Cooking with Ms. M. #8: Easter Dinner 2013

This was my first time cooking Easter dinner. Easter is not my favorite holiday: I don’t like Leg of Lamb, hard-boiled eggs or going to mass. I do like dying the eggs and the Chocolate. Usually, I just make reservations. This year I decided to cook – with help from the family of course. The menu was simple:

Antipasto, Soup, Lamb, Asparagus and Salad, Cake for dessert. And lots of wine.

Why didn’t I  just make a ham which I do like? For Italians and Greeks, easter means lamb. As in the lamb of god. It’s symbolic, it’s tradition, it’s expected.

Besides chocolate, I wanted ice cream because I foolishly gave it up for lent. Jesus never gave up ice cream why did I do it? I was going to buy a carvel bunny cake, but my son wanted to make a Bunny Butt Cake. We used the recipe from Betty Crocker and as always innovated it with my own touches (sometimes this works out, most times it doesn’t, but I take the risk). So I baked the cake in the bowl and scooped vanilla ice cream into the same size bowl and froze it while the cake baked. After the cake cooled I cut off the flat bottom and then scooped out the cake from the bowl side. I filled it with the ice cream and used the scooped out cake to cover the gaps. I put it back in the bowl to mold it, covered it with Saran wrap and froze it. I did this Thursday night before I left for NY on Friday.

I drove back with my son, father and brother on Saturday. When we got to Baltimore my father wanted to take us out to dinner. I usually never turn down a chance to go out, but it was the night before Easter and I had things to do!

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baby bunny cupcake

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the Bunny Butt Cake

So I had my husband take my dad out to the bar and to pick up some food. My son, my brother and I died eggs and decorated the bunny cake. I popped the cake out of the mold and frosted it with Duncan Hines cream cheese frosting that I had on hand and added the feet and the tail. I did have to use a toothpick to keep the tail in place. I didn’t cover it with coconut because my brother doesn’t like coconut. We also decided not to make the “dirt,” as that was extra work and a waste of cookies. I let my son decorate a leftover cupcake to be the “baby bunny.”

Then we made Easter bread. My mom always made this. I never made it because it has hard-boiled eggs and no one in my house eats hard-boiled eggs. My brother does. So we decided to make it. Of course, we started late, so we were up until 1 am waiting for the dough to rise and then the bread to finish baking. We watched Downton Abbey on dvd in the meantime. My son fell asleep on the couch. The recipe said it was done when it sounded “hollow.” As I really don’t know what hollow sounds like, it was done when it turned golden and I was ready to go to bed! We ate it for breakfast in the morning and it was good enough to eat.

We had to go to mass Easter morning. I am no longer catholic, but you can’t explain that to my Dad or the fact that he even wanted to go to mass since he never goes. When the priest sprinkled the holy water it shot right into my eye! My husband said it must be some kind of sign. I asked my son if it burned when the water hit him, he said no, I breathed a sigh of relief. I have always wondered.

5 lbs. of lamb ready to go into the oven

5 lbs. of lamb ready to go into the oven

When we got back from church, the men started to prepare and cook the meat.  The Easter Bunny had bought me some chocolate-covered Graham cookies to soothe the mental distress. That and wine.  It helps.

I put the antipasto out around 2 pm. The men, who all said they weren’t hungry, were eating the food before I could even get it to the table!  All I had to do was open the jars of olives, marinated mushrooms and artichokes, roasted peppers, eggplant tapenade, and fill the antipasto dish. Then peel open the packages of salami, prosciutto, brescaolo and put them on a plate. I cut up some bread, cut some cheese, popped open a bag of bagel chips and voila: antipasto!

The antipasto

The antipasto

My father kept insisting gnocchi was too much work. But that was how he made it. I wanted to make my mother’s soup. I found something close on google and again I made amendments as I saw fit and that fit what I had on hand. The recipe called for 2 eggs, I only had one. I thought about using a substitute such as chia seeds soaked in water, but realized this wasn’t necessary. One egg would do. I sauteed a bag of frozen spinach I had thawed out the night before. I don’t think my mom ever did this, but it was a good idea because I am really bad at squeezing out all the water from the spinach and this is important. So I sauteed the spinach, ricotta and some flour for 5 minutes.20130331_152232

And then I let it cool, because my dad pointed out that if I added the egg right away it would cook! So, after it cooled I beat in the egg and added flour to make the dough. I rolled out the gnocchi adding more flour as I did.19960

I then cut it into little pillows and smashed it with a fork.

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Just as I was about to put it into the pot, my dad shows up in the kitchen saying, “No, no,” taking the fork from me and reshaping the gnocchi. He does that – all the time. Tells you you’re doing it all wrong and then takes over. He was right but it still infruriated me. Into the pot they went for about 4 minutes or until they popped up to the top. I scooped them out with a strainer and added them to a pot with chicken broth and scallions.

My dad cooked the asparagus and then put them out first saying they had to cool. I didn’t know that, so I learned something. My husband made the salad and we were done. Set the table, put out the bread, salt and pepper, lemon and parmesan to pass and dinner was served!

I was relieved it all turned out all right, nothing burned down and I survived the holiday dinner. I hope you all had a lovely holiday feast as well.

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Tutto a Tavola!

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