Memories of baby-boomer childhood inspire Easter menu

 

Salad

Sunshine Salad

Do not use fresh pineapple in this recipe; it will prevent the gelatin from setting.

2 (3-ounce) packages lemon flavored gelatin

2 cups boiling water

1 cup ice water

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pinch salt

2 cups grated carrots

Empty gelatin into a small mixing bowl. Stir in boiling water thoroughly until the gelatin dissolves.

Stir in 1 cup ice water, the pineapple with its juice, lemon juice and salt. Refrigerate until gelatin begins to thicken, then gently fold in the grated carrots.

Pour mixture into an 11-by-7-inch pan or mold of choice. Refrigerate several hours until firm. Cut into squares or dip the bottom of the mold in hot water and invert onto a serving platter, shaking firmly to release the gelatin. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Per serving: (10 servings): 88 calories (1 percent from fat), 0 g fat (0g saturated, 0 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 1.6g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, .8 g fiber, 95 mg sodium.


Dessert

Lemon Ginger Pound Cake

This cake freezes beautifully. I keep one on hand in case guests drop in. Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar or top it with the lemon glaze.

Pound cake:

Fine dry bread crumbs

Vegetable-oil spray

22/3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 (4-ounce) sticks unsalted butter, softened

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon fine-grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons fine-grated fresh ginger

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Lemon glaze (optional):

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus grated zest, for garnish

3 to 4 tablespoons whole milk or light cream, as needed

Set the rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 325 degrees. Butter a 12-cup tube or Bundt pan. Dust with bread crumbs and then spray with vegetable oil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk well to combine. Add the butter. Using paddle attachment if available, beat on low speed 1 to 2 minutes until mixture is a smooth, heavy paste.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, milk, lemon zest, lemon juice and grated ginger. On medium speed of mixer, beat about a third of the egg mixture into the flour mixture for 1 minute.

Add half the remaining egg mixture and beat 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.

Place batter in prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake about 1 hour, until well risen, firm and a toothpick inserted in the midpoint of the cake comes out clean.

Cool cake in pan 5 minutes, then loosen edge and invert a wire rack over it. Invert and lift off pan. Cool completely on the rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving or add the glaze.

To make glaze: In a medium bowl combine confectioners’ sugar, butter and lemon juice. Add just enough milk to make a glaze consistency. Place cake on wire rack over wax paper. Pour glaze over top of cake and let run down sides. Garnish with grated lemon peel. Makes 24 slices.

Source: Adapted from “The Modern Baker” by Nick Malgieri (DK, 2008).

Slice per serving: 204 calories (40 percent from fat), 9.1 g fat (5.4 g saturated, 2.5 g monounsaturated), 66 mg cholesterol, 2.9" g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, .4 g fiber, 60 mg sodium.

Glaze per serving: 43 calories (21 percent from fat), 1.0 g fat (.6 g saturated, .3 g monounsaturated), 3 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 8.5 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 10 mg sodium.


Main dish

Butterflied Leg of Lamb

Ask your butcher to debone a 4 1/2-pound lamb leg shank half or finish boning a 4-pound semi-boneless leg roast and butterfly or slit the meat lengthwise to spread open like a thick steak. Also have butcher remove the paperlike fell and as much fat as possible from all sides of the meat. For those who don’t have a grill, we also offer instructions for oven roasting.

3 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb

1/4 cup olive oil plus more for brushing, optional

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Grated peel and juice of 1/2 lemon

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Lay out the lamb, boned side up, on a cutting board. Make 1 1/2-inch-deep slashes through the lobes of meat in two or three places.

Rub the unboned side of the lamb with a tablespoon of oil. Place oiled side down in a roasting pan. Rub the remaining oil, the soy sauce, lemon juice and peel, rosemary and garlic on the top side of the meat. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate up to 24 hours before roasting.

To cook on the grill: Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-low heat. Place a long skewer through the wide sides of the meat, one through the top third and the other through the bottom third, to help keep the meat in shape. Place the meat on the grill, cover and cook, turning occasionally, 15 to 25 minutes for medium rare, until a thermometer inserted in the thick part of the meat reads 125 degrees.

To roast in the oven: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place meat boned side up in roasting pan. In the upper middle of the oven and roast 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 120 degrees. Brush with additional oil and place under a preheated broiler to brown lightly.

Remove lamb from grill or broiler, cover with foil, and let sit 10 minutes before carving.

