Bring a touch of spring to the Easter table

Make seasonal vegetables and herbs a part of the holiday meal alongside traditional meats

Like Christmas, Easter is a time when families gather around the dinner table for a special meal.

Ham and lamb are the traditional centerpieces for the Easter meal, and both are delicious.

Not all hams are alike. You can pick from fresh or canned hams, bone-in or boneless hams, and whole or spiral-cut hams.

Fresh ham should have a well-marbled section with a firm white layer of fat. Cured hams should be firm and plump, rosy pink with a fine grain to the meat.

When considering how large a ham to buy, a general rule of thumb is to allow three-quarters of a pound of bone-in ham and one-quarter pound boneless ham per person.

When buying lamb, color is an indicator of quality, according to the American Lamb Board. It should be more pinkish than deep red, and it should be tender, yet firm to the touch.

A common Easter entree is leg of lamb. Don’t rush a large leg roast by cooking it at a constant high temperature, but instead sear the roast first to create a crust that will seal in the juices. Reduce the heat to completely cook the lamb.

Remember to allow the lamb to rest after roasting so the juices will settle throughout the meat.

Cooking lamb is simple if you keep in mind one key factor: Don’t overcook it.

As important as the meat is to the meal, don’t overlook the side dishes. Try a spring blend of vegetables or a fresh vegetable salad.

Scalloped potatoes are another tradition at the Easter table, but this year, try something new. Make an herbed potatoes Anna or a delicious risotto — perhaps one that blends spring vegetables with the starch.

Following are some Easter suggestions from and

Carrot Tart With Ricotta and Almond Filling

1-1/2 cups sliced almonds
2 pounds rainbow or orange carrots, peeled, cut into 3-1/2-by-1/4 to 1/2-inch sticks
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot tops
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1-1/4 cups whole-milk ricotta
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 14 to 17-ounce package frozen puff pastry, preferably all-butter, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, thinly sliced

    Spread almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven about five minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool.
    Cook carrots, orange juice, four tablespoons butter, one tablespoon. sugar, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon allspice and 1-1/2 cups water in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer carrots to a plate, reserving liquid in skillet, and let cool.
    Transfer 1/4 cup almonds to a small bowl and set aside. Process one teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, remaining almonds, one tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon allspice in a food processor until finely chopped. Add eggs, ricotta, thyme, orange zest and remaining butter and process until smooth.
    Gently roll pastry into an 18-by-13-inch rectangle on a lightly floured sheet of parchment. Transfer pastry and parchment to a rimmed baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, lightly score a 1/2-inch border around pastry. Spread egg mixture evenly within the border, then arrange carrots in a geometric pattern.
    Bake tart about 25 minutes, until filling is puffed and golden brown. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly.
    Heat reserved carrot-cooking liquid in skillet over high heat and cook 10 minutes, stirring, until reduced to a thick syrup. Brush top of tart with syrup while still warm. Cut into 12 to 16 pieces.
    Whisk oil and remaining vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add shallot, carrot tops and reserved almonds and toss to combine. Arrange over tart and serve.
    You can substitue 1 cup coarsely chopped parsley for carrot tops.


Creamy Potato and Leek Gratin

9 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds russet potatoes
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons thyme leaves

    Halve leeks lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1-1/2-inch pieces. Wash leeks.
    Cook leeks in butter with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a heavy 12-inch skillet covered with parchment round over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
    Peel potatoes and slice crosswise into 1/16-inch-thick slices. Transfer to a large heavy pot with cream, milk, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in leeks, then transfer to a three-quart shallow baking dish and bake, uncovered, in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour, until potatoes are tender. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
    Gratin can be baked two days ahead and chilled. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, then reheat, covered, in a 350 degree oven about 30 minutes, until hot.


Orange Ginger Pickled Baby Carrots

2 pounds baby carrots with tops, peeled and trimmed, leaving 1/2 inch of stems intact; or 2 pounds medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
2 cups white wine vinegar
5 3-inch strips orange zest
2 cups fresh orange juice
5 1-to 2-inch dried hot chiles
1 2-inch piece peeled ginger, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 cup sugar

    Blanch carrots for one minute in a nonreactive four to five-quart heavy pot of salted boiling water, stirring occasionally. Transfer carrots to an ice bath, then drain in a colander and transfer to a heatproof bowl.
    Bring vinegar, orange zest and juice, chiles, ginger, sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoons salt to a boil in same pot, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Pour over carrots and cool one hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
    Chill carrots in pickling liquid in an airtight container, shaking container occasionally, for at least one day.
    Pickled carrots keep, chilled, for one month.


