Spring & Easter

macarons.jpgI love all French desserts and confections, but one of my most favorites is the macaron. Available in countless colors and flavors, macarons are very popular in France. In Paris, customers line up to buy them at many famous pastry shops, such as Dalloyau or Ladurée, which invented the double-decker sandwiched macaron in 1930. Since Paris is a bit too far for me to travel, I usually buy them at Bouchon Bakery in New York. I love all the flavors they offer even though their selection is not as wide as in France. But for me it doesn't matter, because the chocolate macaron is what I consider to be the best.

French macarons are basically meringue cookies made only of powdered sugar, egg whites, and almond flour. Getting the proportions exactly correct is key to the perfect macaron. Unlike the dense and chewy coconut macaroons, which French macarons are almost always confused with, macarons are smooth, light as air, and only slightly chewy. A smooth and flavorful filling in between two of the cookies is the icing on the cake. Pastry shops have come up with very unusual macarons and fillings, such as passion fruit and green tea, but the chocolate macaron is probably the most popular.

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hard-cooker-eggsI love hard boiled eggs. Using them for egg salad and especially for making deviled eggs is always a treat. They are also the perfect high-protein snack right out of the refrigerator.

While I love a good hard cooked egg, I detest peeling off their shells. I have tried every method possible to remove the shell without ruining the egg itself. Nothing has been foolproof. I've also used fresh eggs and old eggs and still nothing has been really successful.

The perfect hard cooked egg is SUPER important when making deviled eggs. The white needs to remain intact instead of looking like a mangled mess. I have found with the pressure cooker, the egg shells are very easy to peel away.

This method doesn't significantly lessen your prep or cooking times, but you do save at the end when it comes to peeling. Totally worth it to me! And your deviled eggs will be pretty.

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walnutpasta.jpgThere are many different Lenten practices between Ash Wednesday and Easter that include fasting, abstaining from eating meat, or simply giving up a favorite food like chocolate or ice cream. Over the years, the tradition of fasting or eating Lenten foods has become less strict. But in my family, we almost always observed Lent by eating pasta on Fridays. Cabbage and noodles or pot cheese and noodles are some popular Lenten dishes for Hungarians. Pasta makes a good choice for a Lenten meal, because it's filling while also being humble.

When I was a kid, my favorite Lenten dish was my mom's walnut noodles, which consisted of buttered egg noodles sprinkled with ground walnuts and a little powdered sugar. The same dish can also be done with poppy seeds. I really liked the sweet and nutty taste of the dish because it's almost like having dessert and dinner all rolled into one. So for Lent this year, I decided to upgrade the dish and add a few twists to make it a bit more rich in flavor and texture. And instead of wide egg noodles, I use springy Italian pasta for some fun.

 

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easter-eggs.jpg Despite my aversion to Christmas, I have always loved Easter. My experience of it was never religious, but purely secular. Growing up, Easter meant a celebration of Spring, egg hunts, fluffy bunnies and chicks, dyeing eggs with onion skins and flowers, and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. For several years I got to work in a gourmet store in the weeks leading up to Easter. The only thing better than taking home broken chocolate Santas had to have been taking home broken chocolate bunnies.

My other favorite memories of Easter include the ones spent in Italy where I saw the spectacular exploding carriage ritual in Florence known as Lo Scoppio del Carro. Of course there was also food, including those lovely hollow Perugina eggs filled with toys and the traditional dove-shaped sweet bread called La Colomba.

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eggsaladitalianplateWith Easter just passed, who isn't thinking about eggs? When I was a kid I loved dyeing and decorating eggs. But instead of using hard boiled eggs, I thought it was infinitely cooler to de-egg my Easter eggs.

I remember using one of my mother's sewing needles to punch holes on either end of the uncooked egg. Putting my mouth against the egg, I'd huff-and-puff and blow until the raw egg dropped into a bowl.

Admittedly that was a lot of extra work and there were risks. Making the holes and blowing into the egg could crack the shell. Worse, all that huffing-and-puffing sometimes led to hyper-ventilating, so my mother kept an eye on me, just in case I got dizzy and fell off the chair.

In my child's mind, that extra effort was worth it because the feather-weight shells, brightly dyed and covered with decals, were so much more artful than the heavy hard boiled eggs.

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