Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Passover and Easter

This time of the year marks the Passover and Easter. For a lot of people, even though Spring officially started March 21, Passover and Easter signify the real beginning of Spring and all the promise that holds: joy, peace, new beginnings. It's a time to dust off the cobwebs of our dormant season and plant for upcoming growth and harvest seasons. Food, family, and fellowship are important components of both Passover and Easter. And everyone has their own "must haves" for those important meals. I've listed some menu suggestions below, just in case you'd like to add to your traditions. But first, a couple little stories.

When I was growing up, wearing brand new dresses, shoes, and Easter hats to church was the big deal. And we also got to wear white gloves and socks with ruffled tops. We were really something! Church was followed by an Easter egg hunt and baskets full of chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and Peeps. And dinner always included devilled eggs, ham, au gratin potatoes (which we kids called "all rotten potatoes"), and since we lived in Minnesota, of course there was Jell-O. Everything else changed from year to year, but we could always count on those essentials.

I think one of my favorite Easter stories happened to my baby sister, not me. They had a golden retriever named Sundance who was generally well-behaved and was a beloved member of the family. One year, my sister served one of those spiral cut hams that you bring to room temperature instead of baking. She set the table, set out the ham, and they all went to church. When they got home, they discovered that Sundance had broken into the house and devoured the entire ham. Can you imagine? A house full of dinner guests and the main course was obliterated. That dog was lucky it survived for several more years!

Easter dinners generally feature ham, lamb, or chicken. This is usually accompanied by potatoes au gratin, escalloped potatoes, parsley buttered potatoes, or creamed new potatoes. Spring vegetables are favored: asparagus, spring peas, artichokes, and green salads. Desserts are often on the lighter side: carrot cake, coconut cake, lemon meringue pie, angel food cake, and strawberry shortcake.

Passover dinners usually include beef rib roast, braised veal shoulder, or roast chicken. Matzo balls show up in soups such as chicken soup with parsley, sage, and leek matzos or matzo balls in lemongrass chicken broth. Vegetables such as herbed new potatoes, braised baby artichokes,  or potato leek matzo balls as well as mixed green salads with apples, Asian pears, and walnuts. Favorite desserts are dark chocolate torte, chocolate orange honey cake, and meringue tortes with berry sauce.

I'm sure that you and your families have your favorites, your traditions, but remember that it's fun to try something new each year. Who knows? It might become your new tradition!

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