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Orthodox Easter means delicious treats - and lots of meat

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Orthodox Easter means delicious treats - and lots of meat BY ROSEMARY BLACK Friday, April 4th 2008, 4:00 AM After abstaining from milk, eggs and meat for the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4 7:44 AM
      Orthodox Easter means delicious treats - and lots of meat


      Friday, April 4th 2008, 4:00 AM

      After abstaining from milk, eggs and meat for the last six weeks,
      Orthodox Christians are more than ready for a rich, protein-heavy
      feast. And Greek Easter, which falls this year on Sunday, April 27,
      doesn't disappoint. Red-dyed eggs baked into a braided loaf of bread,
      spit-roasted, herb-perfumed baby lamb, and assorted vegetables will
      be on the dinner table. A traditional soup made with lamb innards
      often is served around 2am on Easter Sunday, after the midnight church service.

      "After not having any protein for 40 days, your body is not used to
      getting a lot of meat," says Gregory Zapantis, executive chef at
      Kellari Taverna in midtown. "The soup is served after midnight and it
      gives you the opportunity to prepare your system for the next day,
      when you'll be eating lamb and other rich foods."

      The Greek Easter menu is festive and filled with spring flavors:
      Besides the lamb and the red eggs, there is a dill-scented green
      salad, a slightly sweet bread called tsoureki and for dessert, Easter
      cookies called koulourakia.

      While non-Greeks may have misgivings about eating magiritsa, the
      Easter soup, because it contains lamb innards, it's worth sampling,
      Henderson says.

      "It is actually very good," he says. "The sauce is thickened with
      cornstarch, and it has a nice lemon flavor." If you'd like to eat
      Greek Easter dinner in a restaurant, the following are offering
      specials. And if you'd like to celebrate at home, check out the recipes below.

      Persephone, 115 East 60th between Lexington and Park Aves. (212)
      339-8363. The $60 prix fixe menu includes magiritsa and roasted baby
      lamb with mushroom fricassee. It's served at midnight on Saturday and
      also on Sunday.

      Periyali, 35 West 20th St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves; (212)
      463-7890. www.periyali.com. The same deal as at Persephone.

      Kellari Taverna, 19 West 44th St. (212) 221-0144. The $60 prix fixe
      menu includes the roasted baby lamb with lemony potatoes and magiritsa.

      Christos Steakhouse, 41-08 23d Ave., Astoria; (718) 777-8400.
      www.christossteakhouse.com. An a la carte menu with roasted baby lamb
      as an option.

      Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)
      Makes 2 loaves

      From Gregory Zapantis, executive chef/owner of Kellari Taverna. The
      eggs are baked right into the braided dough in this beautiful loaf.
      Dunk 4 hardboiled eggs in cranberry juice for a few minutes or dye
      with an egg coloring kit.

      1 cup milk
      4-1/2 to 5-1/2 cups flour, divided
      3/4 cup sugar
      1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
      3 eggs
      1 egg yolk
      2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/2 cup butter, softened
      2 teaspoons vanilla extract
      2 tablespoons orange juice

      Slowly heat milk in a small saucepan until very warm. Pour into the
      workbowl of an electric mixer. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar and
      yeast. Beat well. Remove bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let stand
      in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

      Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

      Fit mixer with a dough hook and beat the eggs, one at a time, into
      the yeast mixture. Add 1 cup of flour, zest and salt; add the
      softened butter, vanilla and orange juice. Mix well, then slowly add
      remaining flour to form a soft dough that is sticky and smooth.

      Remove dough from bowl and knead it into a ball.

      Coat a large bowl with vegetable oil and place the dough ball into
      the bowl. Rotate the dough so that it is lightly coated with oil.
      Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise to double its size, about 1 1/2 hours.

      Make 2 straight braid loaves by first dividing the dough in half,
      then dividing each half into thirds. Roll each of these thirds into a
      long rope and make a straight braid, tucking the ends under. Make a
      second braided loaf with remaining dough. Tuck the colored eggs into
      the braids.

      Cover the prepared bread with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel
      and let rise in a warm, draft-free place once again, until doubled in
      size, about 1 1/2 hours.

      Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water. Brush loaves with egg mixture
      and bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for about
      20 minutes more, or until golden brown and hollow sounding when
      thumped. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing
      to a wire rack to cool completely.

      Magiritsa (Greek Easter Soup)
      Serves 6-8

      Served after the late-night church service, this is a lamb- based
      soup. This version, from Gregory Zapantis, uses lamb shanks.

      2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds lamb shanks (about 2 shanks)
      3 tablespoons olive oil
      12 cups water
      2 teaspoons salt
      1/8 teaspoon sugar
      1 large onion, peeled and quartered
      6 scallions, chopped
      2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
      1 fennel bulb (including leaves), chopped
      6 sprigs fresh dill, chopped fine
      6 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped fine
      1 cup uncooked rice
      4 eggs
      Juice of 4 lemons
      Freshly ground black pepper

      In a large cast iron pot, brown the shanks in olive oil over medium
      heat for about 15 minutes. Add water, salt, sugar, onion and scallions.

      Simmer for 5 hours. Remove the shanks and debone them. Add the meat
      back to the pot. Add the carrots, fennel, dill, parsley and rice.

      Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

      Right before serving, mix the eggs and lemon juice until frothy.
      Slowly add 1/2 cup of the hot soup stock to the egg mixture. Pour
      this back into the soup as you stir. Season with pepper to taste.

      Koulourakia (Easter Cookies)
      Makes about 8 dozen cookies

      From James Henderson, executive chef at Persephone. This makes a lot
      of cookies, which freeze well. If you decide to halve the recipe, you
      can simply leave out the egg yolk, says Henderson.

      2 1/2 pounds softened butter
      4 cups sugar
      1/2 cup brandy
      1 egg yolk
      15 cups flour
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      1 cup orange juice
      Zest of 3 oranges

      Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 baking sheets.

      Form portions of dough (about 2 tablespoons each) and roll into
      small, thin strips. Criss-cross the strips together.

      Place on baking sheets. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.

      Maroulosalata (Romaine Salad)
      Serves 6

      From James Henderson, executive chef at Persephone.

      3 romaine hearts, washed and dried
      4 scallions, washed
      1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, washed
      3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
      Juice of 3 lemons
      Salt and pepper

      Finely chop the romaine hearts and remove the cores. Chop the
      scallions on a slight bias. Combine romaine, scallions and dill. Toss
      with olive oil and lemon juice. Add pinches of salt and pepper as
      needed. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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