I love Easter. It’s my favorite holiday. It’s a blessed time for the faithful and an exciting time for children to enjoy Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, colorful baskets filled with goodies and sumptuous holiday spreads.
This year, I’m making mint, apricot and celery-stuffed lamb, but I’m always challenged by the side dishes. While baby spring vegetables are nice, I wanted something different, so I decided to make a wild rice casserole with dried fruit. That, plus fresh artichokes, will complete the meal, and dessert will be a delicate crème brulée, since I just want an excuse to use my new blow torch.
The wild rice casserole can be made with or without ham, as I explain in my [lightbox href=”http://youtu.be/3lneh0tSsBA”]TV segment[/lightbox] on FOX. I’ll be making it without the ham for Easter, but for those who bake a honey ham for dinner or Easter brunch, this recipe can be the perfect way to use your leftovers! It’s versatile and quick.
For the segment, I also prepared a mascarpone cheese ball with Bard Valley Medjool Dates – a lovely hors d’oeuvre served with crudité or crackers.
Below are the recipes for each dish. In the meantime, happy Easter! Happy Spring!
Medjool Date Ham and Wild Rice Casserole
1 c fresh Bard Valley Medjool Dates, pitted and chopped
4 c wild rice blend, cooked and chilled
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 T butter
1 t rosemary, finely chopped
1 T thyme, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2/3 c ham, cooked and diced
½ c dried apricots, diced
¾ t salt
½ t pepper
Cook wild rice blend according to package directions to yield 4 cups. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sauté onions and celery in butter on medium high heat for 4 – 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in rosemary and thyme and remove from heat. In a large bowl, combine cooked rice with onion-celery-herb mixture and add chopped Medjool Dates, apple, apricots and ham. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into a buttered 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes or until hot.
Nutty Medjool Date Cheese Ball
Serves 4 – 6
8 oz fresh Bard Valley Medjool Dates, pitted and minced
8 oz softened mascarpone cheese (or softened cream cheese)
2 oz pecans, minced and toasted
2 T fresh rosemary, minced
Mint leaves for garnish
Using a non-stick pan, toast the minced pecans over medium heat until they appear browned. Combine the cheese with ½ of the toasted, minced pecans and all of the Medjool dates and fresh rosemary. Mix well and form into a ball. Roll in remaining pecans, garnish with mint and serve with crackers or assorted raw vegetables.