Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Western and Eastern Easter, everyone!

This year and next, Western Easter (that's what I call the Rome-defined Easter) and Eastern Easter (a.k.a. Orthodox Easter) are on the same date. This special confluence of the two Christian branches was something I felt like celebrating this year, and I'm happy to say we're all recovering from said celebrations. (Yes, as usual, The Brooklyn Sheep's chosen method of celebration was a homecooked dinner with gourmet flourishes. This one was served to a gathering of four – me, my dad, dad's girlfriend, and Helen, the very nice lady who introduced my dad to my mom way back when and thus has earned beyond measure her email landing in the "Family" superfolder in my inbox.)

Smoked Sable Tartare With Beets and Watercress (from Epicurious, served more simply though – just a stripe of salad, a stripe of sable, and a stripe of beet relish on each plate. Why fuss more?)

Rosemary Lamb Chops With Lemon Butter Breadcrumbs ('twas the financial splurge – D'Artagnan free-range Australian lamb, marinated overnight; just as Epicurious did it, except breadcrumbs added the last 1'30" of broiling)

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Baby Artichokes (much altered from Cooking Light's version: I used no artichokes, and instead of roasting I pan-fried halved parboiled yukon golds – with skins on – in a Tablespoon of olive oil until browned nicely on all cut sides and then tossed them in a paste of Vermont cultured butter, grated lemon rind, and fresh parsley)

Asparagus and Spring Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette (pretty close to CookingLight's version: I used half regular balsamic and half champagne vinegar, only green asparagus, and a tad less gorgonzola)

Nigella Lawson's Damp Lemon and Almond Cake ('twas the caloric splurge)
Decaffeinated Sumatran coffee from Fairway (thanks, Mary!)

I cooked almost everything in advance. On Saturday afternoon I did my coop shopping and then at home made Ukrainian Easter eggs, pausing while the eggs were in the dye to roast beets, make the cake, prep the vinaigrettes, and set up the lamb in its marinade.

We had such a lovely Easter Sunday afternoon in New York City. The sun was shining, everyone was outside. Two daffodils in my East-facing stoop pit were spring open. As I drove towards the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel WQXR had just racked up Vivaldi's "Gloria," sung by the San Francisco Girls' Chorus in the composer's original arrangement for his charges at Venice's Ospedale della Pieta. I cranked up the volume and sang along to this beloved music as I drove the familiar route up to my dad's. The sun shone in on my hands on the steering wheel. The recording was a bit too heavily reminiscent of boys' choirs but I appreciated the heck out of it all the same, channeling memories of my high school Glee Club as I navigated the curves of the West Side Highway. I liked the way this arrangement worked around the timbre of girls' voices – the tenor part was low and sweet instead of the high and thrilling quality in a male tenor's voice. I think there was even a particle of the bass line, mostly covered by the large string instruments in the orchestra but, in some cases, sung – so low in the girls' register that the effect was something like the bass pedal of a church organ, a vibration felt more than heard. And the altos – my tribe! – sounded out clear and strong, as though the sopranos were just icing on their cake. I kept driving around my old neighborhood until the piece finished, and as the final text of the final movement played, I was just passing the door of 164 West 79th Street, my first home. I gave it a wave of my hand, sang "In Gloria Dei Patris Amen," and continued on to my dad's, with the ingredients for Easter dinner packed carefully behind my seat. What a blessing to enjoy all at once a sunny Spring holiday, the reverberations of music I know and love in the marrow of my bones, and the satisfaction of driving back home with a feast readied to bloom in my father's kitchen.

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