Happy Easter! My holiday was filled with good food and good company; I hope that yours was too! A few days ago, I shared my Easter menu plan. I want to revisit that post to recap what I actually made, the cooking timeline, and which recipes I will make again.
This is the list of food I shared in my previous post:
- Crudités and fruit
- Roasted eggplant dip (from How to Cook Everything and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
- Good cheese and crackers
- Good bread and butter
- Meatballs (the sauce and the meatballs)
- Kolokithokeftedes (zucchini fritters) with tzatziki
- Lamb cake
- Sugar cookies
Of that list, we made or purchased everything except for the sugar cookies. It was just a bit more work than I wanted to take on – I try not to spend the whole day in the kitchen on holidays. We ended up with quite the spread and a good bit of leftovers!
My husband did the shopping on Friday, and I started cooking mid-morning on Saturday. I didn’t have plans to be out of the house so I took my time. As I mentioned, the sauce I make simmers for 6 hours in the oven, so that is the first task I tackled. (It was an unseasonably cool and rainy day here so having the oven on all day was nice.) My kids helped measure ingredients to make the sauce – they loved seeing the peeled tomatoes and smelling the different spices and herbs. I took a little break and then made the meatballs. If you try these meatballs out, I find my food processor to be a big help. I use the standard chopping blade to mince the onion, finely chop the parsley leaves that have been removed from the stems (I chop extra for the sauce at the same time), and grate parmesan.
I took out the butter and eggs for the lamb cake, ran the dishwasher since I used my stand mixer’s bowl to make the meatballs, and took a long break.
Later in the afternoon, I started back up again with the tzatziki. I only did a half recipe because I was only cooking for my family, and even half the amount was more than enough to last us several days. This is an excellent make-ahead recipe that even recommends mixing and letting it set in the fridge for a while to let the flavors meld. I used Greek Gods Traditional Plan yogurt; it was nice and thick so I did not have to strain it. I used a combination of dish towels and paper towels to squeeze the water out of the cucumber, but I think for the cucumbers you could get away with using just paper towels. This was extremely easy to whip together and it ended up tasting as good as anything I have had at a restaurant. The next day I just took it out of the fridge, gave it a stir, and it was good to go.
Next up was the roasted eggplant dip. I preheated the oven and put the eggplant in to roast while we were eating dinner. After dinner I peeled the eggplant skin off by hand (it was quick and easy), finely chopped the flesh, and added the other seasonings. All in all I think it took about 10 or 15 minutes, and then I covered it and set it in the fridge overnight.
The last dish I prepared on Saturday was the cake for the lamb cake. As you may recall, I used Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe for Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake from The Cake Bible (if you do not have a copy of The Cake Bible handy, you can find the cake recipe here). Once the butter is soft and the eggs are at room temperature, this cake does not take a long time to mix. I followed the directions that came with my cake mold and only put 3 cups of batter into the mold (I baked the rest in a 4-cup Pyrex container to make a small cake), and then baked the cake at 375°F for 45 minutes. I’m not sure how long I was *supposed* to leave the cake in the mold to cool, but the mold was too hot to touch for a while so I ended up leaving it overnight.
So again, at a fairly relaxed pace, I prepared the meatballs, tzatziki, roasted eggplant dip, and cake on Saturday. If you are looking back at my list, there are still a bunch of things not accounted for, but most are quick and easy and do not involve cooking. When I got back to work after church on Sunday, I took out butter for the lamb cake frosting, washed and cut up the crudités vegetables (we had fruit but I forgot about it), and cut a few slices of cheese and arranged it with some crackers. My husband sliced some nice store-bought bread.
Then I started on the kolokithokeftedes (zucchini fritters). Now I do not say this lightly, but this is the best new recipe I have made lately! I did not expect to be this wowed by zucchini, but this with the tzatziki was phenomenal. I always worry that new recipes will take 3 times as long as they promise. Fortunately this was not the case. Squeezing the water out of the zucchini took 3 or 4 dish towels – and you’re definitely going to want dish towels and not paper towels for this one – but it did not take more than a couple of minutes. Literally the only potentially negative thing I can think to say about this recipe is that you can’t really work ahead here. It is fried, and you will lose that crispy exterior if you don’t serve it immediately. We did have leftovers which we reheated in the microwave, and they were not as crispy as the fresh fritters. Still very flavorful though!
Last up was the coconut frosting for my lamb cake. It was not my first time making this frosting, and I am sad to report that it did not turn out as well as in times past. I think the root of the problem was the coconut milk I used to make the reduction, which I started after lunch. The recipe notes that the “coconut milk will boil up high in the pan,” but mine never did. The end result looked kind of wet, gelatinous, and grainy – really not appetizing. When I opened the coconut milk, I noticed that it was a lot more watery than previous times, so maybe that had something to do with it. In case you are curious, this time I used Goya coconut milk whereas I previously used Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk with excellent results. The frosting still tasted amazing, but it was a bit wetter than it should have been. Unfortunately I realized this when a big chunk of frosting fell off the back side of the cake… twice! Oh well, the cake was still a delicious pairing of rich, dark chocolate and sweet, creamy vanilla and coconut. Lessons learned! By the way, I did end up making a double batch and I used almost all of the frosting!
So what would I make again? The meatballs were already a favorite, the lamb cake has become a family tradition, and the kolokithokeftedes with tzatziki were the star of the day. Of all the foods we had, if I had to cut one from the menu, it would be the roasted eggplant dip. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but it was not life-changing either. It was kind of an awkward addition to the spread because I didn’t make something specifically to go with it. I thought we might dip veggies in it, but we loved the tzatziki so much that we just dipped in that instead. I could see making it again if I had an eggplant that I needed to use up, but I probably will not go out of my way to make it again.