The 30 Best Things to Cook This April
Welcome to April, a month that is always crossed with contradictions, but never more so than this year. It usually blows in chilly, but with the promise of sun, daffodils, and open farmers markets. This year my neighborhood is in bloom, but eerily quiet, as we keep to our homes and wait out the covid-19 crisis. What is there to do but cook? I think almost everyone I know is baking ferociously, but also getting a little weary of quarantine cooking.
So let’s start fresh today, with 30 ideas to occupy your hands and kitchen this month. From spring slow cooker chicken to pasta with a heap of greens, and breakfast deviled eggs to the best potato salad for spring, here are 30 ideas and recipes to help you look forward to cooking amidst the strangeness of now.
Every one of these ideas is broad(-ish) with a few specific recipes as options, depending on what you have and how you’re stocked right now.
Recipes for a Holiday at Home
April is a month of both fasting and feasting, as three of the world’s great religious traditions hold sacred celebrations. Passover, Easter, and the first week of Ramadan all fall in April. Obviously none of us will be celebrating with friends and family this year, but all the more reason to cling to the taste of traditions and make the food we love. So let’s kick off with some inspiration for the holidays you may be observing.
A whole ham!
Yes even if it’s just you, or two of you, or a little family of four. A classic honey baked Easter ham is a great thing to pick up this April (here’s our guide to buying ham). Glaze it, bake it, and then chop up all that meat you don’t eat for storage in the freezer. Parcel into containers or bags with just enough for breakfast casseroles, stir-fries, and other future cooking.
A rich, elaborate bread project
In case you haven’t noticed, everyone seems to be baking right now. Whether you gravitate towards the slow cultivation of sourdough bread or the quicker gratification of no-knead bread, this is the month to really go for it. Easter has a grand tradition of braided, beautiful breads, too; I will be making an enormous Czech-style houska for my little family next week.
A great Easter cake
No matter how you celebrate Easter, it’s a great excuse to bake a cake. Meghan our Associate Food Editor says. “We will be continuing the tradition of baking our annual bunny cake for Easter this year.” You can go all fluffy and cute with a retro classic angel food cake, or classy with our most foolproof bundt cake.
Matzo ball soup (for Passover and beyond!)
Not just for Passover! Matzo ball soup should be on your hit list these early, chilly days of April. The ultimate comfort food, and one that uses all your scraps and bits to make broth. If you want to level up, Leah Koenig’s shallot-shiitake matzo balls are one of my favorite things I’ve ever tested for the site.
Brisket (go with the slow cooker)
Look, I know you may already have a brisket recipe enshrined in family tradition. If so, ignore me. But for anyone on their own with brisket this year, may I suggest this slow cooker recipe, one of my all-time favorites (swap kosher for Passover tamari for the soy sauce).
Charoset, to sweeten
This nut and fruit mixture is an essential part of the Seder plate, but also a juicy and bright taste of Passover to those who celebrate. Make a double batch and, if you want to get wild, go Ben and Jerry’s and make ice cream with it.
Matzo brei for breakfast
The ultimate comfort breakfast food for the morning after Passover Seder and throughout Passover.
Biryani for breaking the fast
Ramadan starts on the evening of April 23 and in many cultures, biryani is a traditional dish for breaking the fast. Personally I would take any excuse to eat biryani and I especially recommend this Instant Pot lamb version from Urvashi Pitre.
Practical Dinners (But Make Them Spring)
While I plan to eat off my holiday projects for at least a week (and my Easter candy for a week after that!) April is also a time to refresh our recipe lists. Here are practical but still fresh ideas, that break with winter’s soups and chilis but still fit in your extra-busy shelter-at-home life.
Spring chicken (in the slow cooker!)
Kelli, our Associate Food Editor, loves this slow cooker chicken. “This slow cooker chicken is my absolute favorite dinner right now. I mean just look at it, between the artichokes, lemon, spinach, and white wine, it screams spring. The recipe calls for boneless chicken breasts, though I usually swap in boneless thighs.”
Soup, made luxurious with an egg
Spring soups need to take a break from heavy winter chilis and I love spring soups enriched with eggs instead of a lot of meat. Lauren Masur our Staff Writer especially loves Greek-style egg and lemon soup: “This is my favorite soup of all time when I’m feeling sick,” she says.
Hummus as a meal
Just a reminder: hummus can be the base of a fabulous dinner. It’s not just a dip, not just an a appetizer. Pile roasted vegetables and a little bit of leftover meat or cheese on a bowl of hummus and ta-da — a very savory, satisfying dinner. (Here are five more good ideas too.)
Dried beans, freshened up
There’s been such a run on beans during this nationwide shutdown; chances are good you have some in your pantry too and may be getting a little sick of them. But don’t give up on beans; they can transition beautifully to spring. I love this lemon and mint number, to start.
Fried rice, perked up with your leftovers
Fried rice is a fabulous way to use up little bits of leftovers; so much more than the sum of its parts.