Spring Lamb in Herbs

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch dill
3 small bunches tarragon
4 scallions or spring onions, thinly sliced
2 small preserved lemons, skin and flesh chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 6 to 7-pound bone-in leg of lamb
4 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Flaky sea salt

    Toast coriander and fennel seeds in a dry small skillet over medium-low heat for two minutes, tossing occasionally, until very fragrant. Let cool.
    Coarsely chop cilantro leaves and tender stems, then transfer to a large bowl. Coarsely chop dill leaves and tender stems and add to cilantro. Pick leaves from tarragon bunches, discarding stems, and add to bowl. Add scallions and toss to combine.
    Transfer two cups herb mixture to a small bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and chill until ready to use. Place remaining herb mixture in a food processor, add coriander and fennel seeds, preserved lemons, garlic, 1/4 cup oil and two teaspoons kosher salt. Purée until a paste forms.
    Roll out a piece of foil that’s more than double the length of a rimmed baking sheet. Center foil on baking sheet, then place lamb on foil. Rub lamb all over with herb paste. Wrap lamb tightly in foil and seal. Roast in a 325-degree oven for four to 4-1/2 hours, until lamb is tender and falling off the bone. Don’t open the foil packet to test — instead slide a skewer or small knife through the top of the foil. The meat should yield and shred easily.)
    Place potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and season with salt. Cover pot and bring water to a boil. Cook 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender, then drain and transfer to a medium bowl.
    Unwrap lamb and let cool 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Pull meat off bone and shred into pieces. Return meat to baking sheet and toss in herb juices.
    Transfer lamb to a platter. Pour juices over meat and potatoes. Top lamb with reserved herb mixture. Drizzle lamb and potatoes with oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with sea salt.


1 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup whole or non-fat milk, warmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or oil, melted
3 large eggs
2 to 3 teaspoons vegetable shortening
Butter and jam, for serving

    In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, butter, and eggs. Make a well in the flour, pour in the milk mixture and whisk to make a smooth batter. Set aside for 10 minutes.
    Heat a non-stick or well-seasoned six-cup popover pan in a 425-degree oven for five minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and brush the inside of the cups with shortening. Ladle batter into the cups and bake 20 minutes, without opening the oven.  
    Lower heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake 20 minutes longer, until golden brown. Right after removing from the oven, poke each popover with a paring knife. Remove popovers from the pan and serve immediately with butter and jam.


Creamy Spring Peas With Pancetta

Kosher salt
2 cups shelled fresh English peas or thawed frozen peas
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced
4 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground pepper

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water. If using fresh English peas, add to the boiling water and cook one minute, until tender. Add snap peas and cook two minutes, until bright green, then add snow peas and cook 30 seconds. Drain peas and plunge into the ice water.
    Cook pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat for eight to 10 minutes, until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Add flour to the drippings in the skillet and cook one minute, whisking, until toasted. Whisk in chicken broth and cream and cook about six minute, until reduced by one-third.
    Drain peas, shaking off excess water, then add to the skillet. If using frozen peas, add them now. Cook three to five minutes, stirring, until heated through. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the pancetta.


Four Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing
1/2 clove garlic
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup shredded asiago cheese
1/3 cup shredded raclette or comte cheese
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 fresh bay leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Combine mozzarella, asiago and raclette cheeses. Set aside.
    Generously brush a large skillet with butter, then rub with the garlic. Heat skillet over medium-high heat and add half the potatoes. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt, half the butter, half the shredded cheese blend and pepper. Arrange remaining potatoes on top. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Pour cream over the potatoes, then add nutmeg and bay leaves. Simmer three minutes. Dot potatoes with the remaining butter.
    Generously brush a shallow baking dish with butter, then slide potatoes into the dish. If skillet is ovenproof, you can skip this step.
    Sprinkle the potatoes with Parmesan and the remaining shredded cheese blend. Bake in a 425-degree oven about 25 minutes, until golden. Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Discard the bay leaves.


Herbed Leg Of Lam With Roasted  Parsnips

One 7- to 9-pound bone-in leg of lamb, hip bone removed, tied
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 lemons
3 pounds baby turnips with greens
6 bunches scallions
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup fresh marjoram
3 inner stalks celery, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
6 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise and halved crosswise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    Using a paring knife, make deep cuts two inches apart  all over the lamb. Rub with 2 tablespoons salt and several grinds of pepper. Transfer the lamb to a roasting pan, fat-side up. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon on top.
    Roast lamb in the lower third of a 500-degree oven about 30 minutes, until most of the fat is rendered and the skin starts to brown. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 30 to 40 minutes. Discard fat from the pan and set pan aside.
    Trim the greens from the turnips. Cut any large turnips in half.
    Roughly chop two bunches scallions, then transfer to a food processor. Add parsley, dill, marjoram, celery and garlic and pulse to form a coarse paste. Holding the bone, stand the leg of lamb up and rub the paste all over it. Return to the roasting pan.
    Cut remaining scallions into two-inch pieces. Scatter scallions, turnips and tomatoes around the lamb and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemons over the lamb and drizzle with olive oil. Loosely cover with foil.
    Roast lamb in a 350-degree oven for one hour. Uncover and continue roasting 30 to 45 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 145 degrees for medium. Let rest 15 minutes, then slice. Serve with the vegetables and pan juices.


