Easter is always a laid-back kind of holiday at Chez T., and that’s exactly how I like it. The Minxes are still amenable to some kind of egg hunt, but they’ve grown well past the stage when we needed Seven Kinds of Egg Hunts on Easter Sunday. When Minxes were small, they were all about the egg hunt, all day long. It was cute, but by the end of the day? Over it. How many eggs can you hide in a microwave or a treehouse or–thinking you are sly–in a sweaty gym sneaker?
We are heathens, so we don’t go to church, but I think the universe punk’d us on that one, since the biggest church that was ever churched ended up being built right in our back yard. It is a funny, taunting reminder of our disbelief. It is massive, it is always busy and it is right there. It’s okay, though. As I get older, I think that whatever you need to get you through hard days isn’t a bad thing. And who doesn’t have those bad days? Who would begrudge people relief from pain?
Another Easter relief is that the girls are not super into candy, anymore, either. The past few years, we’ve decided to get them a nice, rather small variety of really quality chocolates–the kind almost too pretty to eat, but of course, what’s the fun in that? Best thing about the high-end chocolates is, you can savor and eat one and feel content to leave the rest for later. Well, maybe you eat two. But hey, it’s Easter.
The Minxes were extra lucky this year, because my Daddy-o decided to spoil them with a little pre-Easter gift box from Fannie May chocolates. That sly rascal! He spoils us rotten, but we love it. Let’s just say that in the days leading up to Easter, there were some bunny ears being munched on, with relish.
Luckily, the weather has been nothing short of glorious here in the Rocky Mountains, so there’s been lots of swinging in the back yard (headphones firmly attached to skulls) and trampoline jumping and dog walking to offset the extra sugar.
I’ve been busy in the kitchen, although our Easter menu is also fairly low-maintenance. Miss D. demanded her Honeybaked Ham again this year, so the centerpiece of Easter lunch was taken care of with a click of a button. I love that!
Daddy-o put in a request for a white-trash family favorite, creamed potatoes, as a side dish. I only make those suckers for very special people and he definitely qualifies. He qualifies so much that I spent lots of time peeling extra potatoes, so I could send him home with a care package.
Dessert is, of course, chocolate. Which I don’t have to make.
The rest of the meal was a little harder to nail down for me this year. I wanted some lighter dishes on the table, since sugar-glazed ham and potatoes with cream sauce aren’t exactly the epitome of fresh, springtime fare.
I wanted a vegetable side dish that wasn’t strictly a salad, and wasn’t wintery like roasted root vegetables. I wanted something interesting and bright and full of different colors. Asparagus came to mind, of course, but just plain old asparagus isn’t very thrilling.
Then I came across this recipe. Well, to be honest, I was perusing my local natural foods market, looking for a bolt of inspiration, and I saw a picture of this dish on the cover of Fine Cooking magazine. It was a stunner, looks-wise. I picked up the magazine, flipped to the recipe and…almost set it aside.
It featured fresh baby artichokes, which not only can I never find in my neck of the woods, I hate preparing artichokes. Artichokes are a pain in the ass. All of that trimming and snipping with shears and digging out the choke. It’s not for me. I mean, who ever even saw an artichoke to begin with and thought, “I bet I could find a way to eat that prickly, bulbous thing?”
So yes, I almost put the magazine down. But then, I reasoned, why couldn’t I just use the jarred artichokes instead (the ones not in marinade)? If the other vegetables were fresh, what’s one little cheat? I did a quick perusal of the market for the other ingredients. Slender carrots in jewel-toned hues? Check. Snap peas? Check. Plump, non-wizened asparagus? Check.
I did balk at the use of dill in the recipe because I am just not a fan. This is downright odd, given my adoration of dill pickles, but I just don’t like fresh dill. It overpowers everything. I decided on fresh basil, but tarragon would be downright brilliant here, too.
All I had to do was add a bread basket and a nice cheese board to the table and BOOM! Easter lunch done.
Doesn’t that just shout, “Spring is here, folks!”
It also was so good that I almost forgot the presence of potatoes in cream sauce at the table. Almost. Balance in everything. Balance in everything.
Even with balance in mind, those creamed potatoes sent me into post-gall bladder shock in the middle of the night. Guess this girl still has a ways to go at figuring out the whole “appropriate diet” thing.
I hope you had a wonderful Easter, Readers. We had a lovely day, albeit a bittersweet one without Mama at the table. And even more shocking for us, we realized that this Easter is the last holiday we’re celebrating this year that’s a “first.” The first Mother’s Day, the first June 24 (her birthday), the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas without her–those are now past. And now Easter is past, to bring this circle to a close.
Well, of course it’s not closed, because it never is like that with missing someone, is it? There’s always that longing, that feeling like something’s missing, and that empty spot at the table. I tell myself, at least we’re done with firsts? In all honesty, I don’t know how I feel about that. In all honesty, there’s so much hanging there I’ve yet to deal with. So much that I think I haven’t dealt with it at all. I cried at first, a bit. Not a lot, and since, I haven’t cried much. I don’t dream about her. I definitely know I avoid cooking things that remind me of her, which I really, really wanted to do and ended up not having the stomach for. I didn’t want to clean out her closets this fall so I snatched a few pair of pajamas and a favorite pair of jeans and left it at that. And then I wore those jeans every day for four months.
Is that how we miss someone? We wear their damn jeans, the ones that (disturbingly) fit you like a glove; the ones you sometimes sleep in because you can’t bear to take them off? The jeans that now have holes starting to fray at the knees, you have worn them so much?
I guess I don’t have to decide anything about that, either. What’s the point in deciding? You just go on.
Spring Vegetables with Garlic Herb Sauce
serves 6 as a side dish
slightly adapted from Fine Cooking
8 oz. fresh spring baby carrots, (in assorted colors, if possible) sliced in half lengthwise and then again on the diagonal
8 oz. snap peas, strings taken off
1 pound medium asparagus, ends trimmed off, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 (14-ounce) can artichokes packed in water, drained and halved
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill or tarragon, chopped
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup roasted red peppers or peppadew peppers, sliced
1 tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
lemon wedges, to serve
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare another large pot of water filled with ice (an ice bath).
Blanch the carrots until just tender, 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to ice bath.
Blanch the snap peas and asparagus for 1-2 minutes; transfer to ice bath.
Drain the ice bath and pick out any remaining ice cubes. Pat vegetables dry with a paper towel.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter and oil together. Add the garlic and cook until just golden, about a minute. Add the dill or tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Add the artichokes and the blanched vegetables and toss to coat and warm through. Add the capers.
Transfer vegetables to large platter, sprinkle with feta and serve with lemon wedges.