Holidays always make me think of family and close friends. And this year, perhaps more than others, it has become of great importance to be surrounded by those we love. Creating glorious family meals and inviting a few grown up friends to share our bounty is how I want to spend the weekend that marks in my calendar, the beginning of spring.
Everyday meals tend to have a hurried feeling; I never seem to have enough time to cook. But, it is on holidays and weekends when the tempo slows down that I actually have the energy to tackle a few long lost recipes and bring them back to life.
I get enormous pleasure when I see the faces of my children and our friends light up with gusto when they eat something I have made. It is what keeps me going and researching recipes and ingredients. I am always on the look out for new things, and always willing to try something different. My palate and that of my family is not as adventurous as you might think. If the dish in front of them doesn’t look good, I will receive groans of complaints!
With that in mind, this Easter Sunday I am making a boring leg of lamb, simply roasted potatoes and a plain carrot puree. Nothing that you haven’t seen before! What I am making different, and something I have been working on, is a group of savory breads. I have realized in my research that bread is actually very in season with Easter, as breaking bread is an ancient tradition. After the forty days of Lent where “giving up” bread is a common custom, I think that there is nothing better than tucking in with a warm slice of just-out-of-oven bread.
Breads to serve with your Easter dinner
The inspiration of these recipes, and the reason I am grouping them together is simple and obvious, they all contain one of my favorite ingredients of all times: cheese. My fridge always has an array of half-eaten cheeses, from hard parmesan to soft chevre, that are often not pretty enough to serve by themselves but still deserve a gracious end.
Olive & Tomato Polenta Bread
Olive & Tomato Polenta Bread is, as its name entails, made with polenta and regular flour. Its distinct color and taste is purely Mediterranean but it also has a huge dose of rustic Southern characteristics. Sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and olive oil combine beautifully with white cheddar cheese. I adore serving this bread to accompany soft cheeses like brie and St. Andre, but it will be just as delicious spread with a little butter for breakfast.
Olive & Tomato Polenta Bread
- 1 ¼ cups flour
- 1 tablespoon powder sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cups plain polenta
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes roughly chopped
- ½ cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 tomato, sliced
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Butter a round spring form pan or a loaf tin.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the polenta, cheese, tomatoes and olives. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, olive oil and yogurt. Incorporate into the dry ingredients and mix well.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and decorate with the tomato slices.
4. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle and the bread separates from the edges of the pan. Rest for a few minutes before slicing.
Leftover Cheese Bites
Leftover Cheese Bites are so easy to make that I buy extra cheeses to make sure I do have enough leftover. I have used every kind and mixed them all with excellent results. Do use 1 cup of semi-soft and one cup of a hard cheese to achieve the necessary results. These bites are perfect with afternoon drinks or to serve with piping-hot tomato soup.
Leftover Cheese Bites
Makes about 60
I use all the leftover bits of cheese I have in the fridge. I separate them into hard like parmesan, aged manchego or emental and soft ones like brie, explorateur or fresh chevre. I have also done this with blue cheese with excellent results. Remove the rinds before using.
- 1 cup semisoft cheese, cubed
- 1 cup hard cheese, grated
- 1 and half stick butter
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
- 2 cups regular flour, more for floring
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees
1. In a food processor, cream the butter and cheeses until soft. Add the pepper and parsley. Slowly incorporate the flour until well mixed, scrape the sides of the bowl if needed.
2. Flour your hands. Using a teaspoon or a small measuring spoon, make bite size balls and place them on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
3. Press them down to make a round shape with fingers and prick the tops with a fork. Bake in the oven until golden, about 15 minutes.
Roasted Red Pepper Loaf
Roasted Red Pepper Loaf is deliciously piquant. Use different types of roasted peppers and experiment with hot jalapenos or poblanos if you dare. I like serving this bread as an accompaniment to roasted pork or chicken as the necessary starch of the meal. Sliced in thick wedges to mop up juices it is a delicious alternative to rice.
Roasted Red Pepper & Corn Bread
- 3 cups white corn, thawed if frozen, and coarsely crushed in a food processor
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter soft or at room temperature, more for buttering the pan
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 cups white cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup diced roasted peppers, drained and dried.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter a loaf pan.
1. In a large bowl and using an electric mixer cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar one spoon at a time and the eggs one at a time beating until very well combined.
2. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and at low speed, add to the mixture one cup at a time.
3. Fold in the corn, grated cheese and roasted pepper.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared mold and bake in the oven until golden; about 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle and the bread separates from the edges of the pan. Rest for a few minutes before slicing.
Savory breads are really more like loaves, think of zuchinni bread and you get the idea. The fun thing about these recipes is the myriad of ways of making them. Play with them to make presentation as attractive as you wish.
For instance, bake the Olive and Tomato Polenta Bread in an earthenware cazuela or a round tagine dish to make it rustic and Mediterranean, or bake the Roasted Red Pepper Loaf in hollowed red pepper shells or bacon wrapped tomato shells to serve alongside a juicy cut of meat. Or think about adding an almond or a pecan in the center of the cheese bite and floating them on a creamy mushroom soup.
Either way, these breads will make your family ooh and aah at your culinary ability and will make your friends faint with rapture at your table. I promise.
For an added treat on your Easter table, check out Victoria’s line of condiments and sauces. They are made of all natural ingredients and are absolutely delicious!