Chat Leftovers: Easter Feasting

This week's What's Cooking prompted several questions about serving suggestions for Easter supper, which takes place this Sunday, March 23. Whether or not you observe Easter, the ideas below should get you in the spring swing of things. As always, your contributions are vital to the mix.

And check out today's Food section for Easter mushroom lasagna and holiday hams.

Easter egg radishes, Mother Nature's eye candy. (Kim O'Donnel)

Easter dinner: I only do three big meals a year, and I like to make it season-specific (unlike MIL, who makes pumpkin pie for the 4th of July) and I like to try something new. But everything on my menu is traditional (except cabrito for the main dish). Any ideas, especially for sides that would be pseudo-traditional (scalloped potatoes) but with a twist to go along with the cabrito?

First off, for those who don't know, cabrito is roasted kid (aka goat).

I'm going to assume you're serving shredded or sliced, as you might do with a leg of lamb. You might want to think about a salsa, something to work against the fat of the meat. Here's just one option, made from tomatillos:

1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked and rinsed (Alternatively, try 1 13-ounce can tomatillos, drained. Sauce also available commercially in jars.)
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped (use a serrano for less spicy results),
4 scallions, cleaned, green tops only
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
2/3 cup chicken stock
Salt to taste

In a saucepan, bring some water to a boil and add tomatillos. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove and drain. Place in a blender or food processor, and add the chilies, scallions, cilantro and lime juice. Pulse and begin to puree. Gradually add stock, until you have a fairly thin consistency. Add salt to taste. Pour into a small saucepan and keep on very low heat to warm.

Now if you want to keep the Mexican theme going, corn tortillas would make a nice complement. (Check out the handy supermarket corn tortilla taste test in today's Food section.)

If you insist on doing scalloped potatoes, offer another side dish with lighter notes, something acidic, green, non-dairy, is a good idea for balance. A salad/salsa of pineapple would really work here - and I love the idea of sunny yellow on an Easter plate. You could add chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime, a wee bit of brown sugar and for salt, add soy sauce. If you want it spicy, add ½ chopped fresh chile of your choice; if not, leave alone. A simple salad of piquant watercress would be lovely too, mixed in some citrus segments and a handful of toasted pine nuts.

Easter Dessert: I've been tasked with bringing dessert to our family's Easter dinner. I am thinking of bringing a coconut cake -- any good recipes? I'd also welcome any suggestions for a second dessert for the non-coconut lovers.

To date, I've not tested a classic yellow coconut cake, but I've been very pleased in the past with a single-layer chocolate cake with a meringue-based coconut icing.

If coconut is of prime importance, consider themighty macaroon, studded with chocolate for a killer after-supper coffee companion.

McLean, Va.:I'm trying to think of a good spring-like dessert to have for Easter Sunday dinner. Has rhubarb been spotted at any of the farmer's markets lately, or is it too early?

Hey McLean, with my frequent travel of late, I haven't made my way to local markets for a while. We'll need to rely on our savvy local marketers who have got the rhurbarb 411. Any rhubarb sightings, folks?

I'm guessing it will be a few more weeks before she makes her debut, but just in case, here are links to my two favorite rhube-centric desserts, which would make gorgeous endings to a springtime feast: upside-down strawberry-rhubarb cake (sliced bananas and mangoes make nice substitutions) and rhubarb-strawberry fool, which always makes me swoon.

The last wordcomes from Shaw, Washington, D.C.:
Brussel sprouts are my favorite veggie and I NEVER eat them steamed. They're also great pan sauteed and browned and then finished with stock, wine, water, cider, etc. Add just enough to braise and steam them (not more than a cup for sure). Uncover at the end to evaporate any remaining liquid and to thicken your "glaze."

They can also be cooked with any number of other winter/root veggies either in the oven or on the stove top as described above. Try any combo of carrots, parsnips, winter squash, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, etc. You can't go wrong. There are plenty of recipes out there on epicurious, food network, and Martha Stewart.

By Kim ODonnel |  March 19, 2008; 10:06 AM ET Chat Leftovers , Entertaining , Holiday Treats
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Another thought on brussel sprouts. My favorite way to make them is sliced into shreds and sauteed with bacon and shallots. YUM! Anyone who thinks they don't like brussel sprouts will change their mind!

Posted by: Sweetie | March 19, 2008 11:56 AM

For the person who asked about a non-coconut option -- I always think lemon is a refreshing spring dessert. Lemon meringue pie is a great option. Alternatively, a lemon or orange cake (poppyseed or not) would be nice. Or an angel food cake with a lemon-y glaze, which has the added advantage of providing a lighter option after holiday fare. Lemon cookies also are great. If you have the time an inclination, add some lemon or orange zest to your favorite cutout cooking recipe, make the cutouts in seasonal shapes, and glaze with a lemony or orangey glaze.

Posted by: Easter dessert | March 19, 2008 12:08 PM

If you are still interested in coconut cake, try this recipe from my grandmother (don't know where she got it from). It isn't quite like a traditional coconut cake, because it is made in a bundt pan and uses a glaze instead of icing. But boy is it moist and delicious!

2 cup sugar
1 cup oil
5 eggs
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 cup coconut
1 tsp coconut flavoring
1 tsp vanilla

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup water
1 tsp coconut flavoring

Mix together ingredients for cake and bake in greased and floured bundt pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Poke holes in cake. Bring ingredients for glaze to boil in saucepan. Slowly pour over hot cake in pan. Cool completely before removing cake from pan.

Posted by: Jen | March 19, 2008 12:35 PM

And think about Pineapple Upside Down Cake. That's always been at our Easter dinner...

Posted by: Ann | March 19, 2008 1:47 PM

i have to tell you that i took frozen brussel sprouts out of the freezer & put them on the grill in my veggie basket. i didn't marinate them in anything & they were fab. maybe next time i might marinate them first but they were oh so tasty cooked out of the box like they were.

Posted by: quark | March 19, 2008 4:47 PM

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