Traditions and twists
Side dishes to suit every Easter table
No matter what your religious views, Easter and similar springtime holidays are a celebration of rebirth, renewal, blossoming and optimism. The traditional meals that are prepared during this time showcase lamb, seasonal vegetables, symbolic eggs, and other ingredients that have been historically difficult to come by during the long, dark stretch of winter. And just as many people enjoy Thanksgiving trimmings more than the turkey, an Easter ham or leg of lamb wouldn’t be the same without delectable side dishes. We’ve rounded up some of the iconic accompaniments to a traditional Easter dinner as well as some temptingly inventive departures.
When tender asparagus spears start to appear on supermarket shelves and farmer’s market stands, it’s cause for celebration—and for straightforward recipes that let this vegetable shine. Try giving just-roasted asparagus a light sprinkle of lemon and parmesan. Or serve the spears for brunch, topped with a homemade hollandaise.
Asparagus and peas
Asparagus also has an affinity with another bright green springtime staple: fresh peas. Steam them separately, then combine with a few pats of butter, a sprinkle of finishing salt and fresh cracked pepper. Or give both a quick blanch, then toss into a salad alongside other springtime flavors like mint and goat cheese.
Salads are a welcome addition to just about any meal, and they shine particularly bright when made with just-plucked-from-the-garden baby lettuces, microgreens, radishes, and carrots. Homemade tarragon dressing comes together in two shakes of a lamb’s tail and will elevate any salad. For a heartier option, try a spring-inspired panzanella, which embellishes the vegetables with toasted croutons and feta.
It’s easier than you might think to make your own pasta, and oh-so-worth-it when you have wide pappardelle noodles to coat with a lemony cream sauce or delicate angel hair dressed simply with olive oil and cracked pepper. Add whatever light and flavorful veggies you find at the farmer’s market, or stir fresh herbs into the sauce at the very end. But be careful—your pasta might very well steal the show!
Piped potato presentation
If you want a classic Easter potato, go for good old scalloped or au gratin. But if you want something not just decadently delicious, but classy to boot, consider piling potatoes into your pastry bag. Duchess potatoes and fried potato spirals also have the advantage of built-in portion control.
Herbed new potatoes
Sophisticated spuds are all well and good, but Easter cooks who are pressed for time (or plain ol’ stressed out) might want to stick with the simplicity of new potatoes. Boil them gently, toss with butter, and scatter fresh parsley and/or mint over these tiny, tasty taters.
File these fondant potatoes, aka “melting potatoes,” under H for Holy Grail: they are inexpensive and easy to prepare, rely on pantry staples rather than exotic ingredients, will impress even the fussiest guest, and taste absolutely divine.
Here’s a healthy twist on the broccoli salad that’s shown up at every potluck since the Reagan administration. You know the one, with the unholy combination of raisins and mayo and sunflower seeds and cheddar shreds. It’s time to move on; luckily, this quick, delish, nutritious alternative is waiting to step into the spotlight.
Couscous, the pasta that eats like a grain, is seriously one of the simplest dishes to make. If you can boil water and use a fork, you’ve got the necessary chops to make this side. Adding lemon and fresh herbs elevates just about anything edible, and couscous is no exception.
Sugar snap peas
The appeal of this vegetable is right there in its name: these peas are sweet and crunchy. Great to munch on raw with hummus or ranch, sugar snaps really sing after a brief stint in a saute pan. Add an easy vinaigrette for an appealing accompaniment to lamb or ham.
You will undoubtedly be the Easter hostess with the mostest when you serve this showstopping vegetable tart. And the fact that it’s stuffed full of nutritious veggies totally makes up for the two sticks of butter and two cups of heavy cream that go into it, right?
If you haven’t tried roasting radishes in the oven, you are in for a real treat. Roasting mellows the red tuber’s sharp bite, leaving them tender, toothsome and juicy. Slice in half, toss with a neutral, high-heat oil, season with salt and pepper, and into your cast-iron skillet they go.
Use up a couple of those hard-boiled eggs your kids dyed by slicing them into a spinach salad alongside mushrooms and red onions. The tried-and-true version includes bacon bits and a warm bacon dressing. For vegetarians, pour over a sweet and savory poppyseed dressing and omit the pig.
No Easter table would be complete without a platter of deviled eggs. Since you’ve likely got colored eggs to spare, why not try a few different varieties? Dress up your hardboiled henfruit with bacon, cheese, avocado, jalapeno, horseradish, pickle relish, smoked salmon, smoked paprika, or anything else you fancy.