Ginger Peach Glazed Ham

For ham:
2-1/2 cups kosher salt
2-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons juniper berries, crushed
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
4 bay leaves
1 8-to-10-pound skin-on, bone-in fresh ham, shank end
For glaze:
1 cup peach preserves
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup dijon mustard
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons ground ginger
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

    Combine 3 gallons hot water, salt, brown sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, ginger and bay leaves in a large nonreactive pot and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Cool.
    Stand the ham, cut-side down, on a cutting board and score the skin with a sharp knife in a crosshatch pattern. Place ham in the brine, cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours or as long as two days.
    Remove the ham from the brine and dry completely. Strain brine, reserving the spices. Press some of the juniper berries and peppercorns onto the flat cut side of the ham. Scatter the bay leaves in a large roasting pan and place a rack in the pan. Stand the ham, cut-side down, on the rack and roast in a 450-degree oven for one hour. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and roast two more hours.
    Whisk peach preserves, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, ginger, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Brush the ham with half of the glaze and continue roasting one more hour, until a deep golden color. Brush ham with remaining glaze, turn it on its side and roast 30 to 45 minutes longer, until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 155 degrees and the skin is crisp. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest 20 minutes before carving.
    Skim fat from the roasting pan juices and discard bay leaves. Stir to make a sauce. Carve ham and serve with sauce.


Baked Ham With Spiced Cherry Glaze

1 7-pound bone-in fully cooked ham, skin removed
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
1 cup cherry preserves
1 tablespoon creamy horseradish sauce
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus more juice if needed

    Score top and sides of ham with a small sharp knife in a crisscross pattern. Put ham, flat side down, in a roasting pan that’s been lined with foil and coated with cooking spray. Pour wine into the bottom of the pan, tent loosely with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven about two hours, until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 140 degrees.
    Combine preserves, horseradish sauce, brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt and lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook two to three minutes, until glaze is slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest. Let cool. Add more lemon juice to taste, if needed.
    Remove ham from the oven, uncover and brush with about 1/4 cup glaze. Bake, uncovered, 20 more minutes, brushing the ham with another 1/4 cup glaze halfway through. Remove from the oven, brush with more glaze and transfer to a cutting board. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with remaining glaze.


Asparagus and Cheese Tart

1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1 cup grated comte or gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

    Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Add asparagus and cook two to five minutes, until bright green and crisp-tender. Drain and transfer to the ice water. Drain and pat dry.
    Roll the puff pastry into a 10-by-16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake in a 400-degree oven about 12 minutes, until light golden brown. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.
    Mix fontina, comte, shallot, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Toss asparagus with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange asparagus on the tart and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese mixture is slightly puffy. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Potato Nests With Peas, Ham and Cream Cheese

2 thick slices deli ham
16 ounces frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
Finely grated zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoon chopped chives
Paprika, for serving

    Cut ham into small matchsticks the same size as the hash browns. Reserve 1/3 cup ham. Mix the remaining ham, hash browns, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large bowl. Divide mixture evenly among a 12-cup muffin tin and 24 cup mini-muffin tin coated with cooking spray, using about 1 rounded tablespoon ham mixture in each. Press mixture in a thin layer across the bottom and up the sides of each cup to make a nest, leaving the edges uneven and jagged.
    Bake in a 425-degree oven for 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until the nests are dark brown around the tips and golden and crisp on the outside.
    Beat cream cheese, lemon zest, milk 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Scrape the mixture into a resealable plastic bag, cut off the tip and set aside.
    Carefully lift nests out of the tins using a small offset spatula or butter knife and transfer to a cookie sheet. Pipe filling evenly among them. Heat the filled nests in oven for about seven minutes, until the cream cheese is warm and the potatoes are crisp.
    Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add frozen peas and cook five to six minutes, until warm but not shriveled. Drain, shaking to remove excess water.  Transfer the nests to a serving platter. Top each with 1/4 teaspoon reserved ham, 3 peas and about 1/4 teaspoon chopped chives. Sprinkle with paprika and serve immediately.




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