Our Modern Easter: Menu & Recipes

When I was young, there was a great deal of pomp and circumstance around Easter. Not coming from an overly religious family, this fussing typically had more to do with food than ritual, though the reflective and celebratory nature of the day carried through. In those years, it was about Easter dresses, patent leather shoes, and Grandma’s good china. And as often as possible, our whole family gathered together -- grandparents, their daughters, and us, the daughters of the next generation -- for a good meal.

Like many families, ours has changed, both shrinking and growing with the passage of time, life, and living arrangements. Today, as with most major holidays celebrated in my home, our family is a chosen one complete with friends, extended family, and sometimes near strangers. My house is the gathering spot for those who can’t get to their own families (or perhaps don’t want to). But we’re each others’ family for that day and the days before and after. And while patent leather really only makes an appearance on a platform sandal these days, we still enjoy the springy spirit of Easter and the food that has become our religion.

Not surprisingly the traditional Easter dinner menu has evolved along with our family composition. Most of us being self-described “foodies,” we’re mostly okay with innovation and unexpected twists landing on the table. We all eat more healthfully now; some have ebbed and flowed through a variety of vegetarian stages; and we’ve mostly cut anything weird and processed out of our diets. We adopt dishes from other cultures with wild abandon. We branch out. We experiment. And aside from my mom’s Jello Salad, there really isn’t anything constant on our menus.

(Oh, and we don’t joke about that damned Jello Salad anymore either; foodies we may be, but no holiday may pass without the Jello Salad. Not a salad really, it's a lovely layered thing with a light, creamy, lemony base and a berry-Jello-with-fruit-mixed-in top layer. There’s nothing organic, sustainable or free-trade about it, but since the dish is undeniably Minnesotan at its core, I don’t feel bad sharing the recipe for Mom’s Jello Salad with you here.)

This year, we’re going as simple and as local as possible. We’re going vegetarian. And we’re celebrating eggs. How much fun is that? To this menu add: crispy local white wine, fresh bread from your neighborhood bakery (warm in oven before serving), local butter, and whichever veggie looks good at the market.

Mix well with friends, family and a playlist with a good vibe. Then, clink a glass to spring along with your holiday of choice. Enjoy!


(slightly adapted from Alton Brown’s already-perfect version)

  • Butter, room temperature, for greasing the souffle dish
  • 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 oz (3 Tablespoons) butter
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch cayenne (optional, highly recommended)
  • 1 1/3 cups milk, hot
  • 4 large egg yolks (2 1/2 oz. by weight)
  • 4 oz. sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 2 oz. Gruyere, grated
  • 5 egg whites plus 1 tablespoon water (5 1/2 oz. by weight plus 1/2 oz. water, if you want to go all Alton Brown on the situation)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Use room temperature butter to grease an 8-inch souffle mold. Add the grated Parmesan and roll around the mold to cover the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the freezer for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter. Allow all of the liquid to cook out.

In a separate bowl combine flour, dry mustard, garlic powder, and kosher salt. Whisk this mixture into the melted butter. Cook for 2 minutes.

Whisk in the hot milk and turn the heat to high. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks to a creamy consistency. Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, constantly whisking. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Whisk until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until glossy and firm. Add 1/4 of the mixture to the base (you’re just sacrificing this portion for the sake of lightening up the base). Continue to add the whites by thirds, folding very gently.

Pour the mixture into the souffle. Fill the souffle to 1/2-inch from the top. Place on an aluminum pie pan. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

Simple Spring Salad

This really isn’t a recipe as much as a set of guidelines. Tweak this however you see fit and make it your own!

In the bottom of your serving bowl, place one or two minced shallots, a healthy shot of red wine or champagne vinegar, and let sit for a few minutes.

Add dried or fresh herbs (I like a simple Herbs de Provence mix from Penzey’s when I’m feeling lazy), 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard and whisk all together.

While whisking, pour in a steady stream of olive oil (I prefer a more acidic 1:1 ratio of vinegar and oil, but use your tastebuds as a guide here).

Add a good finishing salt and fresh cracked pepper and then load on your spring greens of choice.

Let this sit (or store in the fridge lightly covered) until ready to serve.

Then you can toss everything together and add other veggies, nuts or sections of clementines as toppings. (You’re looking for “lightly dressed” here so if you’re not sure if you have the right amount of dressing, separate it into another bowl and dress the greens in phases.)

Springy Margarita Angel Food Cake

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s plain angel food cake in How to Cook Everything)

  • 1 cup cake flour (NOT all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar (I prefer superfine for this recipe)
  • 9 egg whites (these are easiest to separate when cold, but easiest to whip when room temperature)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (use vanilla paste if you want those lovely telltale black flecks in your cake)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • zest of 2-3 limes

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Sift together flour and ½ cup of the sugar 2-3 times.

Beat egg whites until foamy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and continue beating until they hold soft peaks; the tops of the whites should droop a bit when you remove the beaters. Beat in the remaining sugar, extracts and zest and continue beating until the peaks become a little stiffer.

Gradually and gently fold in the flour mixture using a rubber spatula or your hand. Turn the batter gently into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch tube pan (not one with ridged sides) and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour until the cake is firm, resilient and nicely browned.

Invert the cake onto a rack and let cool for about an hour (if you have an old-school tube pan, your pan has little feet to stand it on upside down; alternatively, stick the pan upside down on a wine bottle for the duration). Cut carefully around the edges of the cake and remove. Cool completely before slicing or glazing.

Margarita Glaze

  • ½ - ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teasppoon white tequila (optional)
  • 2-3 teaspoon freshly squeezed and strained lime juice (use more if not using tequila)
  • Pinch salt

Whisk together until smooth; taste and adjust amount of lime juice.

Option 1: Drizzle over completely cooled whole angel food cake, being sure to have it run down all sides of the cake. Cut and serve.

Option 2: Cut cake, top with fresh fruit and drizzle glaze over the whole deal.

Tracy Morgan is a Twin Cities foodie, cookbook hoarder, and owner of all the right kitchen gadgets. Living in downtown St. Paul, she loves to take her green trolley shopping at the Farmer's Market and see how much weight it can handle. When not spotlighting local goodies for Simple Good and Tasty, Tracy runs Segnavia Creative, a business development and marketing firm that helps small companies create big-picture strategies, understand branding, and navigate social media. She also serves on the board of directors for the Mississippi Market Natural Food Co-op.