Carve starting at either of the small sides of the meat and begin carving back from the edge, angling your knife as you cut it into large, thin slices. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Source: Adapted from “Julia & Company” by Julia Child (Knopf, 1979).

Per serving: 315 calories (52 percent from fat), 17 g fat (6.4 g saturated, 8 g monounsaturated), 139 mg cholesterol, 36 g protein, .2 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 237 mg sodium.


Special to The Miami Herald

A leg of lamb comes out of the oven aromatic with garlic. Tender-crisp, oh-so-green asparagus stalks sweat in a cloud of steam. They are truly the first of the season and a real treat after the frozen peas and brussels sprouts of winter.

There are generous servings of Sunshine Salad — pineapple bits and carrot shreds suspended in jewel-like lemon gelatin. Individual squares are set on crisp leaves of iceberg lettuce.

And for dessert? Something bright — lemon meringue pie or a layer cake with tart lemon filling and fluffy white frosting sprinkled with shredded coconut.

We sit down to eat at a dining table set with bone china and engraved silver. Tulips and forsythia from the yard are arranged in a seasonal centerpiece.

This is the Easter dinner of my baby-boomer childhood in the 1950s, and it’s these traditions I celebrate when Easter rolls around.

Back then, my mother signaled the upcoming holiday by taking us shopping for dress patterns and yards of gauzy fabric. She’d spread it out on the dining room table to pin and cut our Easter outfits. I still have a storage bin of those Easter dresses. Looking at them, it amazes me that I was ever that small — or that dressed up.

Days before Easter, we gathered at the kitchen dinette to decorate hard-boiled eggs. Yes, the real kind from hens, not the colored plastic ones so prevalent today. The memory brings to mind the sharp, acidic smell of the white vinegar we mixed with the Paas dye tablets.

The colored eggs were set aside until some grown-up (or was it the Easter Bunny?) hid them in the bushes or beneath the swing set of our New Jersey home. My mother had five brothers and sisters, so when the extended family gathered for the holiday, there were plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins to join the Easter egg hunt.

Easter Sunday began with a chilly morning sunrise service and hymns sung in the great outdoors. As the sermon ended, a burning circle of light rose over the horizon to warm us as if we were sitting in front of a blazing bonfire.

And, of course, there were Easter baskets, colorful woven ones filled with shreds of green paper grass where I’d find a dark-chocolate rabbit, jelly beans and small foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. (My mother was something of a candy snob. We didn’t have a lot of Peeps in our house.)

Today, I try to keep some of those Easter traditions. I don’t sew a new dress and I probably won’t even buy one. I can’t remember the last time I really dressed up here in South Florida. And I won’t dye Easter eggs because I don’t want to have to eat them after the holiday. But thanks to my husband, I do have a dark-chocolate bunny and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs.

My dinner menu won’t be exactly like my mom’s, but I will cook up the aromas and flavors I remember emanating from her kitchen, starting with a leg of lamb. Up north, it’s still too chilly to grill comfortably, but Easter in Florida is the perfect time, before the heat, humidity and mosquitoes take over.

I use a boneless roast that I coat with plenty of nutty olive oil and bits of fresh garlic. I also add a bit of soy sauce that blends well with the meaty flavor of the roast. I place the marinated meat on the grill, where it quickly turns rosy medium-rare and takes on a luxuriant smoky accent.

I serve it with the same steamed asparagus that graced my mom’s Easter menu. Now available year round, these tender stalks aren’t quite the seasonal treat they used to be, but they are just as good.

And, of course, I use Mom’s recipe for Sunshine Salad. Although I can buy mesclun and spring garden mixes, not to mention micro greens, I still favor iceberg lettuce as a cushion for those perfect squares of gelatin.

Finally, for dessert, I’ll skip the pies and rich filled cakes my mom used to make in favor of pound cake flavored with lemon juice and plenty of pungent fresh ginger. I serve slices of it with cut fruit that’s as colorful as the Easter hats we used to wear with our new dresses.

I set my table a little more casually than my mom did, but I use the very same table where she served meals and cut out her sewing projects.

And in the center, I’ll arrange the bright red blooms of the amaryllis that are filling my garden a little early this year. It’s not exactly the Easter dinner of my youth, but here in South Florida, it’s just right.

Deborah Hartz-Seeley can be reached at debhartz@att.net.

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