Greek Easter 2013

Today is Orthodox Easter, which includes the Greeks, Russians and a good deal of other eastern Christian religions.

Every year my sister holds Easter at her house, where she roasts a lamb on a spit out back, and we eat pretty much every Greek dish imaginable.

GreekEaster-spread

Somehow, I’ve become responsible for making the pastitsio every year. It’s my favorite, and a bit of a pain to make – not that it’s terribly difficult (if you’re familiar with making a bechamel sauce), but it leaves a mess in your kitchen. It’s basically a pasta casserole – with long bucatini pasta, ground beef and tomato sauce (seasoned with nutmeg and parsley), and then a bechamel sauce (made with parmesan and romano) poured over the entire thing and baked.

My pastitsio.

My pastitsio.

lamb

Here’s the lamb, that was particularly juice today. My American friends don’t always like lamb, but we grew up on it, and I love it.

shish-kabob

Souvlaki, or shish kabob. I didn’t have any, I was too stuffed on the other food.

loukaniko

Loukaniko, which is a wonderful Greek sausage, with a very particular flavor and spicing. The name, I just learned, derives from the ancient Roman sausage, Lucanica. It’s wonderful. You spray lemon juice on it at the end. Yummy!

spanakopita

Spanakopita. Another dish I sometimes make for Easter, this one I didn’t make. Basically layers of phyllo dough with a spinach, egg, feta cheese mix in the inside.

magiritsa

Magiritsa. I refuse to eat it. It’s a lamb soup made from all the stuff you throw away from the lamb before you roast it, including intestines, heart and liver. Yeah, no thanks.

The all-important cracking of the eggs.  Basically, you hold one end of your egg up against some one's and you crack them together.  Whoever's egg doesn't crack then moves on to the next person, and the competition starts again.  You continue until one egg is left, and I suspect that person has good luck for the year.

The all-important cracking of the eggs. Basically, you hold one end of your egg up against some one’s and you crack them together. Whoever’s egg doesn’t crack then moves on to the next person, and the competition starts again. You continue until one egg is left, and I suspect that person has good luck for the year.  My nephew, top egg, broke mine :(

sasha-out-back

Sasha enjoying her day in the suburban sun before dinner.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • emjayay

    But what about molecular cuisine using vacuums and blow torches and liquid nitrogen?

  • emjayay

    Cardamom used to be priced like other spices but there seems to be a worldwide cardamom crisis or something and now it’s super expensive. Look for the seeds, not preground, and grind them in a mortar and pestle or rotary grinder with each use. The remaining ones will last forever. Besides seed type spices like allspice and nutmeg are far better freshly ground.

  • emjayay

    What four hours and no comments? And I thought it was such an inspirational Greek Easter food based story. I wore a yellow button down shirt and a skinny Madras tie and we went for a walk in Golden Gate Park afterwards.

  • emjayay

    Food is way more fun than thinking about Tea Partiers and income distribution and the one per cent and stupid ignorant know nothing low to no information Americans all that shit

  • emjayay

    I’m not sure I’ve used the spray actually, but all that brushing on that delicate dough is a pain. I have used butter. Worse for you than olive oil, but not that bad and it’s not that much. Olive oil for health and authenticity, butter for buttery goodness. Not totally convinced myself with the dipping bread in olive oil with balsamic vineger floating on it vs. spread of unsalted butter. But with experience any new food concept gets better. Not sure I liked olive oil at all at first, being from a Germanic buttery background.

  • Zorba

    Yes, you certainly could. (But the olive oil spray? Ugh!)
    However, bad as it is for you, the butter makes it really, really tasty. ;-)

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    I don’t know John, I think holidays, food and pets are winning the day over politics. I so identified with Sasha waiting and waiting for all that delicious food wafting in the air.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Jewish challah bread—-that’s what I’m thinking of! Cardamom —we use that wonderful spice quite often in sweets, especially custards,puddings and fruit pastries.. It’s elegant.

  • emjayay

    John, you must not chicken out on the Magiritsa. Every traditional culture has found ways to use all the parts of the animal for something. Please readjust your thinking on this next year, or invite me.

  • emjayay

    One time for Easter I made a coffee cake which I remember as being Greek from a SF Chronicle recipe. I don’t think the recipe included a picture. You taped two one pound coffee cans together stacked up with both ends removed from the top one and one end from the bottom one, making a cylinder. It was back when coffee cans had a can openable lid on each end, not that pull off foil thing they have on top now. The coffee cake was a typical yeast recipe with candied fruit or raisins or nuts or something like that inside. Maybe all three. (Not the important point.) When it was done you got it out of the can cylinder by removing the bottom of the lower can if you had to and pushing it out, and drizzled the typical confectioner’s sugar icing on top and running down the sides, serving it upright. When it came out of the oven it had risen to actually touching the top of the oven, with the dough billowing above the can cylinder like a typical loaf of bread billows out of the pan.

