Stepping Out

Spring's holiday table

Savor festive traditions with family and friends

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Families throughout the area are preparing to welcome spring in the holiday spirit, celebrating Passover and Easter shortly. It’s the time to cherish age-old traditions and create new ones.

Festive meals are an opportunity to explore the boundaries of your family heritage. Try supplementing your favorite recipes passed down through the generations with recipes that give a contemporary twist to the holiday meal.

Spring celebrations wouldn’t be the same without a classic centerpiece: leg of lamb. Whether roasted or grilled, a leg of lamb is a tried and true addition to the Passover or Easter table. As elegant as it is, it’s also quite simple to prepare.

Follow these easy guidelines for preparing the perfect roast:

For generous portions, figure on one half pound of lamb per serving.

Use a good meat thermometer to determine doneness. Medium rare: 145° F; Medium: 160° F.

Carve the roast across the grain so the meat will be tender.

Roast Leg of Lamb

18 garlic cloves

1 bottle dry red wine

2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons dried Greek oregano

3 tablespoons dried rosemary

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 8 pound leg of lamb, bone in and trimmed of fat

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into sixths lengthwise

8 large globe artichokes, stems, leaves, and chokes removed

Finely chop 8 garlic cloves. In a large shallow pan, combine wine, 1 cup lemon juice, chopped garlic, 2 tablespoons oregano, and 2 tablespoons rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Add lamb, turning to coat. Cover, and marinate in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a mortar and pestle, crush 6 garlic cloves and remaining oregano and rosemary. Remove lamb from marinade, and pierce it with a paring knife in 10 to 12 places. Rub garlic mixture over lamb, pushing the mixture into the incisions. Transfer to a large roasting pan, and pour 3 tablespoons olive oil over lamb, rubbing to coat.

Place potatoes around lamb in roasting pan. Crush remaining 4 garlic cloves, and toss with potatoes. Drizzle remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and remaining cup lemon juice over potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to oven, and roast for 1 hour. Add artichokes to roasting pan, and roast 45 minutes more, basting occasionally with lemon juice. Remove from oven, and let rest for 10 minutes before carving

Classic Chicken Soup

6 quarts of water

1 whole chicken + extra package of wings (optional)

2-3 large carrots, chopped

3 ribs of celery, chopped

1 onion, cut in half

1 medium turnip or 2 small turnips, chopped

2 parsnips, chopped

1 bunch of dill

1 bunch of flat leaf parsley

1/2 tablespoon whole peppercorns

Few sprigs of thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric for color (optional)

Place chicken and vegetables in a 16 or 20 quart pot and cover with 6 quarts of water.

Make a bouquet garni with the fresh dill, parsley, peppercorns and thyme. Add bouquet garni to pot.

Bring pot to boil and let simmer for 1 hour. Skim the foamy stuff off the top several times while soup is cooking.

Remove chicken and veggies from pot. Allow soup to simmer additional hour with the cover on.

Shred chicken while still warm. Save about half to put into the soup, use the rest for chicken salad or sandwiches.

Allow soup to cool, and place in fridge. Skim any remaining fat off the top.

Reheat to serve. Add chicken, matzah balls and desired vegetables.

Fluffy Matzah Balls

2 tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil

1/2 cup seltzer

2 teaspoons grated onion

2 teaspoons parsley (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch white pepper

1 cup matzah meal

4 jumbo eggs

Mix the eggs well. Add the fat or oil, seltzer, herbs, spices, onion, and matzah meal. Mix thoroughly. Cover and chill for several hours, even overnight.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Dip your hands in cold water and make about 12 matzah balls. Drop them into the boiling water, cover, and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon.

Easter Chicks Cupcakes

1 box (1 pound 2.25 oimces) yellow or devil’s food cake mix with pudding

Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix bo

2 1/2 cups shredded coconut

Yellow food coloring

Vanilla frosting

48 brown miniature candy-coated chocolate baking bits

24 small orange gumdrops

Heat oven to 350° F (325° F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. Make cake mix as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake 17 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Place coconut in resealable food-storage plastic bag. Add about 8 drops yellow liquid food color; seal bag and shake to mix. Frost cupcakes with white frosting. Top with yellow coconut. For eyes, add brown baking bits. Cut orange gumdrops to resemble beaks; place on cupcakes.