Spring & Easter

mushroom-crostini-005BI’ve spent most of my life turning up my nose at mushrooms. That all changed last summer when I discovered the sublime flavor of chanterelle mushrooms plucked fresh from the forest floor and sauteed in butter with garden-fresh sage leaves. I blogged about my foraging experience in Duluth with Dick Ojakangas last summer. Beatrice Ojakangas immediately transformed our chanterelle harvest into a luscious appetizer.

That foraging experience was followed by my weekend at Mushroom Camp. After that, a visit to Dallas Flynn’s farm in Frazee, Minnesota. He sent me home with some of the shiitake mushrooms he raises. Those beauties went into a pasta dish. I became hooked on mushrooms.

On this Earth Day weekend, I’m making Mushroom Crostini. Buttery cremini mushrooms or creamy and light shiitakes are both good choices for this appetizer or snack. It’s so easy to make.

First, toast some baguette slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil. I toast them in a grill pan. When the weather is nice, use your outdoor grill.

Read more ...

deviledeggsWhat's Easter without Easter eggs? Hide them. Roll them. And, best of all, eat them. Of the many dishes associated with Easter, deviled eggs have always been high on my list. Traditional deviled eggs are delicious but with some adventuresome spices, hardboiled Easter eggs take center stage on this festive occasion.

Our fingers stained blue, red and yellow, my sister and I loved dyeing and decorating Easter eggs. Our parents would hide the eggs around the house and outside. I'd race against my sister, each of us hoping to find more than the other.

Ultimately when we had delivered the eggs back into the kitchen, our mother turned our colored eggs into deviled eggs with a simple recipe: peel off the shells, cut the eggs in half and remove the yolks. Chop up the yolks, add a bit of mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper and spoon the mixture back onto the egg white halves.

When were kids those flavors were good enough. But for my adult palate, deviled eggs need spicing up. With experimentation, I discovered that doing something as simple as adding cayenne or Mexican chili ancho powder gives mild-mannered eggs a mouth-pleasing heat. Sweeten the flavor up a notch by stirring in finely chopped currants or borrow from Indian cuisine and mix in curry powder that has first been dry roasted in a sauté pan.

Read more ...

easter-brunch-spread-l.jpgFor many across the United States, Easter Brunch is a family tradition. Two or three – and sometimes more – generations gather, the cooks of the family outdo themselves and everyone enjoys the feast. Whether plain or fancy, Easter Brunch deserves to be served with a wine worthy of the food and company, and – with a little know-how – picking the perfect Easter Brunch wine can be a snap.   

Two aspects of Easter Brunch make selecting the perfect wine different – though not more difficult – than most meals. First, the Easter Brunch menu can be primarily breakfast foods, primarily lunch foods, or a mixture of both. Even dinner dishes may sneak into the mix. Second, Easter Brunch may have two or three main courses rather than one. The diversity of Easter Brunch puts the focus on versatile wines that complement a range of dishes and those wines are where perfect matches will be found.   

An Easter Brunch featuring breakfast foods like fruit salad, eggs Benedict, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, waffles, pancakes, hash browns, bacon, sausages, and hot cross buns or scones takes wine pairing to a place it rarely goes, but one where wine can really showcase the foods. While a few white wines and even a couple of reds can pair well with this style of Easter Brunch, the best match is the most elegant – champagne!

Read more ...

"It's not that Easter is really about excess, because it isn't. But we always think it's a lot of fun to have a lot of sides at Sunday dinner even if you just eat a little bit of each one...and since it's a 3-day weekend (or a 5-day weekend for some of us), we figured it was time to get cooking"

easter dinnerNora Ephron's Apricot Jello Mold

Sauteed Asparagus with Hazelnut Crumble

Brown Sugar Baked Beans

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Jaime Oliver's Carrots

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

Cheese Grits

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Sage and Walnut Topping

Easy Macaroni & Cheese

The Grill's Creamed Spinach

bunny buns 016I made hot cross buns last week. I used a recipe from a class I took years ago that focused on breads and rolls made with yeast dough. The sweet, egg- and butter-rich buns have mashed potatoes worked into the dough. I’ve got to believe it’s the potatoes that produce a soft, moist dough. Hot cross buns are an Easter tradition in many homes.

When I was doing some research on hot cross buns, Google directed me to JustHungry, a food blog I’d never visited. There I found some cute Hot Cross Easter Bunny Buns. Made of the same dough that the author used for her hot cross buns, they were shaped with chubby little faces and long bunny ears. Best of all, the author included step-by-step photo instructions, from rolling the dough, to creating the ears  and faces.

I knew I had to try making the little bunny buns myself. With one batch of dough, I was able to create 12 Breakfast Bunny Buns. Each one came out of the oven with its own charm. The ears were long and funny, some pointing straight up, some a little bent and some a bit uneven. Their little currant eyes made them simply irresistible.

Read more ...