Inspiration for Your Spring Feast
Whether you’re celebrating Passover, Easter or the long weekend, there’s nothing like spring to sit down to a sumptuous feast. Looking to try something new this year? We’ve got some ideas.
Switch up the menu
While the traditional Passover Seder has a specific menu, there are many ways to get creative with your choices:
– Watch for recipes that use matzo meal (or matzo cake meal) in place of flour or other grains, like in a Passover cake. You can also use matzo meal in place of breadcrumbs to make a crispy coating for chicken or other fare during the festival.
Some layered recipes like this Matzo Caramel Crunch use whole matzos and make great hostess gifts.
Liven up a brunch or dinner with a few international favourites:
– Hot crossed buns are popular in the UK and Canada, but there are other traditions to tap for some sweet treats Easter weekend. In Italy, people enjoy Pannetone (a high-domed fruit and nut bread) as well as Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove bread, which is glazed and sprinkled with nuts and sugar). In Russia, decorated bread, kulich, is used in religious ceremonies and enjoyed at home.
In many other countries and regions throughout Europe, braided or shaped breads studded with eggs are a favourite, like Greece’s tsoureki or Corsica’s campanile or smaller cacavellu. You can find many of these tasty choices at bakeries and specialty shops or make your own.
– Is ham a must-have? Give it an update with a new flavour. For instance, boil it in ginger ale or pineapple juice instead of water. Instead of a traditional honey glaze, look for recipes that incorporate other sweet tastes like maple syrup or marmalade (For instance, try this Marmalade Glazed Ham or check out AllRecipes.com’s Top 20).
Of course, the ham doesn’t have to stand alone. A one-pot dish like ham and scalloped potatoes or a Ham, Asparagus and Cheese Strata can be the main attraction for your feast or a great way to use up leftovers.
– Tired of ham? Put turkey, roast chicken or brisket in the spotlight instead, or treat your guests to surf and turf (i.e. steak and salmon) on the grill. In many European countries, the must-have main course is lamb thanks to its symbolism in the Passover and Easter tradition. In Mexico, Brazil and other parts of South America, you’ll find fish and shrimp on the table instead.
– What about starters and side dishes? Despite the warmer weather, many countries serve up a soup using ingredients from the main meal — such as fish-based soups in South America and soup cooked with the internal organs of a lamb in Greece. Don’t worry if those options don’t appeal — many side dishes feature rice and spring vegetables like asparagus. Salads are also a mainstay of many menus.
Tips for stress-free entertaining
– Switch up the meals. While the exception of the Passover Seder, there are no fixed rules about when a family meal has to take place. A lunch, brunch or mid-afternoon meal can be easier for out of town guests to attend — and for hosts to prepare with lighter, easier fare.
– Prep ahead. Look for recipes that can be made a day ahead of time so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your guests.
– Consider casseroles. One pot wonders like a strata, ham and scalloped potatoes, lasagne or your favourite company casserole dish can cut down on the prep time — and the clean-up.
– Keep it simple. Tasty doesn’t have to mean complicated, or a lot of ingredients. For instance, a fruity vinaigrette and a bowlful of greens can easily be dressed up with dried or fresh fruit, nuts, grated carrot, sliced cucumber and some feta cheese. Or, make an easy dessert by spreading a decadent ice cream over a cookie crust and top with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate curls.
Remember, presentation is key — artful arrangements and garnishes can dress up simple recipes.
– Let the season inspire the décor. Fresh flowers, whether in one big arrangement or in little vases at each plate, are a welcome addition to a spring table. (If allergies are an issue, silk flowers will do the trick.) For an Easter meal, show off those decorated eggs in baskets or decorate plates with little bags of jelly beans or confections. Think spring hues of green, pink, yellow, orange, blue and purple for napkins and table clothes.