    I had no idea what I had until it was done. Use your imagination. Easter is really a fertility festival.

  • emjayay

    Thanks for the technique. Or you could use olive oil, being Mediteranean and all. Or if no one is looking, and you have no standards at all and want to save even more time, olive oil spray.

  • Zorba

    Not really. Italian pizzagaina is more like an actual pie, with meat and cheese. Tsoureki is a sweet bread with eggs, very similar to Jewish challah bread. It is braided, like challah, and one or two dyed red eggs are tucked into the top braids. Tsoureki has some spices not seen in challah, however. Machlepi, masticha, and cardamom. At least, the way my family makes it.

  • Zorba

    We’ll be waiting, K.! Although it certainly sounds like John and his sister have things well in hand for Greek Easter. Maybe we should all descend upon them!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    That pastitsio is making my mouth water!

  • Zorba

    Alithos Anesti.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “Lovely braided bread, with red eggs tucked into the braids” Don’t the Italians make something like that called Pizza Gain.?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Yuuuuum. I’m coming to your house next Easter.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    OMG, village, Afghan lamb pilaf is sooooo delicious.

  • Mike

    Christos anesti!

  • Zorba

    Or, those friends are not of Middle Eastern origins. ;-)

  • Zorba

    I put cinnamon and cloves in my pastitsio, but not a whole heck of a lot. But I do know Greeks who don’t use either.
    And tsoureki, of course that needs to be there! Lovely braided bread, with red eggs tucked into the braids. Pain in the rear to make, though, especially when you’re making all the other dishes. ;-)

  • Zorba

    My great-grandmother, my grandmother, her sisters, and my mother all made spanakopita in a pan, except when expecting a lot of company, especially for buffet type dinners or parties, when they made the triangles. As you suggest, they are easier to eat while standing.
    I almost always make the pan, and haven’t made the triangles in years. However, for “party” situations, I now do make them in sort of small, thin egg roll shapes. Goes a whole lot faster than making the triangles.
    You take two sheets of the smaller phyllo (the more or less 9 by 13 size). Stack them, brushing each with butter. Cut them across the width into three pieces, each a bit over 4 inches wide. Put a little filling across the bottom (the narrow part), not quite to the edges. Roll up like egg rolls, folding in the edges as you roll. Place in pan, seam side down, and brush the tops and sides with butter. Make as many as you want. Bake until golden.
    Just as easy to eat as the triangles, and tons faster to make. They look sort of like Turkish sigara boregi, the cigar-shaped cheese-filled pastries.

  • Zorba

    John, for pity’s sake, can’t you get kefalotyri? Much better, and more traditional, than Parmesan and Romano. I use grated kefalotyri, plus I add a little grated aged myzithra.
    And bucatini? No, no, no. Misko Macaroni No. 3.
    What are you, Greek or Italian? ;-)

  • emjayay

    Those American friends who don’t like lamb are obviously not anglophile types. And/or are unfamiliar with the joys of nyc halal food carts.

  • emjayay

    Hmmm, spanakopita in a sheet instead of individual triangle envelopes. I’ll have to remember that major time-saver for this sort of event. On the other hand, the individual triangle envelope technique is good for standing around drinking and snacking situations.

  • Miro

    Wait a minute! Where’s the Tsoureki??? …. and no cinnamon or cloves in your Pastitsia?

  • benb

    Souvlaki in Athens…I was 25..a lamb-eating virgin. Holy Crap! 15 years later…bbq’d octopus on a beach on S. Crete…yeow! The best eats, I found, come from ancient recipes handed down through the culture…lots of trial and error and only the best ideas get passed on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/monoceros.forth Monoceros Forth

    I’d definitely give that magiritsa a try. All the cast-off bits are where the flavor is!

  • http://www.facebook.com/KevinJ1966 Kevin Johnston

    Mmm-good. I love lamb, could never eat it when my late wife was at home though.

  • pappyvet

    yummy !

  • UncleBucky

    O Feliz Cinco de Πάσχα!

    :)

  • UncleBucky

    Do you allow take-away bags? ;o)

    Someone there is a wonderful cook!

  • SarahMoon

    Happy Easter lamb is traditional in my home on Easter, though it was ham growing up. Lamb is delicious, but I like things with flavor.

  • d3clark

    What evil pictures to post at this time of night without giving your sister’s address.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    WOW! Happy Easter!

  • drdick52

    Makes me hungry just looking at it. I do miss Greek Town in Chicago.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Or as a greek friend just wrote, Happy Cinco de Pasxa :)

  • Jim Olson

    Καλό Πάσχα!

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