For many who celebrate Easter, a juicy glazed ham with a sticky-sweet brown sugar coat or an herby roast leg of lamb are tradition. But these holiday centerpieces are so labor intensive that they’re also a surefire way to miss out on what the holidays are all about: spending time with family and friends.
Inspired by our travels around the globe, we now focus on bright, seasonal menus that rely on handfuls of herbs, powerful pantry ingredients and simple techniques to build menus that still impress—without taking on complicated dishes that chain us to the stove. This selection of hearty mains, seasonal sides, and sunny desserts can either be made ahead or don’t call for a lot of last-minute tending.
Deviled eggs are an Easter brunch classic and a breeze to make ahead. The filling for our version gets a punchy boost from olive oil-packed tuna, capers, mustard, olives and finely chopped roasted red peppers. We steam the eggs, which is the best method for perfectly cooked “hard-boiled” eggs. To get ahead, the eggs can be cooked and peeled up to two days in advance. (Bonus: We asked seven Friends of Milk Street how they serve deviled eggs.)
Fresh artichoke hearts would undoubtedly be delicious here, but frozen don’t require time-consuming prep. Thaw them, pat them dry—they’ll brown more quickly if excess moisture has been wicked away, which means faster flavor. This hash works beautifully with an egg-based main or served alongside any type of roast or braise. You can make these ahead of time and reheat before serving; they’re also wonderful at room temperature.
Inspired by a classic Tuscan pairing, a heap of shredded kale and pecorino cheese flavor these savory scones, plus a healthy dose of currants, sharp white cheddar and a crunchy sunflower seed topping. We use both baking powder and soda, as well as a combination of chilled butter and buttermilk, to give the scones their fluffy structure and light tang. You’ll fight over the bits of cheese that ooze out during baking and crisp up into shards.
This simple no-cook salad shows off the flavors of spring, without all the work: frozen peas eliminate the need for shelling the delicate spring produce yourself. Fresh mint and creamy, salty feta play off of the sweetness of the peas and lemon juice and zest brighten the whole salad. If the peas are damp after thawing, be sure to pat them dry, as excess moisture will dilute the flavors.
Contrasting and complementary flavors are the highlight of this Sicilian salad. The savoriness of the olives, capers and anchovies temper the sweetness of the oranges and fennel, while the onion adds pungency and the salty, mild cheese rounds everything out. We liked meaty and mild Castelvetrano olives from Sicily, but any large, firm green olive will do. Make this one the night before, but wait to add the oranges until you serve.
A one-pot affair, the pasta and asparagus in this springy dish start independently but finish together, simmered with half-and-half, so their flavors mix and meld. There’s a Milk Street secret to this one: Drain your pasta when it’s just shy of al dente, and remember to reserve about ½ cup of the starchy cooking water, which will be used to thin the sauce so it lightly coats the pasta. The noodles will absorb the flavors of the sauce as the ingredients finish cooking.
Torrijas, Spain's version of French toast, typically are flavored with cinnamon and citrus. Our version also includes dry sherry, which infuses the bread with a subtle nuttiness and caramel undertones. Challah isn't typical for torrijas, but we liked its eggy richness and tender crumb. Torrijas are especially good warm from the oven, but they're also great at room temperature. Unlike regular French toast, the bread is sweetened throughout, so skip syrup for berries or fruit compote.
Top your torrijas with homemade, subtly floral compote—make it ahead and store in the fridge until brunch (any unlikely extras can be stirred into Greek yogurt or drizzled over ice cream). Frozen blueberries can be substituted for fresh, just be sure to thaw and drain them first. Don’t want to make your own? Try our V Smiley Preserves Cherry Fennel Sherry Jam, Yakami Orchard Yuzu Marmalade, Marchesi di San Giuliano Nova Clementine Marmalade or Il Colle Del Gusto Sicilian Pistachio Spread for an extra-luxurious treat.
This baked zucchini omelet is what Australians refer to as a “slice.” Flour and leavener give the eggs sturdiness and a little lift, so the finished texture is firm and sliceable. The beauty of this simple bake? None of its ingredients require precooking, so it comes together in a flash. Gruyère cheese adds a creamy, subtly nutty flavor; fresh chives or scallions and the optional addition of ham add flavor and heft. Milk Street tip: Don’t forget to squeeze the zucchini after salting to removes excess moisture. (Want a crust? Try our Deep-Dish Quiche with Mushrooms, Bacon and Gruyère.)
A whole side of salmon works as an impressive brunch main that’s as good at room temperature as it is hot from the oven. We adapted French chef Michel Bras’ oven-poaching method: Surround the fish with carrots, celery, shallots and a bit of vermouth, cover it all tightly with foil, and steam it over a water-filled baking pan. The salmon cooks fast, stays tender and infuses with flavor.
Save chocolate for the Easter eggs—we’ll take this subtle cake from western France that stays moist for days. It’s made with generous amounts of butter, eggs and almond flour for a rich, pleasantly dense crumb. We replace the classic rum icing (there is rum in both the batter and a syrup) with a bracing lemon glaze to bring out the zest in the cake, and a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds for contrasting crunch.
Inspired by the freshly baked pies sold by the slice in Mexican beach town Yelapa, recipe writer Paola Briseño-González created a rustic banana custard pie with a sturdy, sandy-textured crust. We adapted her recipe, blending a banana into the custard mixture instead of only studding it with slices to suffuse the filling with tropical flavor. For extra flair, sprinkle the baked, cooled pie with sugar and brûlée until caramelized, creating a crackly-crisp surface.