Spring has arrived and with it, one of my most favorite times – and holidays – of the year: Easter. In addition to its religious significance, Easter has always been a time of gathering for the family. As a child, we would join with aunts, uncles and cousins at Grandma’s house, where we would be the subject of Pa’s endless videotaping and photographing of our coordinating Easter outfits (Yes, Dad even joined in on the coordinating theme, whether it was a denim or a plaid.), then enjoy a delicious meal topped off by dessert – my Aunt Jack’s famous coconut lamb cake.
While living my single life in Miami, my aunt and uncle were close by, helping continue the traditions established in Cleveland many years earlier. We’d head off to church, then return home for a leisurely afternoon of eating, talking and searching for our baskets (Even though in my 20s and 30s, they would still hide a basket for me on Easter morning.)
Now, married and with children, Easter traditions continue to be my favorite. The kids are excited about the arrival of the Easter Bunny, wondering how much chocolate they will receive. The girls are excitedly planning which pretty dress they’ll wear to church, and I’m readying to bake several loaves of my Grandma’s famous Easter bread – a Czech tradition.
Today, the doors are open and the sounds of springtime seep into the house. The pear tree is in blossom, the wildflowers are in bloom, and the newly cut grass reminds me of countless pick-up ball games I enjoyed as a kid.
Spring – and Easter – has always been a time to reconnect with friends and family, and emerge from a cold, wet and dark winter. What better time than to celebrate with some food. Here I offer up one of my favorite brunches. Chef Mick Rosacci of Tony’s Market in Denver prepared this for us a few years back for a baptism party, and it still a family favorite. First, though, I offer up the recipe for my grandmother’s Easter bread. Whatever you’re celebrating this season, we encourage you to do so with great friends, a lot of family, and tons of delicious food! Spring has sprung!
Marie’s Easter Bread
- 2 pkg. yeast
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ½ cup evaporated milk (room temperature)
- 8 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- ½ tsp mace
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- rind of 1 lemon (grated)
- 1 ¼ cup butter
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups milk (remainder of canned milk, plus other)
1. Dissolve yeast and 1 tbsp sugar in canned milk (1/2 cup).
2. Scald milk (the 2 cups which includes the remained of the canned milk) melt shortening and sugar in it. Cool to lukewarm.
3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, mace, nutmeg and lemon rind. When milk mixture is cool enough (note: the scalded milk mixture), add it to the flour mixture.
4. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
5. Then add yeast, which has risen, and beat with wooden spoon until bubbly and elastic. When dough is smooth, cover and let rise for about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Punch down if it rises too quickly.
6. When ready, flour table and divide in three or four parts. Knead well and form into a ball. Place on greased cake pans. With clean scissors, cut a cross on top. Then beat two eggs with a fork and brush all over the top of bread.
7. Let rise in a warm place, about one hour.
8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pan onto rack to cool.
Good luck and good eating!
Spring Brunch: by Chef Mick of Tony’s Market
Premium Smoked Ham
Choose a “Ham” or “Natural Juice Ham” – these are premium hams with less water. Hams can vary dramatically in quality and taste – ask for a taste before you buy.
Heat your ham in a 250-degree oven for about 10-12 minutes per pound, tented and w/ a little liquid in the pan – this can happen while you are out. When you get home, uncover the ham and glaze.
Mini Kabobs To Please All
Making kabobs the day before will make an extra special treat when the guests arrive. I’d make the kabobs short, about 4 oz each, leaving long handles for easy grilling. You can make meat only kabobs and veggie only kabobs, or mix it up – the idea here is to have something for everybody.
Mist with oil and season, or douse in marinade and display attractively on a platter. Store in the fridge until ready to use. When the guests arrive, simply light the grill and the guests can have fun grilling their own (or get a husband to run the grill) Here is a suggested set of kabobs to prepare in advance.
- Chicken breast and red bell pepper
- Beef sirloin and green bell peppers
- Sautéed Mushroom (mushrooms, onions and 1×1 squares of bacon
- Pineapple scallion and ham
Fresh Greens Bar
Fresh veggies and salads are always great, but salads can be limiting and veggie trays get boring – try a Fresh Greens Bar. It can be picked at like a veggie tray, and can be turned into dozens of salad combinations. Larger groups call for larger variety – and the leftovers can be used later in salads and suppers.
Here is a list of ingredients to display on a platters along with a variety of dressings…
- shredded red/green cabbage
- spring greens
- torn lettuce leaves
- carrot and celery sticks cut thin on a bias
- hard boiled eggs
- broccoli and or cauliflower florets
- cherry or grape tomatoes
- shredded or cubed cheese
- sliced pears
Baby Potato Bar
Small red or white potatoes can cook in the oven alongside your ham, at 250 degrees they will be done in an hour or two. Scatter a variety of small potatoes onto a sheet pan and roast – and then serve warm with an array of potato toppings, such as cheeses, bacon bits, sour cream, minced herbs, or even chili.
Place the baby potato bar right next to the Fresh Greens Bar, and place ingredients that can go into either between the two (such as cheese, bacon bits, etc.)
The leftovers are manageable when everyone goes home – cooked potatoes in the skin can be used for dozens of dishes.
Yogurt, fruit and whole grains are just about the tastiest responsible food you can serve at a brunch buffet. Let’s make some extra special yogurt for this one – start with a good quality plain yogurt and an interesting canned fruit, such as lychee or rambutan. Chop the fruit and blend it along with some of the syrup from the can to flavor your yogurt.
Offer the yogurt in a bowl surrounded with fresh cut fruit and bowls of granola and toasted nuts. Display with stemmed glasses, building one fruit parfait and place it in the back to give everyone the idea.
Biscuits and Honeycomb
Ok, so this one is a little flash – but with the availability of fresh honeycomb, it’s a nice touch for a special occasion.
Fresh biscuits served with a chunk of honeycomb. The honeycomb is place on one half of a plate with deep sides – then elevate the comb side and cut away some of the wax – the comb will constantly drain into a pool of honey on the other side of the plate – surround with biscuits and butter pats.