Easter at the Next-to-Last Minute

By Sally Schneider
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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/04/easter-at-the-next-to-last-minute/9906/