Easter at the Next-to-Last Minute

I got several calls this morning from friends who suddenly realized Easter is this Sunday; they were looking for advice and recipes for a celebration they could pull together easily. Their calls made me realize that I hadn't given a thought to Easter either; we've all been so busy, the days flying by so fast, that suddenly we find ourselves in April with trees in bud and the holiday upon us.

My advice is far from the big-production Easter festivities food magazines often feature: cunning, romantic Easter lunches and exotically decorated eggs. At this late date, I vote for keeping it simple with recipes that are relatively easy and of the season: using new potatoes, asparagus, peas, and leeks or spring onions, for example, with morels, fava beans, ramps and/or artichokes figuring in if you have access, time, money, or energy. Do the essentials of a fine meal yourself and farm out the rest or whatever stresses you out, such as desserts, wine, appetizers, or side dishes.

An out-and-out potluck is another way to go, where each person brings their best dish in a category of the meal you roughly organize--appetizers, a meat or fish main dish, side dishes, dessert--so you end up with a nice balance.

Here are some last-minute, tried-and-true recipes for a fine Easter meal:

Herb-Scented Roast Leg of Lamb, with a variation for a rolled, boneless leg seasoned with herbs.

Crushed Olives with Herbs (which also make a great hors d'oeuvre, on toasted peasant bread).

Spring Ragout of Leek, Asparagus, and Peas (and maybe Morels), an endlessly mutable recipe to which you can add other spring vegetables as well. It can be a side dish or appetizer.

Crushed New Potatoes with Crème Fraiche, Chives and Cracked Coriander is about as easy as boiling potatoes.

Fragrant Olive Oil Cake. If you want to make dessert, this is a quick, delicious cake in the tradition of fragrant, unfrosted Easter cakes. Or, check out Aglaia Kremezi's terrific almond sweets in Almond Recipes for a Greek Passover.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.

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