Sunday, April 5, 2009

working on the easter menu

A number of years ago we began the tradition of making a really nice Easter dinner with friends. It is so fun to decorate with touches of Spring and bring out the really good food that goes along with it. This year I think I am going to do a ham. It's been a while since I have. One of my friends is going to make pecan tartlets and I am trying to decide on the other dessert. Here are a couple of the cakes I'm thinking about:

Aren't they beautiful?

Here is link to last year's dinner and the year before (pictures taken by my friend Rachel). What are you making for Easter? Do you have any fun decorations you do for the table?

french lentil soup

Last week I made this excellent soup, which you don't expect to be so excellent because it is made with such basic, inexpensive ingredients. Really. I fed a whole crowd of people at our Nieghborhood Watch meeting for almost nothing. I ate the last bowl yesterday- and it was a sad moment.

A great thing about lentils is that you don't need a whole day to make soup, as with other beans. Beware, the chopping does take a while (especially if you make a double batch!). But it is well worth it.

I served it with another new recipe, Butternut Squash Oatmeal Bread. Is was very fast, compared to other yeast breads, and the squash gave it a really nice buttery flavor. It would make a really good sandwich bread, if it doesn't all get eaten with the soup!

French Lentil Soup

Yield: Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons extra–virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery stalks plus chopped celery leaves for garnish
1 cup chopped carrots
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
1 14 1/2–ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium–high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.

Transfer 2 cups soup (mostly solids) to blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to soup in pan; thin soup with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if too thick. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar, if desired. Note: I used the vinegar and it brightened up the flavor just the right amount. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with celery leaves.

Butternut-Oatmeal Bread

2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (105- 115 degrees)
5 1/2 to 5 3/4 cups bread flour, divided
1 1/4 cups mashed cooked fresh butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)- I pureed in food processor
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons quick-cooking oats, divided
vegetable cooking spray
1 tablespoon water

Combine yeast and warm water in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes. Combine yeast mixture, 3 cups flour, and next 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer 2 minutes or until smooth. Gradually stir in 1 cup oats and 2 cups flour to make a moderately stiff dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes), adding enough of remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to keep dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 35 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down; divide in half. Turn one portion onto work surface; knead 4 or 5 times. Roll into a 14x7 rectangle. Roll up, starting at short side, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch ends to seal. Place dough, seam side down, in an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch loafpan coated with cooking spray and sprinkled with 1 1/2 teaspoons oats. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and 1 1/2 teaspoons oats.

Brush loaves evenly with 1 tablespoon water, and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tablespoon oats. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 25 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack. Yield: 2 loaves, 16 servings each. Calories: 116 Protein: 3.5g Fat: 1.5g Carb: 21.8g Fiber: 0.5g Cholesterol: omg Iron: 1.4mg Sodium: 112mg Calcium: 14mg

from Cooking Light Five Star Recipes: The Best of 10 Years