Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

Pining for an Easter brunch

9 April 2014

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Once again we will be away for Easter. It’s the second time and I thought I’d resolved it wouldn’t happen again.

No, I am not so undeserving as to regret last year’s magical vacation in Boston and Martha’s Vineyard. Today we are going to Greece and for months I’ve been skipping-in-the-street excited about our upcoming trip! It’s just the timing. Ages ago in January when we booked the flights it all seemed so far away. But Easter is approaching and I feel a pinch. These trips have come in the way of a much older custom, started I think when Leo was one, and the Easter Egg hunt followed by a massive brunch is my favorite tradition. I blame all of this untimely travel on the school holiday schedule…

Were we coming home a few days sooner, here are some of the things I would likely prepare.

Chicken liver terrine

Cheat’s potted crab

Mackerel rillettes

Mimosa deviled eggs

Lentil and fennel salad with lemon and parsley

Dandelion, fennel, and pumpkin seed salad

Poppy seed and almond cake

Quick lemon and lime tart

Emboldened by Holly‘s success, I might finally attempt a panettone. I’ve been dying to try.

And crucially we would, as every year but last, dye the eggs with leaf and flower motifs.

Happy Easter, happy spring!

 

Dyed Easter eggs with leaf or flower motifs

28 March 2013

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I have dyed eggs this way since I was a little girl.

My grandparents lived in Switzerland, in a chalet overlooking Lake Brienz. It was a place straight out of a storybook and I have many Heidi memories, running up mountains and down steep meadows with cows in the field nearby, an isolated chalet in the distance, and the Alps all around. Sweet summer smells of sunshine and succulents can conjure up those memories unexpectedly, but I sometimes invoke them willfully, through rituals like these: every year for Easter I dye eggs with leaf patterns, as we used to do.

In Switzerland we easily found natural dyes at the pharmacy (they are still readily available): walnut husks for deep brown, dried mallow petals for blues, and all sorts of bark for various hues of yellow, orange, and red. But here in New York I’ve been compelled to use everyday ingredients, fruits and vegetables — even better! If only they’d worked. For years I was woefully unsuccessful with all vegetable dyes except onion skins, which are brilliantly reliable and produce a stunning deep brick red.

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I was on the verge of writing off all other colors, had I not recently been taunted by blogs and photos posting deep-hued eggs tinted with spinach, turmeric, red cabbage… Why not me? I’d been using the wrong method. During all those years of stubbornly prepared and pitifully useless homemade dyes I had followed the instructions remembered from the little Swiss packets: hard-boil the eggs for 12 to 15 minutes directly in the colored liquid. This did work with onion skins but other vegetables left no trace on the shells whatsoever. Determined to get something out of my cabbage after all (and wised-up by some online reading) this time I waited for the liquid to cool, plunged the already hard-boiled eggs into the dye, and left them in the refrigerator overnight. Magic!

This time I made the experiment with red cabbage only, but I know it is the way to success, and I see a bright multi-colored Easter-egg future ahead.

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Red eggs = onion skins, blue eggs = red cabbage, brown eggs = walnut husks brought back from Switzerland

Approximately 2 cups packed onion skins

Approximately 3 cups shredded red cabbage

18 to 24 eggs

White vinegar

Freshly picked leaves and flowers

Old/cheap tan stockings

Kitchen string

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Prepare the dyes in two medium saucepans: about 8 cups of cold water for 2 cups of onion skins and about 6 cups of cold water for 3 cups of shredded red cabbage. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile hard-boil the eggs: bring a large saucepan of water to boil, gently place the eggs inside, and simmer gently for 12 minutes. Run immediately under cold water. Let dry and gently rub the eggs with a little white vinegar.

Cut the stockings into 3-inch (8-cm) squares approximately.

Place a leaf or flower onto the egg; carefully place the stocking over the leaf and tighten the stocking over the egg by gathering it at the back, thereby gluing the leaf to the egg. Twist the stocking to tighten as much as possible then bind it with a piece of string. **Alternatively, we also just tie rubber bands over the bare egg to create line motifs.**

Place the eggs in large jars, pour the cold dye over the eggs, and leave in the refrigerator until the egg acquires the desired hue.

Cut the stocking at the string and carefully remove it and the leaf (or flower) to reveal the design. **Be mindful not to scratch the egg as the dye can rub off while it is still wet.**

Once the eggs are dry, rub with a little oil for shine.

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Related posts

Happy Easter!

Lentil and fennel salad with lemon and parsley

28 April 2011

I made this salad for Easter lunch on Sunday. I imagined it as I went. Or so I thought.

