Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Long Neglected Easter Celebration

Easter has been a neglected holiday in my family in recent years.  The problem is nobody is around to celebrate anymore.  My uncle and his wife moved to Florida.  My brother's in-laws moved to Florida and he and his family use spring break to visit them.  That doesn't leave too many people left to enjoy the kinds of dinners and I used to prepare or participate in.  For a brief time we used Easter as an excuse for a fancy brunch, but eventually just ended up going out to the diner for dinner.

I decided this year I needed to shake things up.  There are still 7 family members left in New York. Maybe they would like to get together.  Kevin and I have been so busy with our theater activities that we don't have much time for family.  On top of that, my stepmother lost her mother (a wonderful woman whom we all miss terribly) back in February.  Kevin and I also have had no time to celebrate my stepmother's birthday in March.  The family was in need of a gathering and a celebration.

I didn't create any original recipes, but this post will give credit to the recipes and services I did use.

Since nearly half the family in attendance are Jewish, I jokingly called this "Eastover".  Years ago Kevin and I considered doing a Sedar for our Jewish friends and family.  The idea was too impractical though.  There is no way I could do a truly kosher meal.  I have no dishes that haven't had meat and dairy touch them.  That would be easy to get around with paper.  However, my cooking pots have all been vessels for meats (including pork) and dairy.

I understand devout Jews don't like this sort of holiday combination.  The Nicene Council of 325CE decreed that Jews were guilty of the sin of killing Christ and therefore the Passover meal should have no connections to Easter.  Of course more enlightened Christians believe the synoptic Gospels indicate the Last Supper was a Sedar and Passover should be part of Easter as an acknowledgment of Jesus's Jewish faith, so from that point of view, it seems fairly harmless to combine them. No one is my family is that devout.  My combination holiday is all a matter of convenience.  Being with family and sharing a meal is more important that the religious symbolism behind it.

With so few people, most of whom don't have big appetite, I kept the meal small and simple.  I didn't even make the Easter Pie.

I started with matzah ball soup.  I simmered some homemade stock on Friday night and then used my previous matzah ball recipe.  I made one change with this that isn't part of my standard soup.  I used leeks instead of celery and onions.  Leeks are a nod to the spring season and they gave the soup a subtle new flavor profile.

Dinner was traditional.  I bought a delicious ham from Heritage Foods.  You may remember I bought a ham from them for Christmas two years ago.  They kept me on my toes that year with the late delivery.  Despite the somewhat unreliable delivery and the high price tag, the ham is the best I ever ate.  It's worth the cost and the headache now and then.

Side dishes were roasted asparagus dressed with a bit of balsamic vinegar and cheese grits.  If you are a long time follower of TERP, you know the grits are a time-honored holiday tradition in my family even though I'm not sure why.  To save myself some trouble, I had Mom make the grits.  (I believe she uses this classic recipe you can find on the side of the can.)  She also brought Easter bread from one of the local bakeries.  For a moment that almost felt a bit like Passover since Easter bread is a lot of challah. Then I realized challah would be forbidden on Passover.

Dessert was a homemade vanilla cake with raspberry white chocolate buttercream frosting.  Since time was at a premium this weekend, I stuck with simple recipes and didn't try to invent any wacky new desserts.  Normally I like my frostings to not be straight butter (I generally use Swiss or Italian buttercreams fortified with egg whites) but I appreciate the simplicity of plain, American, buttercream when I'm in a rush.


 One of the guests bought a fruit tart.  I purchased some macarons from the farmers' market as well.  I served the former ringed by the latter.

Cocktails were proseco with pomegranate juice - one of my favorites.
It wasn't fancy, but it was a fun family holiday and I think I may do it again next year.