An Easy Easter Menu?

March 30, 2010

Can it be done? Here’s how you can create a delicious five course Easter menu using recipes from Ciao Italia: Five-Ingredient Favorites (that’s just 25 ingredients in all!).

La Gamba Arrostita Disossata di Agnello
Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb

Fresh spring lamb, not more than two months old is the secret to the fabulous flavor of roasted lamb. Anything older is considered too tough by Italian cooks.

Preheat the oven to 350F

3 1/2 pound boneless leg of lamb
Salt and pepper to taste
10 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
Olive oil
1/2 cup chopped mint
1 cup mint jelly

With a small knife, make 1/2-inch deep slits all over the lamb. and insert a sliver or two of the garlic in the slits. Rub the meat with salt and pepper.

Brush the lamb with olive oil and brown it well on all sides on top of the stove in a roasting pan. Pat the mint over the top.

Place the lamb on a rack in a roasting pan and roast it until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg registers 120F for rare, or 160F for medium.

Before carving, allow the roast to rest tented with a piece of aluminum foil over it for 10 minutes to allow all the juices to be reabsorbed .

Pass the jelly on the side.

Casseruola di Patate
Potato Casserole

This potato casserole in the style of northern Italy, is best made with red skin, new, or small white potatoes. These are low in starch and hold up well in baking. Serve this as a side to baked fish, chops or roasted meats.

Serves 4 to 6

4 tablespoons melted butter
2 pounds red skin potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F
Brush a 9 x 12-inch casserole dish or cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
Layer the potatoes in the casserole dish and and pour the remaining melted butter over them.
Whisk the egg, milk, nutmeg and salt and pepper together in a bowl. Pour evenly over the potatoes.
Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until the top is browned, and a knife is easily inserted into the potatoes. Serve hot.

Broccoli Rape con Olive
Broccoli Rape with Olives

Broccoli rape, also called rapini or broccoli raab, is a slightly bitter vegetable that is related to turnips. It has been a favorite with Italians since ancient times and is cultivated widely in the Mediterranean. Mixed with olives, it is a sturdy side dish for beef. Other clever uses for it are as a topping for pizza or as a sauce for pasta.

Serves 4

1 bunch broccoli rape
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oil cured Gaeta or black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
Salt to taste
Grinding black pepper

Trim the stems of the broccoli rape, wash and drain the rape, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a saute’ pan and stir in the broccoli rape and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the pepper flakes and garlic, cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat or until a small knife is easily inserted into a stem. Uncover the pan and stir in the olives. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Cook’s Secret: Never buy broccoli or broccoli rape showing any yellow florets; that is a sign of old produce.

Insalata di Spinaci, Robiola e Pere
Spinach, Robiola and Pear Salad

Robiola cheese is a creamy combination of cow, sheep or goat milk that is cooked and aged for 20 days. It is thought to have originated in Lombardia. Rich and smooth with the texture of brie, it is exquisite enjoyed on its own, but add it to this spinach and roasted pear salad and prepare to delight your taste buds.

Serves 4

2 large ripe Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
4 cups fresh spinach , stemmed, washed and dried
1/4 pound Robiola cheese, cut into bits
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons warm
Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F

Toss the pear slices gently in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and place the slices in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake them just until they begin to take on a little browning and carmalization along the edges. Set the slices aside.

Place the spinach leaves in a salad bowl.

In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, honey and salt.
Pour the dressing over the spinach and toss gently.

Add the pear slices and cheese. Toss again. Serve

Cook’s Secret: invest in a salad spinner; wet greens do not mix well with vinaigrette

Siero di Latte Panna Cotta con Vaniglia
Buttermilk Panna Cotta con Vaniglia

How could something so simple to make taste so good? Well, that is the beauty of Italian cooking as evidenced in this velvety tasting panna cotta made with buttermilk. True to its name (cooked cream), this dessert is not for the faint of heart dieter. Serve it for a special occasion or when you just want to treat yourself.

Serves 4

1/2 cup low fat buttermilk, at room temperature
1 envelope un-flavored gelatin
One 2-inch long piece vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

Grease four 1/2-cup ramekins lightly with butter and set aside.

Pour the buttermilk into a small bowl and sprinkle on the gelatin; then stir to dissolve. Set aside.

With a small knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a medium size saucepan. Add the vanilla bean, cream, sugar and buttermilk.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is just under the boil.

Remove the pan from the heat and remove the vanilla bean. (Dry it and save for another use).

Carefully pour the mixture into the ramekins. Place them on a tray and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until set, about 5 hours or overnight.

To serve, run a butter knife around the inside edge of the ramekins or dip the bottom of each one quickly in hot water and then invert onto individual dessert dishes. Serve at once.

Note: This is wonderful served as is, but is even better with a fruit sauce or a rich chocolate sauce.

Cook’s Secret: Whipping cream and heavy cream are not the same; whipping cream has stabilizers.

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