PUBLISHED: 4:29 PM on Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Easter brunch: A springtime celebration

  Abby LaForce
Easter, a holiday permitting consumption of pink marshmallow bunnies and speckled chocolate malt eggs, is a wonderful day to commemorate. This year it is observed Sunday, April 8. As a child, I couldn't wait to hunt dyed eggs among the corners of our living room like a clever raven and rub it in my sister's face when my basket filled quicker than hers. Besides such immaturity, I remember Easter as a day when friends filled our house and my mother made enough food to feed a mass.

Religiously, Easter is considered the most important feast of the Christian liturgical year and celebrates the resurrection of Christ. The holiday occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. The etymology of Easter, in most Christian languages, is derived from Pesach, the Hebrew name of Passover.

The tradition of decorated eggs has resided long before Easter, and considered age-old fertility symbols. Passover Seder service uses eggs enhanced with salt water as a symbol of new life.

An interesting practice is the Easter Egg Roll, a novel theme of rolling eggs on the ground, which has become an annual event on the White House lawn, according to sources. The Egg Roll tradition is also practiced in Scotland and North East England; preferring to roll painted eggs down steep hills. This tradition symbolizes a token of good wishes, love and friendship.

The best part about Easter besides hording away treat baskets for night-time snacks is brunch. I've never quite understood the association of giant hares and decorated eggs to Easter brunch but all the same it's still a good day in my book.

What I enjoy about brunch is the mixture of breakfast, lunch and dinner foods that grace the table. From slow-roasted lamb shoulder, vegetable salads to cheesy egg casseroles and carb-loaded crumpets, the palate couldn't be any happier.

Easter is the perfect opportunity for a celebration of favorite food, drinks and comfortable socializing. With the winter weather continually beating at our snow-drenched doors across Southeast Alaska, embracing spring through bright and flavorful foods is the way to go (with crossed fingers and toes perhaps it's just around the corner).

The following recipes are fun ideas for brunch; a little pre-planning goes a long way and ensures a relaxing Easter holiday.

Caprese Pasta Salad

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

This salad is a take off the Italian favorite Caprese salad with the addition of kalamata olives, pasta and parmesan cheese. It goes well with roasted meats and bursts with vivid flavors.

12 oz. dried short pasta, such as orecchiette, farfalle or penne rigate

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 cup pitted kalamata olives

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 small package of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces (about 1/2 cup)

1-16 oz. package of fresh mozzarella, cubed

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese

Coarsely ground pepper

Kosher salt, to taste

• Combine olives, tomatoes, olive oil and fresh lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. Let macerate while preparing pasta.

• Heat a large stockpot of water to boiling, and add 1 tablespoon of kosher or sea salt. Pour in the dried pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta, but do not rinse with water. Let cool for about 5 minutes and then pour pasta into large mixing bowl with olive/tomato mixture; combine well. Let pasta sit for 15-30 minutes or until pasta is slightly warm but not hot.

• Add in fresh mozzarella, parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Note: This pasta salad can be made a day ahead; however, don't add in the fresh basil until service time. Also, tearing basil with your hands enables the basil to stay bright green; when cutting basil with a knife, an enzymatic reaction occurs and it turns brown quicker.

Photo by Abby LaForce
  Coconut-orange cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are a confectioner's delight for an Easter holiday.
Coconut-Orange Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes about 20

These fabulous cupcakes are lovely for Easter holiday as well as other special occasions. They can be made a day ahead.

Cake Batter:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups white sugar

5 large eggs, at room temperature

3 1/4 cups flour

1 tbs. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1-13.5 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk

1 tbs. vanilla extract

1 tbs. orange zest

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

Pinch of salt

2 pounds powdered sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Garnish: Sweetened shredded coconut and fresh berries, if desired.

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter for 1 minute and then add in white sugar. Continue to beat for about 5 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer to slow speed and add in the eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping bowl down after each addition. Don't worry if the mixture looks broken or uneven. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and add into egg mixture, mix until just blended. Pour in the coconut milk, vanilla extract and sprinkle in the orange zest. Blend on high until a smooth batter yields and there are no lumps.

• Portion batter into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake for about 25 minutes or until tops are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from baking pans and place on cooling rack.

Note: It's important the eggs are at room temperature; it help the cupcakes rise higher and taste lighter.

• For frosting: Place cream cheese in bowl of electric stand mixer, beat for about 30 seconds and then add in butter. Beat until cream cheese and butter are smoothly mixed. Pour in the powdered sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Beat on medium until powdered sugar is combined. Increase the speed to high and beat until just smooth. Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with coconut; garnish with berries if desired. Store cupcakes in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Note: It is important cream cheese and butter are at room temperature, this enables a smooth creamy frosting with no lumps!

Spring-Fling Mimosa

Makes 1 drink

2 parts champagne

1 part Strawberry nectar or juice

Splash of Triple Sec or Grand Marnier

1 fresh strawberry

• Pour chilled champagne into champagne flute or wineglass; be careful not to overflow the glass! Top with strawberry nectar and add a splash of Triple Sec or Grand Marnier. Cut strawberry down the middle, but don't cut completely through. Slip strawberry onto edge of glass. Enjoy!