Many people liked it a lot, and one friend in particular complimented me on the originality of the pairing. I graciously accepted the comment, but all the while something in the back of my mind was nagging. Surely I had not really come up with the idea. I must have seen it somewhere. Speaking to my mother on the phone the next day I asked her about this salad. Had she not previously made something similar that might have half-consciously inspired me?

My mother is an incredible cook, and a nutritionist. Not a steamed-carrots-and-brown-rice kind of nutritionist. She loves good food, really good food. Meat, fish, vegetables, salads, desserts, and – yes – butter. She has written a few books about nutrition, one of which is a book of recipes. Sure enough, one of those recipes is a lentil salad with fennel, parsley, and coriander.

This lentil and fennel salad is different, but the inspiration – as it turns out and like so many other things in my life without my realizing it at first – is my mother’s.

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1 cup green lentils (preferably Castelluccio or du Puy)

1 small red onion

2 bulbs fennel

A generous handful flat-leaved parsley

1 bay leaf

3 Tbsps good olive oil

2 Tbsps balsamic vinegar

Juice and zest from 1 lemon (more lemon juice may be required depending on how juicy it is)

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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The lentils are cooked the same way as for this basic lentils recipe

Pick through the lentils to look for small stone intruders that must be discarded.

To wash lentils, cover with cold water and drain in a fine mesh sieve.

Peel and cut into large chunks the onion and half a fennel, reserving the rest of the fennel for later.

Place lentils into a medium-sized saucepan with 2 cups (double the volume) water. Add vegetable chunks, a few sprigs of parsley, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat when the lentils are cooked to your liking – I like them to retain a nice bite. Discard sprigs of parsley and vegetable chunks, pour lentils into a large bowl, and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

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Wash and finely chop the rest of the parsley.

Cut the fennel in half. Place it face side down onto the cutting board, and cut into thin strips, height-wise.

Season the lentils with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. **The measurements given above are suggestions. I find that lentils hold up to a bold amount of acidity. It is best to season gradually, and adjust according to taste.**

Toss the lentils with the fennel and parsley. Check one last time for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve.

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Related posts

Lentils

Dandelion, fennel, and pumpkin seed salad with pumpkin seed oil

Happy Easter!

25 April 2011

My grandmother taught me how to eat Easter eggs. You have to be two. Each person holds one hard-boiled egg gently but tightly in their fist, with only the tip of the egg exposed. Then the eggs are crashed one against the other. The egg that doesn’t break is the winner and can continue the egg-crashing contest with other contenders.

The consolation for losing at this game is that you can eat your egg immediately.

To eat a hard-boiled Easter egg:

1) peel the egg

2) slice it in half crosswise

3) remove the yolk from each half carefully, without it crumbling

4) pour a little olive oil and a few drops of red wine vinegar in the cavity left by the yolk

5) place the yolk back on top and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6) eat the whole seasoned half egg in one bite

Happy Easter!

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder

19 September 2010

Every summer I spend a few weeks at my sister’s house in Brittany, and I come back every time with a new culinary obsession inspired by countless hours spent around the kitchen with my family cooking, eating, and talking about food. One year my preoccupation was yogurt, another time marinated olives, and this year it is slow-roasted lamb. There simply is no better way to cook – or eat – lamb. It’s completely stress-free and utterly delicious.

This is an approximate recreation of my sister’s succulent lamb shoulder. The gist of the recipe is to rub the lamb with herbs and garlic and let it cook for hours in a very low oven.

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The quantities below are for a piece of meat of approximately 6 lbs (3 kg). The seasoning should be adjusted according to size, but the cooking time remains the same.

2 generous sprigs each of sage, rosemary, thyme, summer savory

1 Tbsp coriander seeds

2 Tbsps coarse gray sea salt

6 garlic cloves

Black pepper

Olive oil

1 bone-in lamb shoulder

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Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).

Finely chop the herbs. In a mortar, coarsely grind the coriander seeds and set aside. Next grind together the salt and garlic cloves. Mix in the herbs, coriander, and a generous amount of black pepper. Finally, drizzle 3-4 tablespoons olive oil to make a coarse paste.

Trim the fat from the lamb and rub with the herb paste on all sides. Place the lamb shoulder in a large cast-iron pot.* Put the lamb in the oven and let roast at a high temperature for 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to 300°F (150°C), seal the pot with a tight-fitting lid (or with aluminum foil if using a roasting tray), and forget the lamb in the oven for 3 or 4 hours.

The meat will fall off the bone, and it will be even more delicious reheated the next day.

*Another option is to use a roasting pan tightly sealed with aluminum foil, though the result is not quite as satisfying as the meat does not seem to brown in the same way.


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