The typical Easter meal conjures up rich, substantial dishes with creamy sauces that fill us up. Hot cross buns with icing, the large “roast” basting in its fatty juices and the carb-rich, desserts awaiting us after the meal – our Easters are loaded, as well they should during such a celebration.
But I just wonder whether we can spare ourselves some of the “post-meal” agony and guilt, by using incredibly delicious alternatives. I don’t mean depriving ourselves, but rather, taking a different tact when thinking about how we go about preparing a delectable Easter lunch (or dinner).
As I reflect on past Easters, I am inspired to do something fun, fresh, and flirty this year. Come along with me as I propose some unconventional ideas designed to devour without the extra load. Let’s play around with some distinctly unique ways to enjoy Easter.
Spring is peak season for both white and green asparagus. Why not muster up both for our table?
White Asparagus (without the hollandaise)
Cultivated across Europe (and celebrated with a passion in Germany), the white asparagus is a shoot that is nurtured underground. While grown in darkness, the delicious vegetable yields tender white spears. It is a good source of antioxidants, high in insoluble fiber, rich in vitamins E and C.
Assemble a bunch by peeling off the fibrous layers on the stalks and chopping off the woodsy ends.
Cook these in a pot of boiling water, reducing the heat to low and let simmer till tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and serve with a light, bright dressing using 1 tablespoon each of Dijon mustard, freshly squeezed lemon, salt and pepper; then slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil as you are whisking to create an emulsion. Add 1 tablespoon of sour cream and whisk in to yield a lemon-yellow sauce.
Plate mixed baby greens and arugula, top with the warm asparagus and dress with a dollop of the sauce, finally, garnish with a sprig of thyme.
Creamy Asparagus Soup (without the cream)
Grab a few bunches (about 2 lbs. or 1 kg) of long stemmed young green asparagus and cut off the hard ends. Save all the tips, about an inch long for garnish. Dice the rest of the stalks, 2 shallots and 1 clove of garlic. Sauté these together with the diced asparagus in a pot with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter on medium heat, till translucent.
Add the diced asparagus, salt and pepper, sauté for a couple of minutes. Add 4 cups clear vegetable broth, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat add juice of 1 lemon and blend it with an immersion blender.
Blanch the asparagus tips in boiling water and shock them in a bowl of ice cubed water to help retain the bright green color. Drain off excess water on a paper towel once cooled.
For service, ladle soup into a bowl garnish with 3 pieces of asparagus tips and a sprig of dill in each bowl. Ideally served with Parmesan Biscuits.
Of course, as is customary during the Easter holidays, sweet treats are a must. In the king of easter treats is chocolate.
A simple seed of the cacao pod, grown on the cacao tree with a rich history and a good source of nutrients. Cocoa has long been associated with medicinal properties, but cautiously eating the right dark chocolate, enjoying the taste and the time to cook with it, is essential.
Spicy Chocolate Sauce (without the fat)
Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a pot. Add 1 clove of garlic chopped, 2 shallots diced, and sauté till translucent. Add 2 teaspoons each of smoked paprika and ancho chili powder. 1 teaspoon each of cumin, cinnamon, and dried oregano. Add a pinch each of ground cloves and kosher salt, stir. Add 2 cups of vegetable broth, stir and remove from heat. Blend, or use an immersion blender carefully.
Add 2 tablespoons of creamy almond or peanut butter, 1 ounce (28 gm) dark chocolate, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, a pinch of sea salt.
Return to medium heat, till bubbling, simmer for 15 minutes. This will yield a dark rich creamy sauce, perfectly edible served with vegetables, meat, seafood, legumes, bread, pasta, and rice.
Too spicy for your palate? Wash it down with the season’s sweet fruity homemade lemonade… A delicious, refreshing drink the whole family will love.
Strawberry Lemonade (without the sugar)
6 cups water, 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 cup fresh strawberry juice, ½ cup agave.
Combine the above ingredients, keep it refrigerated. Garnish with mint and basil leaves upon service.
Finally, let’s consider how we can have fun with the young ones. My favorite and fun activity was to decorate, color, and dye the eggs with my kids. We would have a different theme each year.
But, instead of using food coloring, we used vegetable dyes: onion skins for the “tie dye” effect, tea leaves for shades of brown, beetroot for purple or red eggs, purple cabbage for blue eggs. It’s a sustainable way to enjoy the holiday.
Dyeing Eggs with the Season’s Produce
Basic ingredients: 4 cups of water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar, pre-boiled eggs, cooled.
Combine water and vinegar in a pot and bring it to a boil. Add the paper-thin skins of 5-6 onions, simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the skins, add the eggs, and let soak for an hour.
Should you desire a marbleized effect, turn some of them around during the soaking process.
Rich, dark striking colors can be obtained by soaking them overnight in the refrigerator.
To achieve a polished look, rub them with a little oil after the soaking and drying on a paper towel.
Repeat the same process with 4 cups of red or purple cabbage for a baby blue color, ¼ cup of turmeric powder for a yellow hue. Green tea leaves or matcha is another desirable dye, the color will be a very subtle green. Beetroot skins are also a great resource, be sure to wear gloves, though, to avoid staining your fingers.
Hope you will try out some of these recipes and pass them along.