I happily married a Greek man and enthusiastically learned to cook many foods that are close
to his soul. “Greek Easter” is one holiday, for my husband’s family, that provides for very little creativity or alteration of recipes. TRADITION is devoutly adhered to for the Orthodox Easter meal. We have roasted leg of lamb, roasted lemon potatoes, green beans stewed in tomato, Greek salad, bread, feta, kalamata olives and salonika peppers.
Dessert is baklava.
At some point around the meal, we all grab a hard-boiled red-dyed egg and tap them together one at a time. Whomever ends with an uncracked egg, receives good fortune for the following year.
For the lamb, we roast a bone-in leg (this can be too much lamb for a small group and in those years, we purchase boneless). We make small slits all over the lamb and insert slices of garlic. Then, we rub the lamb with olive oil and sprinkle it with pepper, salt and oregano. (Sometimes, if no one is looking, I add rosemary.) Pop this roast into a 350 degree oven and cook until medium to medium rare. Consult the internet or a cookbook for the anticipated cooking time based on weight.
The roasted potatoes are made with bakers peeled and sliced lengthwise into even thick pieces – maybe 6-8 pieces per potato. Rinse well in cold water and dry. Place potatoes in a baking dish and add olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon-zest and lemon juice. Mix well and place in the oven along with the lamb. Bake until crispy edges and creamy insides. Some add the potatoes directly to the pan the lamb is roasting in rather than in a separate pan. I prefer the cleaner taste of cooking in two pans, but the other way is also good. Cooking time is about an hour.
I prepare the green beans using fresh beans. Saute a bit of onion in olive oil. Add the cleaned green beans with a few pieces of sliced carrots and saute. Add a can of whole tomatoes, a dash of cinnamon, oregano, salt and pepper and allow to stew until the beans are soft.
A Greek salad is lettuce, cucumber, red onion, tomato, green pepper and Greek dressing. My favorite dressing is 1 unit olive oil, 1 unit red wine vinegar, the juice of ½ lemon, salt, pepper, dash of dijon mustard, oregano, mint and minced garlic. Place all ingredients in a jar and shake like crazy. Leave on the counter and shake it every time you walk by! Serve feta, kalamata olives and salonika peppers on the side.
Buy your bread. Look for Easter bread – it will have a red egg baked into the braid. A good Italian bread with a soft center is a good alternative.
Good sources, locally, for ingredients are: Sofo’s (5400 Monroe St.), Middle East Market (4625 W. Bancroft) and Ali’s Market (3240 Sylvania Ave.)
Baklava is an entire article by itself. I will invite my daughter, our Baklava maker, to share her recipe at a later date. Her’s is “the best”. Meanwhile, I suggest you purchase some from the above stores.
This year, Greek Easter is on May 2. You do not have to be Greek to make and enjoy this wonderful, tradition-filled meal.