Spring sheet pan dinners
Sheet pan dinners get a spring makeover with these three, one a spicy and garlicky shrimp and broccoli situation that Sheela says is still the favorite in her house. Or try a salmon dinner or this game-changing way to roast gnocchi.
Baked risotto (hands-off, all comfort)
Risotto is a go-to meal for us year-round but the simplicity and comfort of baked risotto is exactly what I want right now. These three really feel right for spring.
You’ve baked banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, and too many pans of brownies. Time to change it up! Start with the no-bake stuff then slowly work back into pies.
Rice Krispies treats (but fancy)
If this baking surge carries into April let’s all promise to take a short break and do a no-bake stint with these MOST amazing brown butter Rice Krispies treats.
Rice pudding for pure comfort
Rice pudding is so old-fashioned and so comforting. Kelli calls it out: “I find it impossible to go through April without making Laurie Colwin’s lemony rice pudding. It feels like an especially comforting dessert right now, and super practical since I currently have an abundance of rice in the pantry.”
Lemon pie, lemon cake, lemon…
I don’t know a more pure dose of sunshine than a Shaker lemon pie. Just layers and layers of lemon, sandwiched between flaky pie crusts. If you can get your hands on some lemons now, go for it (or another sunny lemon dessert).
Rhubarb (and strawberries) as soon as you can.
As Christine our Food Editor-at-Large says, “Anything with strawberries and rhubarb, because we all need a splash of happy colors right now to remind us that it’s spring.” As soon as you can get your hands on rhubarb and good strawberries, I suggest some of these bars (or torched marshmallow strawberries).
Brunch for Any Time
Brunch parties are on hold, but not your brunch favorites. Here’s a reminder to tap brunch ideas when you’re feeling tapped out — any time of day.
Breakfast buns (not just cinnamon)
Jesse, our Studio Food Editor says, “I’m hoping to make some homemade cinnamon rolls this weekend. It’s not something I make often, but I could use the project right now. Making the dough, kneading it, and waiting for it to rise is exactly the type of long form cooking project I am craving. And what’s more comforting than warm, homemade cinnamon rolls?” Hard agree, although cinnamon is only a start — try strawberry and lemon sticky buns too.
Quiche for any meal
Quiche from crustless to deep-dish: it’s always a good choice for an easy meal. It is make-head, better the second day, and can take in all your bits of leftover cooked veggies and extra cheese.
I love a good muffin; do you? Here are three to try for spring, including one savory option that is just such a good make-ahead breakfast.
Deviled eggs, breakfast-style
OK only the first one of these recipes is explicitly breakfast-style, but really: all that’s standing between you and any deviled egg for breakfast is you.
Pasta for Spring
Pasta can be glorious in any season but I think I love it most in spring, when its warm comfort supports and shows off any fresh green vegetable you throw into it.
Homemade pasta (a project!)
Lisa our Lifestyle Director is looking forward to a lot of homemade pasta this spring. “I’m going to make pasta from scratch! I always love it and complain that I never have time to do it.” Here’s how to tackle this really easy but rewarding project too.
Pasta plus a bunch of greens
Arie our Features Editor is on a pasta-with-greens kick (and wants to remind you of this month’s Cookbook Club pick): “I’m cooking my way through Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home (our April pick for Cookbook Club!) this month. The first thing on my list is this lemon fusilli with arugula (p. 120).” Here are a few other pastas that fit this easy, reliable template.
Pasta that’s stuffed and rolled
Sheela says she’ll be home learning how to make old-school manicotti, and it feels like the right time for a comforting pasta project like stuffed shells or easy rolled lasagna.
Something to Actually Look Forward to: Vegetables!
Last but most certainly not least: a rundown of all the vegetables we see again in April. I expect my farmers market to be closed due to physical distancing but the farmers there have been dropping off produce for home delivery. Maybe ones in your area are doing the same? Anything to get that fresh spring asparagus and other veggies. Here are ways to eat the ones I look forward to the most.
Yes you can simply cook a pound of asparagus and enjoy it piece by piece, but it’s also so good as a fresh inspiration for easy dinners, like this frittata and a bacon-loaded pasta.
Salad greens (with creamy dressing)
I want to eat heaps of greens this spring, whether that’s simple lettuce from the grocery store or something special from a CSA. You don’t need a ton of extras to make an enjoyable salad; just tear up a head of lettuce and add one of these dressings.
Potato salad is a great favorite in springtime and don’t overlook it as a way to pack in more greens and even serve as the base of a meal.
Ramps and green onions
Ramps are a classic sign of spring but they may be unavailable where you’re at this year. Amelia our Studio Food Editor says she is hoping to get her hands on them: “It’s the time of year that my favorite spring allium appears. I wonder if I’ll be able to get my hands on some this season? If I can then I will make all the ramp things!” If you can get your hands on them, try this pasta. If not, take a trip through green onions and go heavy on scallions for some fresh, light onion flavor this month.
What recipes are helping you right now? What are you looking forward to this spring?