Because Easter is such a beautiful time of renewal, we think it's pretty wonderful that it's often a holiday we can celebrate two times within a week or two.
That's because Greek Orthodox Easter usually falls on a different date than that of Western Easter or the Easter celebrated by Catholics and Protestants.
The Greek Easter is one marked with considerable celebration, and much festivity surrounds the preparation of special foods. In honor of this, and the long-standing local Greek community (you've surely been to the fantastic food festival each November at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Fort Worth), we rounded up some especially delightful Greek recipes.
These come from two new, beautiful cookbooks. Around a Greek Table by Katerina Katsarka Whitley (Lyons Press, $19.95) tells the story of Greek food through the liturgical seasons of the Eastern church, starting with Easter and ending with the Season of Lights, or Christmas. Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $35) is a heavy volume filled with a flavorful homage to cooking and cultural traditions.
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Both books will leave you weak with hunger from looking at the brilliant photography and reading the delicious stories.
These are sure to be family-pleasing.
Lemon and oregano lamb
"This is sooooo lemony," writes author Tessa Kiros. "It is also a dish that you can really leave in the oven and go out shopping for a while and hardly even think about the fact that you left something in the oven." The trick, she writes, is to keep turning the lamb while it is marinating, spooning some of the marinade over it occasionally, perhaps every hour or so. Use a large round or rectangular roasting pan. You may need to ask your butcher to hack the leg in one place to make it fit in your pan.
11/2 cups fresh lemon juice (6 to 7 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon dried oregano
11/2 cups water
3 pounds, 5 ounces leg of lamb, bone hacked in one place and hinged, so it fits in the dish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
23/4 pounds potatoes, cut into big chunks
1. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil and oregano with 11/2 cups of water in a large nonreactive baking dish.
2. Rub the lamb well all over with salt and black pepper and put it in the marinade. Turn it over a couple of times to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning it frequently throughout your waking hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Transfer lamb and marinade to a roasting pan and cover the lamb with a sheet of parchment paper, and then cover the pan tightly with 3 layers of
4. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the lamb over, cover again and reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Bake the lamb for an additional 2 hours.
5. Now turn the lamb gently, as it will be very tender. Add the potatoes to the dish and sprinkle a little salt over them. Cover again and bake for 2 hours, turning the potatoes once during this time.
6. Remove the foil, shuffle the potatoes and put back in the oven at 400 degrees. Roast until a little golden here and there, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the lamb rest for 5 minutes before serving.
-- 'Food From Many Greek Kitchens'
Fig and walnut salad
The Greek name for this dish is salata me syka. "For the majority of Greek Orthodox,
Great (or Holy) Saturday ends with the midnight church service, followed by soup,
bread and eggs. Sleep comes late, so the main Paschal meal arrives quite late on Easter Sunday, and it invariably includes lamb. Here tradition ends. All the additional dishes for the Paschal meal depend on regional and family customs. In my home, for instance, the Paschal meal came after Sunday morning worship, an early afternoon meal that was sufficient for the day. In this chapter I offer some supplementary choices for the Festal day before I come to the main act -- the lamb," writes author Katerina Katsarka Whitley.
For the salad:
1/2 cup walnut halves
10 Greek or Turkish dried figs
2 cups orange juice
Romaine lettuce and baby spinach
For the honey dressing:
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roast the walnuts on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.
2. Soak the figs in orange juice while you prepare the rest.
3. Wash, drain and arrange whole lettuce leaves on a salad platter, fanning them out. Overlay them with the darker green spinach. Arrange figs and walnuts on top.
4. In a bowl or jar, combine mustard and salt. Add oil, vinegar and honey, and mix well. Spoon over the salad before serving.
-- 'Around a Greek Table'
Almond cookies I
Called amygdalota, these "are like macaroons, and I don't know of another cookie that's as delicious and addictive," writes author Katerina Katsarka Whitley.
11/2 cups very finely ground white almonds
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg whites
36 blanched almond halves
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put ground almonds, sugar and egg whites in a food processor and pulse until well blended.
2. Place by the spoonful on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
3. Press half an almond in the middle of each.
4. Bake for 10 minutes. The cookies will be barely rosy on the edges, soft in the middle. If you bake them too long, they will be good but very crisp.
-- 'Around a Greek Table'