This year I hosted Easter for the very first time. It is one of my favorite holidays that is so wonderfully uplifting and bright; I always loved it growing up in Ukraine. Every Easter families with children would go to the church early in the morning bringing fresh baked holiday bread, dyed boiled eggs, wine and water to be blessed during the mass. Afterwards kids would run home and have their “egg battles”, a popular children’s game where the adversaries try to crack each other’s eggs by butting the pointy ends and women baked a “paskha”, pronounced pas-kha, which literally means Easter in Ukrainian, a holiday bread with raisins topped with white sugary glaze and colorful sprinkles. So idyllic! Unlike my childhood Easter this Elegant Easter Dinner was a quite different modern interpretation of the traditional. It transcended and fused several Easter staples with current favorites – deviled eggs ( albeit with Osetra caviar) and avocado hummus dip; crab cakes and salmon; what a delightful combination of textures, flavors and tactile sensations! The deviled eggs melted in the mouth with caviar grains popping so deliciously, crab cakes were tantalizing with their slightly crunchy crust especially when accompanied by chilled Sancerre – ohhh so delicious! And don’t be daunted by the seeming sophistication of this menu, mostly everything can be prepared a couple of days in advance which always helps the hostess to relax, guaranteeing success for your gathering. Our Easter table décor was also a reaching departure from the traditional pastels and traditional trappings – no baskets stuffed with candy, eggs and chocolate bunnies in sight! I set the ambiance and décor with jewel-toned color combinations and effortless sophistication. Deep fuchsia, dusty pink and golden-colored eggs are streaming down the center of our Easter tablescape while simple blooming plum branches complete this decor. But please read more on that in my Elegant Easter Table Décor post for some fabulous details.
Photographed by Gary Flom. Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, Herbs & Osetra Caviar are so quintessentially Easter and spring! Everyone always loves those small savory bites. I bought the Osetra caviar in a Russian food specialty store called Cherry Hill in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; it is significantly cheaper there but if you can’t find it in your local gourmet food shop substitute with salmon roe or skip it all together. The egg yolk, herbs and smoked salmon filling is so luscious and tasty; your guests will be popping those into their mouth even without the caviar. I used the pastry bag to fill in the egg whites for a visually beautiful presentation. As one of the hors d’oeuvres we served was this bright green Avocado-Hummus Dip with the seasonal vegetables-blanched asparagus spears, sliced mini cucumber and thin green beans or haricots verts as French call them. The light texture and bright color of this dip shouts SPRING! Marinated gourmet mushrooms can be served as a side dish at the holiday tables or an hors d’oeuvre. They will last up to a month in the refrigerator. Boil those pretty, tiny fungi in salted water and then marinate them in a jar with herbs, vinegar and aromatics. The conservation of vegetables and fruit is probably running in my Ukrainian blood. Both, my mother and grandmother marinated various late summer and autumn produce; something that would provide a source of vitamins during the grueling long Ukrainian winter (although New York’s was actually worse this year). Serving some fennel and spicy salami lasagna to our guests (recipe not featured). I like setting up a buffet with small bites and hors d’oeuvres when entertaining in our apartment. It sets the tone and helps to connect. This year for our Elegant Easter Table Décor I used nature as inspiration and greeted my guests in style with bubbly Champagne and chilled Californian wines. The abundance of spring flowers and green moss was reminiscent of the spring awaking after the long winter sleep. I improvised with stacks of antique books as the display for the hors d’oeuvres which also resulted in varying heights of the tablescape. Play something light to ignite the mood; we’ve recently discovered Pandora radio which has an amazing selection of music. Gotan Project station is our new favorite with a stream of nicely mixed lounge tunes and modern versions of old classics like “Dance with Me” by Dean Martin. It is pretty cool and definitely sets the ambiance for an excellent evening. Who doesn’t like Crab Cakes? My version has a spicy kick which is complimented by the tangy citrus crème fraîche-based sauce. Sear the cakes on both sides until nicely browned and line them up on the baking sheet. Once your party starts with the hors d’oeuvres, pop the cakes into the oven for 10 more minutes to just cook through and serve warm at the table with greens dressed in simple vinaigrette, sauce and lemon slices. Our Easter buffet in full glory…. Whole Poached Salmon was really the start of the night! Get yours at least a day in advance by pre-ordering at specialty stores, I got mine at Citarella. Funny enough I was worried about the presentation so much that I actually had to cut off a part of the tail to make it fit into the poacher. If you find yourself in the same situation, don’t worry, simply cook the tail separately in the same water and attach it carefully to the rest of the fish when serving. It will be partially covered with cucumber slices resembling the fish scales anyway. My salmon was 7 ½ pounds, quite large to fit into the poacher but guaranteed to feed the crowd. Once poached, carefully lift the rack with the fish from the water and peel the skin with the back of a knife and your fingers while the fish is still hot. Let it cool slightly, cover and refrigerate overnight. On the day of the party dress the fish with thinly sliced (I used the mandoline) round cucumber slices and stuff the cavity with fresh watercress and lemon slices. Watercress greens add a fresh spicy bite as well as the refreshing colors to the plate. Serve the moist tender meat of salmon along with delicious Avocado Mayonnaise with Grated Cucumber, Dill & Capers! Ah, and for dessert, where should I start?!!! Luscious Lemon Tarts with Blueberry Compote and touch of freshly made whipped cream were sinfully good! If desired, add edible organic flowers to each tartelette for some wow factor at the table. Happy Easter, Everyone! What is your must-do recipe for Easter Holiday table? Share with me in the comment section below.