Ready for an Easter feast? Some easy recipes that use fresh spring ingredients

MILWAUKEE -- If you can believe it -- Easter is just around the corner! And whether you're hosting a big crowd or entertaining just a few guests -- our chef Alisa Malavenda has elegant, yet easy receipts that are sure to please.

Carrot Top Mimosa

  • Equal parts Prosecco or Cava and Carrot Juice (more or less to your taste)
  • ½ oz Ginger Syrup (recipe follows) or alternatively you can buy a carrot ginger juice
  • Garnish of Carrot Tops or Parsley Sprigs.

Make Ginger Simple Syrup:

  • 1 C water
  • 1C sugar
  • About a ¼ pound piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into pieces
  • Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat stirring until all the sugar is dissolve. Once it reaches a boil, turn off heat and let the ginger steep for 30 -45 min.
  • Strain liquid into a glass jar and bring to room temperature. Keeps in refrigerator for couple of weeks.
  • Pour ½ oz of ginger syrup into a champagne flute ( I like to use one that is tapered on the bottom so it resembles a carrot. Add carrot juice and then sparkling wine.
  • Garnish with carrot tops or parsley stuck in a cut straw to use as a stirrer.

Mini Crudité or Radishes served with Whipped Herb Butter or Whippe Goat Cheese , Olive “Soil” and Flaked Salt

  • Bunches of radishes or mini vegetables- keep the tops intact
  • Butter (unsalted is you are making herb butter or use just a good quality salted butter)
  • Toasted crostini

Recipe for herb butter:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ t salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • and 1.5 T of whatever you fantasy is –garlic, scallions , dill, parsley, thyme, oregano, basil  or any  combination of these.
  • Whip the butter and fold in the herbs. Transfer to small ramekins for dipping or spreading on the toasted bread. Place a mound of salt on a platter to anchor the veggies or place in a small bowl for dipping.

For Whipped Goat Cheese and Olive “Soil”:

  • 4 oz log of garlic and herb goat cheese
  • 2 oz sour cream
  • 2 oz heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper for taste.
  • Blend all ingredients in a food processor until whipped and fluffy.
  • For a fancier presentation you can make a whipped goat cheese and chop some black olives for “soil”.

Marinated Raw Asparagus Salad with Shaved Pecorino Cheese

  • 1 bunch asparagus, tough woody bottoms removed
  • 1 T minced shallots or spring onions
  • 1 C shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese (or Parmesan)
  • ¼ C red wine vinegar
  • ¾ C Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Remove woody ends from asparagus.

Cut the asparagus, including the tips into very thin slices with a potato peeler, (lengthwise) and place in a medium bowl.

Add the shallots and dress with the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Leave the asparagus to rest in the mixture for at least 30 min. The vinaigrette will “tenderize” the asparagus in the marinating period.

Remove asparagus from bowl to serving plate and top with shaved cheese.

“Captain and Coke” Glazed Ham

  • 4-6 # Spiral Ham
  • 2 cans of coke
  • ¼- ½ C Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • 1 C Brown Sugar, divided
  • 1 T Dijon or spicy brown mustard

In a medium sauce pan add 1 can of coke with the rum, ½ C brown sugar and mustard, cook and stir until sugar is dissolved and it starts to get thick.

Sprinkle the other ½ C sugar on the bottom of the slow cooker pot and add the 2nd can of coke – stir to combine. Add ham and then pour the glaze over the top.

Set the slow cooker for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low

You can reserve some of the glaze if you wish to finish with more glaze at the end of cooking process.

Note: You can also use a bone in ham and score the top of the ham in a diamond pattern. Feel free to add cloves, lime zest or pineapple if you so desire.

406 # spiral ha

Rack of Lamb with Pistachio Mint Sauce

1 rack of lamb per 2 people is a good quantity.

For the sauce:

  • 1 C fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ C fresh mint leaves
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ¼ C lemon Juice
  • ½ C toasted pistachios
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ t crushed red pepper
  • ½ C olive oil

Place all ingredients except olive oil in a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times to chop and combine mixture. Add oil while continuing to pulse but do not run it smooth – it should be a chunky sauce for texture with the lamb.

For Lamb:

Let the racks come to room temperature for about 30 min. Season with Salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Add oil to a heated heavy pan ( I prefer cast iron ) – sear the racks until nicely browned and then transfer to oven.

Cook between 16-20 min depending on what temperature( degree of doneness you want the lamb, the weight and / or  if you are cooking more than one rack. A meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat  at 125°F  for rare or 135°F for medium rare.

Remove from oven, tent with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before cutting into double chops.

Serve with sauce on the side or drizzled over the lamb.

Potato and Fennel Gratin

  • 2 C Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 springs of thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 T unsalted butter- divided
  • 2 # potatoes peeled and cut into thin rounds
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 small bulbs of fennel
  • 1 C ( or more)  grated cheese (parmesan or gruyere)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Butter a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
  • Remove the stalks from fennel, cut in half and remove the core. Slice Thin.

Add oil and 1 T butter to a sauté pan. Cook fennel and onions until tender but not browned about 10-15 min. on medium heat.

Meanwhile, heat cream bay leaves, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper, just until bubbles for around sides of pan. Turn off heat and let steep while fennel mixture is cooking.

Slice potatoes in a large bowl; pour cream mixture through a strainer onto the potatoes.

Gently mix so all the potatoes are coated well.

Layer potatoes, fennel mixture and cheese in the baking dish so they are uniform. Pour the remaining cream from the potato bowl over the casserole, dot with remaining butter and more cheese. Cover with foil and bake for approx. 1 hour or until potatoes are tender. Peel back foil and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes until brown on top.

Strawberry Cream Pie

  • Graham Cracker Crust: or store bought 9 Inch graham cracker crust
  • 2 C Graham Cracker crumbs (from about 12 sheets of cookies)
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 T unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling:
  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 C Sugar
  • !# Cream Cheese
  • 1 t Vanilla Extract
  • 1 – 1.5 qts strawberries, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 T strawberry preserves, heated and thinned out with a little water or store bought strawberry glaze

Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, combine cracker crumbs, salt and sugar, pour in melted butter and mix well to combine. Pour into a 9 in pie pan and press the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool while preparing filling.

In a large mixing bowl beat whipped cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and beat until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into cooled crust and chill in refrigerator.

Heat strawberry preserves and a little water to make a thin syrup. Slice strawberries and combine with cooled preserves. Mix well and top the chilled pie.

Homemade PEEPS

  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 2/3 C cold water , plus another ½ C
  • 2 C sugar
  • Colored sanding sugar
  • Cocoa Powder and water for eyes and nose

Lightly coat a small ¼ sheet pan (or silicon molds) with non-stick spray like Pam.

In a saucepan, combine 2/3 C water with 2 C sugar. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, stop stirring and let the temperature reach 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, put ½ cup cold water in the bottom of a stand mixer bowl kitchen aide) Sprinkle with gelatin and let sit for 1 minute until it “blooms”

Once the syrup reaches the correct temperature, remove from heat and with the mixer on the lowest setting- Carefully pour the sugar mixture into the gelatin. Don’t pour it directly on the sides of the bowl or the beaters.

Beat for 8-10 minutes, until mixture thickens, turns white and can hold soft peaks. Immediately and quickly spoon into prepared mold or pan (the mixture will set quickly so don’t wait long).

Let the marshmallow set. If using a sheet pan use cookie cutters lightly greased or pop them out of the mold. Roll in sugar to coat and if so desired. Dip a toothpick in water and cocoa to make eyes and nose.