Photos by Bruce Murray, VisionFire Studios
We moved into our Halifax home in late May a few years ago, just in time for the cherry tree to blossom outside our bedroom window. I have to admit, I didn’t know we had a cherry tree; the beautiful bones of the house, streaked with water damage, were top of mind when we bought the house earlier that winter. But that first morning, when I opened the wooden shutters of our unpacked bedroom, there it was, a few feet from my eyes: cherry branches coated in the palest pink blossoms, just about to burst. Beside the cherry tree, reaching toward me from the neighbour’s yard, was a magenta flowering crabapple tree. The two together made a gorgeous bouquet, right outside my window. A harbinger of spring.
Nova Scotians deserve these blossoms. We wait, patiently, as the country blooms from west to east, eventually reaching us after what feels like (a frozen, wet) forever. But deprivation breeds gratitude, I’d say. When your winter stretches into May, when the ice on the Northumberland Strait melts so slowly you wonder how the lobster season can ever begin, when the ground is wet with melting snow, we appreciate the tiniest signs of new life most.
We planted a flowering apple tree last fall behind our cottage, protected from the winter winds. The soil was hard and thick with clay. But we dug a hole big enough for the roots to stretch and grow, and filled it with rich soil. As of last week, our little tree is still there, its slender trunk standing tall, smiling smugly at the exposed tilted and windswept evergreens.
When the waiting gets too long, bring spring inside. Find some flowering branches and put them in water. The blossoms will come, a few weeks later, filling your space with the touch of pink we all need this time of year. Or bring a touch of pink to the table. The humble beet makes the most vibrant hummus, magenta-stained devilled eggs, and a natural dye for Easter eggs. This spread is the best sign of new life while we’re waiting for those blossoms to arrive.
Beetroot-Stained Deviled Eggs
Makes 16 devilled eggs
1 medium-sized beet, peeled and roughly chopped
750 ml (3 cups) water
250 ml (1 cup) apple cider vinegar
8 hard boiled eggs, peeled
4 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Cracked black pepper to taste
Microgreens to garnish (radish microgreens have a touch of pink)
Combine chopped beet, water and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Let simmer gently for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and leave to cool. When cool, transfer liquid, with chopped beets, to a bowl or large jar. Carefully drop peeled, hard-boiled eggs into liquid and place in the refrigerator for 3 hours, or overnight for a deeper colour.
When ready to serve, take eggs from liquid and gently pat dry with paper towel. Slice eggs in half lengthwise with a sharp knife, wiping the knife after slicing each egg. Carefully remove yolks with a small spoon and place in a mixing bowl.
This is where the recipe can be adapted to suit you – everyone has their own devilled egg recipe. But the basic route is to mash yolks with a fork, then add mayonnaise, mustard and pepper and mix well until everything is smooth. Spoon (or pipe) mixture back into the egg whites. Garnish with micro greens and serve.
Makes approximately 500ml (2 cups) hummus
1 medium cooled, roasted beet (leftover from last night’s dinner is ideal!)
1 x 398 ml (14oz) can chickpeas, drained
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (zest first, juice after)
Pinch sea salt
Cracked black pepper to taste
½ tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp tahini, stirred in jar before measuring
60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
Roughly chop beet and blend in a food processor until only small bits remain. Add remaining ingredients, except olive oil, and blend until smooth. With the motor running, add olive oil, more if necessary, until desired consistency. Taste, adding more salt and pepper if you’d like.
Serve with chopped vegetables, in sandwiches, mix with yolks for pink centered devilled eggs or serve with crackers. Hummus will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.
Beet-dyed Easter Eggs
Different vegetables, from onion skins to red cabbage, will create beautifully subtle, dyed eggs. Red beets will dye white-shelled eggs and gentle blush colour.
1 litre (4 cups) water
6 medium beets, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp white vinegar
12 white-shelled, hard boiled eggs
For textured, dyed eggs you’ll need:
Dill and or fennel fronds
Several pairs of drug-store panty hose
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add chopped beets and vinegar and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove beets from liquid using a strainer or a slotted spoon, discard, and leave liquid to cool slightly.
For smooth, evenly dyed eggs, lower eggs into liquid and leave to soak until desired colour is reached – anywhere from ten minutes or overnight in the refrigerator for a richer tone.
For a textured effect, wrap eggs in fennel or dill fronds then carefully wrap again with panty hose, tie tightly to secure the greens inside and cut off any excess. The ‘toe’ is easiest to work with, as you only have to tie once, but use what you have. Lower tied parcels into liquid and proceed as above.
Remove eggs from the dye after desired time and discard hose and greens, if using. Leave eggs to dry in an egg carton.