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This past Saturday, we had a few friends over for an early Easter dinner. After a few busy weekends with work, it was my first foray into the kitchen since spring goodies started to pop up at the markets.
And seeing has how it had been almost a year since we last saw English peas, baby artichokes, and the like, I may have gone a bit overboard. But, truthfully, I hardly need such an excuse!
We started with ...
Fresh Pea & Mint Crostini
I essentially used this version from Jamie Oliver, but without the favas, as the one booth at my Farmer’s Market that had them this early sold out fast. Also, he recommends keeping the peas raw, which I find to be a bit starchy, so I blanch half and keep half raw to keep it super fresh.
and for dinner...
Roasted Leg of Lamb
It was studded with bits of garlic and chopped anchovy — a tip I saw in a cookbook while buying the lamb [alas, I cannot remember the name] and from this Food 52 recipe — and a rosemary, parsley, lemon zest crust. I am not sure if it was the anchovy or just Fatted Calf’s superb meat, but it was some of the best lamb any of us had ever had!!
Fried Baby Artichokes
So good – I rarely fry because it seems super decedent and what to do with all that oil – but wow, these were such a hit! There were six of us and 8 baby artichokes since there was a full menu, but I should’ve done 12 for sure. We could’ve all gone for more. This step-by-step from Food 52 (of course) also makes them super easy.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Made simply with olive oil and flaky salt (I skipped the rosemary, as there was plenty with the lamb), but with a trick I picked up from GOOP – first boil, then drain and shake with the lid on, to fluff up the outsides, which allows for the perfect little crust once you roast.
This traditional method keeps asparagus super simple but the additional of grated eggs and capers makes it particularly springy. You could wing it, but I used the recipe from Plenty (a favorite veg-centric cookbook).
Little Gems with Lemon Vinaigrette
This dressing from April Bloomfield is crazy good – and super puckery, which is a great balance to all the richness above.
and for dessert...
lest you think we ended there, in addition to the copious amounts of wine, dessert was a riff on this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble from 101 cookbooks. I didn’t think we needed a whole baked option, and rhubarb hasn’t shown up quite yet, so I turned it into a sundae of sorts.
Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Strawberries & Black Pepper-Pine Nut Crumble
I baked the crumb topping on its own from the recipe, and used it in place of nuts for the crunch in the sundaes, and the ice cream was my favorite vanilla from David Lebovitz.
Such a feast, combined with good company (and perhaps an impromptu dance party) made for the perfect night!
With all the food, drinks and decor, don’t forget about seating. I am a huge fan of assigned seating, even for family affairs. It is a great way to make sure converstion stays following – mixing up the chatters with the shy guys. And these ideas are a snap – just using things you already have on hand.
And you don’t even need to buy place cards, just cut down a white card stock and grab a sharpie…
Artichokes have built in holders with the leaves, so just tuck the card right in.
And the X on the roasted chestnuts provides an automatic stand.
For the lady apples or small pears, all you need to do is poke a quick hole on the side of the card, and then pluck it down on the stem.
Added bonus – when these are placed on the directly on the plate, they don’t even require more table space.
Let’s be honest – the Thanksgiving table can often use a bit of color. Some of the main components of the plate are a bit bland, in color, not taste! But between the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, that is more than a bit of brown and beige.
So bright colors are a fun and welcome addition, like the blue table here, or how great is this purple version? But knowing that the food is the main event, there might not be much room for flowers this round. Why not spruce it up with more food?
These candles with green beans are a snap – literally! Just fit any candle you want with a rubber band and then insert the green beans. Once you have enough to cover the circumference of the candle, trim the ends so it stands evenly. Lastly, tie it up and remove the rubber band. I think a twine would look a bit better, but my trusty kitchen string filled in quite nicely.
In the spring, this also works great with asparagus!
Another way to bring color and light is with artichoke votives.