You've met my friend Pauline a few blog posts before. The other day, before we got down to business on one of our nearly daily phone calls, she told me that she and her husband would be celebrating Greek Easter "à deux" for the first time since they've had kids...no visiting parents, no kids, who are away at college, no trip to Greece to visit family, just the two of them. Not that time as a couple isn't nice, but what do you cook for two on a Greek Easter Sunday when all you've ever learned to make is a big lamb and huge batches of soup and veggies and cookies and bread?! It made me realize that so much of Greek cooking as we've learned it is about cooking large. Yet we still should be able to enjoy the flavors and traditions on a smaller scale, whether we're empty nesters or on our own or just sharing with a friend. So I immediately told Pauline my three shortcuts for a proper Greek Easter meal - try these if you'd like to save some time without compromising taste and tradition.
Traditionally on Easter Sunday, Greeks eat lamb...a whole lamb to be precise, roasted on a spit for hours by the entire extended family (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you're getting close). The lamb is usually accompanied by pans of roasted potatoes and fresh green seasonal salads with lots of lemon juice that is perfect to help you digest. There are a lot of other delicacies to be nibbled on throughout the day while waiting for the lamb to roast (you can read more about traditional Greek appetizers in our tips for a few mezé on another blog post). Red Easter eggs are cracked in a friendly competition, and tsouréki brioche-type Easter bread and koulourákia orange-butter cookies have already filled us up from the morning.
There are other traditional foods for the day, depending on the area, but the lamb is the real protagonist. So my first shortcut stays with lamb, but switching to chops, since even a leg of lamb can be too much for a couple. My lamb chops use aromatic Greek herbs & spices and I pair them with an easy, mini-youvétsi, a baked pasta dish with orzo and traditionally a meat-based sauce. I add a nice green salad, my favorite really, to help offset that rich lamb. If after all this you're still up for desert, try a little dish of one of our exceptional Citrus spoon sweets...they're wonderful on top of refreshing Greek yogurt, too, just in case you still want to help that digestion ;-)
This is based on a recipe my mom gave me many, many years ago. She had read in a popular Greek magazine at the time about mixing herbs and spices with mustard and oil and decided to try it. It became my favorite lamb recipes ever since and I've passed it on to so many people who asked for it after trying it at my home. I realized that Sparoza's Cooking Blend with Orange Zest has many of the same ingredients so I thought I'd try it as a time-saver...and the dish came out even better! I'm sharing the recipe for lamb chops but you can double or triple the rub and use it with a whole lamb leg, slow-roasting it in the oven for a mouth-watering, tender result.
2 tbsp fresh or dry thyme
1 clove of garlic
2 tsp mustard
2 lbs (6-8) lamb chops
Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Mix together the olive oil, cooking blend and garlic in a bowl. Salt and pepper generously the lamb chops. Brush the chops with the mustard first, then sprinkle plenty of the rub. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake for about 15-20 minutes.
I love this "lazy" recipe for an easy youvetsi that takes half the time of the traditional recipe but is still tasty and flavorful. You can prepare the pasta before you put the chops in the oven and then pop both baking dishes in your oven for 10-15 minutes while you chop the salad.
1 cup Agrozimi egg and milk orzo (or spelt for an even more easily digestible dish)
1/2 a jar Elli & Manos Tomato and Thyme Greek Flavor Burst
1/2 cup shredded hard cheese (I use Greek kefalotiri or graviera but parmesan or grana will also do)
Follow the instructions to cook the orzo. Once ready, put aside 1 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta. Put the orzo in a small baking dish and mix with the tomato & thyme sauce. Add the cooking water and give it another stir (how much will really depend on the consistency you want). Top with the cheese and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese has melted and has a nice golden color and the cheese.
Keep the extra tomato and thyme sauce, I will share in another blog post how to make a tomato jelly that pairs wonderfully with white cheeses (goat, ricotta, feta) and crackers!
There is nothing like fresh spring greens to offset a rich lamb meal!
1-2 heads of romaine lettuces (depending on the size)
1 bunch of fresh dill
1 bunch of fresh green onions/scallions
Wash and pat dry with paper towels the lettuce leaves. Align the leaves in small batches and slice thinly. Slice thinly the scallions. Chop the dill. Combine all the chopped greens in a large bowl. Add salt, the extra virgin olive oil and the juice of at least one lemon, keeping in mind that the salad should have a fresh, flavorful taste.
Enjoy this adaptation of Greek Easter and share in the comments your own short cuts to festive recipes!
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