Of the great triumvirate of Christian holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter), Easter is my favorite. While I love eating myself into oblivion at Thanksgiving, and Christmas (the gifts are nice too), I actually enjoy the fact that Easter isn’t as food-centric. I find it to be a much more relaxing and low-key holiday than the others, which in turn means less stress for me. And, I’m all about less stress these days! While, it would be unthinkable in my family to have Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner in a restaurant (gasp!), the same does not apply to Easter. Unless we’re invited to someone’s home, we almost always enjoy our Easter meal at one of our favorite restaurants.
On the other hand, if your family is anything like mine, they will be clamoring for food long before the time a 4:00 dinner reservation rolls around. To stave off the hungry horde, I always prepare a few dishes ahead of time that can either be warmed up in the oven or simply served cold that morning. Here are some great “stress-less” brunch ideas from the SGCC archives for a lovely, laid back, Easter Sunday brunch.
Fresh, ripe strawberries are blended with yogurt, sour cream, lime juice and honey to make this rich and lush chilled soup. It’s like a cross between a mousse and a smoothie. Frozen berries can also be used in a pinch. Whip it up a day or two in advance, although it may not last that long.
Chicks in a Nest is a great dish to serve for a brunch buffet. Each serving is completely self-contained and can just be picked up and popped on a plate. The “nests” are made from shredded potatoes that are baked in a muffin tin, which are then served filled with scrambled or poached eggs. You can shred your own potatoes or use a bag of the pre-shredded kind, like I did. The potato nests can be made a day ahead and crisped up in the oven before serving.
A strata is casserole made with bread, eggs and whatever cheese, meats or vegetables you feel like putting into it. Think of it as a savory bread pudding. This one is filled with onions, ham, mozzarella and Swiss cheese. The best thing about a strata is that it’s meant to be made in advance. In fact, it really must be put together and allowed to sit for several hours or overnight before baking. For your trouble, you’re rewarded with a puffy and golden mass of cheesy, meaty, eggy goodness.
A kugel is actually a Jewish dish, commonly served on holidays and special occasions. It’s a baked casserole, sweet or savory, that is usually made with egg noodles or potatoes, and often with cottage or cream cheese. In this savory version, I’ve blended cottage cheese, sour cream and a velvety chevre with noodles and assorted vegetables for a sumptuous dish with a subtle tang. A dusting of panko crumbs on top gives it a little crunch and extra texture. This kugel is best baked up a day ahead and served at room temperature.
This light and luscious chicken salad is chock full of fresh and dried fruits and nuts bathed in a creamy dressing punctuated with fresh herbs. You can use any combination and quantity of fruits, nuts and herbs that you like, and it always turns out great. Served in big, juicy, hollowed out tomatoes, pineapple boats or avocado halves, this Tutti Frutti Chicken Salad really sings Springtime!
This lovely little salad features crisp tender green beans, potatoes, sweet grape tomatoes and thin slivers of red onion. I pair it with a zesty vinaigrette, accented with Dijon mustard, lemon, garlic, honey and fresh herbs. Serve it either warm or chilled and topped with some chopped hard boiled egg for extra richness. It makes a lovely complement to any meal.
This pasta salad is quick and ridiculously easy to put together. And, it’s full of zesty, bold flavors. The dressing is simply a mixture of mayonnaise, lemon juice and store bought pesto sauce – the kind you find in the refrigerator section at the supermarket. You can serve it as is, or punch it up by mixing in some poached chicken, tuna or tasty little salad shrimp. Any way you serve this Presto Pesto Pasta Salad, your guests will be dishing out the complements!
Of course, no Easter Sunday brunch at Chez SGCC would be complete without a few traditional Italian Easter pies, like this Pizza Rustica. It’s a big, cheesy, meaty, creamy hunk of a pie stuffed to the gills with six different kinds of cured and fresh meat. Yes, I said SIX! One slice is pretty much a complete meal in itself. A Pizza Rustica does take some time to put together, but trust me, it is worth the effort. Plus, it can be made a few days in advance and is best served at room temperature.
Torta di Riso is a rich and creamy egg and ricotta based dessert pie filled filled with cooked Arborio rice and delicately flavored with the essence of orange. Think of it as rice pudding in a crust. This pie is usually made using a traditional rolled pie crust. But, I’ve made it a little easier to make and more interesting to eat by using layers of paper thin phyllo dough to envelope my filling. The phyllo gives this torta a delightfully crispy, buttery crust that shatters beneath your teeth as you bite into it. It’s simply amazing!
And, we certainly can’t forget dessert, especially when it’s a luxuriously rich and creamy cheesecake like this one! My version of this Italian classic is made with both ricotta and mascarpone cheeses, giving it a super silky smooth texture. I flavor it with the heady combination or pure vanilla and a splash of orange flower water, that is sure to make both you and your guests swoon.
Lemon Bars are a quintessential Springtime treat. This version boasts a rich and buttery shortbread crust topped with an ultra-lemony curd that is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. These are honestly the best lemon bars I’ve ever eaten – bar none!