The spring of 2012 has arrived sweet and warm, if early. It will almost certainly get cold again – in fact last week we had three days in the mid-60s – but as I thought about Easter dinner this year it occurred to me a picnic by a stream in the Smoky Mountains would be a good idea. My father has been mostly stuck in a hospital room for the past seven months and he loves the mountains. We can pack him into my car and I know just the spot – the doctor has even given him permission to have a couple of beers or glasses of wine a day so we can make it an event. Best of all, on Easter Sunday the mountains will be deserted and we'll have God's cathedral to ourselves. This will almost certainly be our last Easter so I want it to be a memorable one. Serves 2 – 4.
Eggs have a long traditional association with Easter - and picnics. Not long ago a friend mentioned making bacon deviled eggs. It was a forehead-slapping moment. Of course bacon would be awesome in deviled eggs! Why hadn't I thought of that. She didn't have a recipe, it was just something she'd whipped up, but I knew exactly what to do - and even had an idea for making them more fun - I would slice a few small cherry tomatoes in half and lay them in the bottom of each white and then cover them with the yolk mixture. You bite into the egg and, Surprise!
Dad doesn't eat much anymore, but he still loves good food. This pasta salad with seafood is a bit odd in several ways. First it's somewhat unusual in featuring shrimp, crab, and smoked salmon, then it's unusual in the oil and lemon juice dressing instead of mayonnaise, and third it features dill, which although common with fish it not common with pasta. I like using farfalle for the pasta, but rotelle, macaroni and even egg noodles will work. Dad may only eat a bite ot two, but that's fine.
Even if the weather is perfect on Easter, it my be a chilly in the mountains. So I thought a thermos full of hot soup would be the ticket.And cheddar soup? How can you go wrong? Extra sharp cheddar layers its distinctive bite over the unctuous richness of milk and cream. Onion sauteed in bacon fat forms a savory understructure highlighted by a garnish of bacon. Oddly, though, what really sets off the soup are the buttery herbed croutons. Somehow their crunch and flavor provide just right contrast to smooth texture and dairy flavor.
These pickled beets are way easy to make. The beets can be cooked ahead of time or you can even used canned beets (although I don't recommend it). Then half and to an hour in advance whip up the vinaigrette and dress the salad. You can find fresh beets in the supermarket at any time of year, and cold borscht is a summer favorite, but I tend to think of beets as a fall dish.
This recipe for Apple Spice Cookies produces treats that are soft, spicy and frankly irresitable. They're perfect any time a cookie is needed, but I particularly like them on picnics. In this case you can't freeze the dough because the baking soda and applesauce interact to leaven them, but they freeze nicely after they've been baked. Chill them, wrap them in plastice, then freeze in a zippered bag.