 ounces of sliced steak, fanned out a bit, looks like more than 4 ounces of an unsliced steak.
Just be sure to let the steaks rest before you slice them so that theyíre nice and juicy. And remember to add the juice from the plate with the resting lamb to the sauce, which will marry the two. See for yourself; itís a happy marriage. Every biteís a winner.
GRILLED LAMB STEAKS WITH ARTICHOKE LEMON SAUCE
Start to finish: 1 hour 40 minutes (20 minutes active)
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound lamb steaks cut from the leg (preferably about 3/4-inch thick)
1 cup artichoke hearts, patted dry and chopped (frozen is best)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Set aside 1 teaspoon of the chopped rosemary. In a wide, shallow bowl combine the remaining rosemary, the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the lamb and coat it well on all sides with the herb mixture. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.
Set an oven rack 4 inches from the broiler heating element. Heat the oven to broil.
In a small bowl, toss the artichokes with the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the artichokes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning them several times, until they are golden around the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the broiler and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium, heat the chicken broth until it is simmering. In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk, lemon juice, reserved teaspoon of rosemary and the cornstarch. Add a little of the chicken stock to the mixture in a stream, whisking. Add the egg mixture back to the chicken stock and cook for 1 minute, or until the sauce starts to bubble. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the artichokes. Keep warm over low heat.
Heat a grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat. Wipe off most of the garlic herb mixture from the lamb and spray the meat with olive oil cooking spray. Add the lamb to the grill pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, turning once, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb to a plate, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
Slice the lamb against the grain into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Add the lamb juices from the plate to the artichoke lemon sauce. Divide the sliced lamb between 4 serving plates and spoon sauce over each plate.
Nutrition information per serving: 350 calories; 200 calories from fat (57 percent of total calories); 22 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 125 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 25g protein; 980 mg sodium.
From J.M. HIRSCH, AP Food Editor
Easter dinner isnít generally the sort of meal we try to rush. The whole point is to savor the meal, not sprint through it the way we do most weeknights.
But that doesnít mean we donít appreciate the easy, time-saving trick here and there. In this case, Iíve applied the same technique to both the appetizer and the dessert. Itís an approach that frees me up to focus on the rest of the meal ó the all-important glazed ham, the roasted vegetables, perhaps a cocktail (or three).
The trick begins with purchased frozen phyllo pastry cups (also called ďfillo shellsĒ). Youíll find them in the grocerís freezer section alongside the puff pastry (and often near the frozen fruit). These tiny cups (each holds about 1 tablespoon or so of fillings and they usually come 15 to a box) come fully cooked and thaw in minutes. All you need to do is fill them and eat them (though you may need to bake them depending on your filling).
For the appetizer, we donít even need a recipe. All I do is transform the classic Easter quiche into bite-size treats.
To do this, heat the oven to 400 F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray, then arrange the phyllo cups on it. Fill each cup with a small amount (about 1 to 2 teaspoons) of fillings. Chopped cooked meats, chopped vegetables and shredded cheese are great choices.
In a 1-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk 1 egg, a splash of water, milk or cream, and a bit of salt and pepper. Carefully pour about 1 teaspoon of the egg mixture over the fillings in each cup. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the egg is puffed and the fillings are lightly browned. Thatís it. The quiche cups can be served warm or room temperature.
For the dessert, I went with a ridiculously easy and delicious no-cook option ó creamy lemon-berry tartlets. These are so simple you even could delegate this part of the meal to the kids.
CREAMY LEMON-BERRY TARTLETS
Assuming these tartlets wonít be consumed immediately, you donít even need to let them thaw before filling them. Just proceed with the recipe and by the time they are eaten they will be perfect. Youíll usually find jarred lemon curd in with the jams and jellies.
Start to finish: 15 minutes
Makes 15 tartlets
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 tablespoons purchased lemon curd
15 frozen baked phyllo cups
1 cup fresh berries
Powdered sugar, to sprinkle
In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, lemon curd and cinnamon until slightly thickened. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons of the mixture into each phyllo cup. The filling should be lightly mounded in the cups, but not overflowing.
Top each cup with several berries, then arrange the cups on a serving platter. Spoon powdered sugar into a mesh strainer, then hold it over the filled cups and gently tap to dust with sugar.
Nutrition information per serving: 50 calories; 35 calories from fat (70 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 4 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 1 g protein; 25 mg sodium.
From ELIZABETH KARMEL
For most people, Easter means itís time for chocolate bunnies and colored eggs. And while those things are fine, for me this season is about all things lemon.
I usually make lemon bars that are tart and refreshing, more lemon than egg. But this year I decided to riff on one of my favorite cookies, the Mexican wedding cookie, also known as the Russian tea cake, pecan butterballs, snowballs, and many other names. Regardless of what you call them, these much-loved powdered sugar-coated cookies tend to be made mostly around the Christmas holidays.
But the delicious simplicity of these treats begs for a burst of lemon, and by adding a healthy dose of lemon zest, these nutty shortbread-like cookies become a ďlemon wedding cookie.Ē The zest adds a delicate lemon flavor that I find is a perfect balance to the richness of the butter and the pecans.
If you want an even bigger burst of lemon, you can add a 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract to the dough and 1 teaspoon of unsweetened lemon-aid mix to the powdered sugar used to coat the cookies. You also can add a drop or two of yellow food coloring to make the cookies yellow and more in keeping with Easter colors. If you make them small and oval instead of round, they even look a little like miniature eggs.
The recipe also is easy to adapt to other nuts, and other flavors, even chocolate (adding about 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the dough and substituting orange zest for the lemon). The cookie dough is so easy to make that you could whip up several variations for Easter brunch, or make it even easier on yourself and serve ham sandwiches and these cookies and call it an Easter tea.
LEMON WEDDING COOKIES
Start to finish: 1 hour
Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted, divided
1/4 teaspoon fine-grain salt
Zest of 1 very large or 2 small lemons
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup lightly toasted pecans, finely chopped in a food processor or nut chopper
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, then beat well. Add the salt, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add the food coloring, if using. A little at a time, beat in the flour just until mixed.
Add the nuts, using a silicone spatula to stir them in. Place the dough in a small bowl or a plastic bag and chill for 30 to 60 minutes, or place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. At this stage, the dough also can be frozen for up to 1 month.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar in a medium bowl.
Once the dough has chilled, divide it into 1/2-inch balls. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between them. Bake on the center rack for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are set on top and lightly golden on the bottom.
Let the cookies cool for 2 to 3 minutes on the cookie sheet. A few at a time, place the cookies in the bowl of powdered sugar and toss gently to coat well. Transfer the coated cookies to a rack to cool completely. Once cool, repeat the coating process with the bowl of powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.
Nutrition information per cookie: 90 calories; 60 calories from fat (67 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 8 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 1 g protein; 15 mg sodium.