Orthodox Easter means delicious treats - and lots of meat
- 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 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,
"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
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
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)
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
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)
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.