Hristos Anesti (Christ Has Risen)!
I would like to wish all of my Greek family, friends, philHellenes who celebrated Easter yesterday. I hope your day was filled with many fond memories, that the Gods blessed you with some good Spring weather and the banquet of Easter delights exceeded all your expectations.
Despite the gloomy forecast for a cool Easter Sunday, I woke up to find the crisp, cool morning to bloom into a breezy Sunday afternoon…it was a glorious day for Greek Easter.
About a week ago my family decided to opt-out of doing the usual “whole roast lamb on spit”. Our reasons were two-fold:
- The forecast from over a week ago was for cool weather for Easter. Half of the joy of Easter Sunday is sitting outside, watching the lamb’s progress, sipping some libations, nibbling on appetizers and picking off some the crispy lamb skin in anticipation of the finished product. The weather forecast was pretty accurate and although yesterday was gorgeous, it was a little crisp for that Greek Easter outdoor experience.
- We didn’t have the numbers to justify ordering and roasting a whole lamb. Yesterday, we were 6 in total. Although we all adore lamb, we also don’t want to eat lamb leftovers all week!
The solution and inspiration came from my visit to the island of Naxos last year where I saw a taverna that roasted whole legs of lamb on the rotisserie. Prior to seeing this, I was under the assumption that a leg of lamb could only be spit-roasted if it were de-boned.
Last week when I ordered and purchased my lamb, I relayed my desired method of roasting lamb to the fellas at Kostas Meat Market and their solution was to take a “long-cut” of a lamb leg, crack the the lower leg and shank portion, pull it back and tie it securely to the thigh (meaty part of the leg).
This method ensures a more even roasting of the meat and less of a chance of your leg of lamb falling off the spit. With Kostas’ method, the rod/spit simply passses through the middle of the leg of lamb between the lower and upper part of the tied leg. I was instantly sold on the idea and as you can see for yourself…the lamb was juicy, well done (Greeks eat lamb well done) and the meat rendered to a flaky, pulled-pork kind of consistency.
My mom’s contribution was an Arni (lamb) Lemonato. The lamb shanks were browned and then they were place in the oven (covered) with some, stock and aromatized with wine, lemon juice lemon verbena and lemon thyme. The sauce was finished off with some dry Greek oregano and having lamb “two-ways” just added to the “festival” feel of our Easter table.
The lamb is the showcase at the Easter table but lots of work (if not more) goes into the preparation and delivery of all the appetizers/mezedes that are consumed through the course of the day.
This year was a case of something old, something new. Some dishes/appetizers I don’t play with much and others had some neat twists. One appetizer was a new introduction to our Easter feast and from the look and tasty result of it…it will likely become a fixture at future Easter tables.
Without further adieu, here comes the parade of food from yesterday’s Greek feast at the Kalofagas household. I wish you all could be there…I’ll be posting recipes and further details on each of the dishes.
Sit back, scroll down, salivate, anticipate and hopefully I’ll satiate your appetite for Greek food!
Anytime you’re at your favourite Greek restaurant, an array of dips are usually ordered. Dips & spreads also feature prominently at the table of a Greek family.
Some Taramasalata, a fish roe spread that’s whipped with oil, roe, onions, soaked bread was a carryover from Lent that was still scooped up with bread.
Tzatziki had to be included for Easter. Not only is it good with bread but it’s an excellent accompaniment to lamb.
Another favourite of my family’s and a specialty from Thessaloniki is Htipiti. It’s also known as “tyrokafteri” in other parts of Greece. It’s a dip made of roasted hot & sweet peppers with mashed Feta, myzithra (ricotta) and some extra-virgin olive oil.
A personal of mine is Melitzanosalata or, eggplant salad. I’m a stickler when it comes to this salad. I prefer the smokey flavour the eggplant gets when it’s placed right on white-hot charcoal…imparting a warm, smoky flavour.
All these dips are nothing without some good bread to scoop them with and place directly into our waiting mouths. I baked some fresh bread, using the master recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes. If you haven’t got the book yet, what are you waiting for?
There’s quite a bit of time between when guests arrive and when the main attraction – the lamb is ready for the dinner.
More meats are prepared and given out through the afternoon as mezedes or appetizers. This first dish is a delicacy especially enjoyed during Easter Sunday, it’s sweetbreads. These particular sweetbreads are from the calf and I gently poached, then grilled them and brushed on a ladolemono (oil & lemon sauce) infused with fresh sage. Sweetbreads and sage are perfect match!
Next up is kokoretsi…another Greek Easter time classic. Kokoretsi usually appears in a larger form on the spit. It contains an array of lamb’s organ meat, some sweet breads and wrapped in yards and yards of lamb’s intestines. Here, I made some individual skewered kokoretsi that were every bit as good as the larger, usual version.
Finally, this next meze is a first for my Easter table but it definitely will not be the first. An avid reader of my blog, Leonard Bardoutsos wrote to me and suggested I try out “Splinandero” or litterally translated as “spleen intestine”. This is usually made by coarsely chopping an array of offal similar to that of Kokoretsi, marinating it and stuffing it into the large intestine of a sheep or lamb.
Such intestine is harder to find here so I improvised and used some sausage casings I had in the freezer. The result? A suprisingly delicious meze that had very little taste of liver or organ meat. Upon cutting slices of Splinandero, I was met with a cross-section of the different meats lookin like a mosaic of offal. Thank you Leonard…Splinandero will be appearing at future Easters!
By now, you can kinda’ tell Easter is all about the meat – which is fine. After a long period of Lent…us Greeks have alot of catching up to do with meats. However, we still have some vegetables and greens appearing at the table.
World-famous and oft’ requested by family, friends and readers of my blog are roasted potatoes. Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of Greek oregano turned potatoes into magic. Blast the combo in a pre-heated oven and you should getting something that looks like this.
Since I had the grill going, I simply tossed some asparagus in some oil, salt, pepper and garlic pepper and grilled them. A squeeze of lemon juice and some sea salt are all that are needed for this delicious veggie.
This salad comes from the latest edition of Gastronomos and it was a pleasant surprise for everyone. Mixed greens get tossed in a warm dressing of honey, mustard, balsamic vinegar with a topping of toasted pine nuts. I want this salad now!
For dessert, we went with something old, something new. A Greek baklava containing chopped walnuts and almonds gets layered in sheets of buttered phyllo and then a syrup is poured over to give the baklava that syrupy moistness and crisp phyllo textural contrast.
Finally, I also served a creme brulee infused with the flavours of vanilla and mastic. When the cream was simmering, the aromas already told this was going to be real good. The creme brulee also gave me the opportunity to use my new kitchen torch. How do I do?
That was my Easter from yesterday. I hope you enjoyed the culinary ride. It’s one of, if not my favourite celebration day as a Greek. Let me know what stands out for you, what recipes you would like to see.
In the coming days, I’ll be posting links and recipes to the old and new dishes I have prepared. Happy Easter!
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