Easter is a big deal in Greece. The rituals and celebrations start on Good Friday (the Epitaphio), continue to Holy Saturday (Megalo Savato), and culminate in a lamb roasting, wine drinking, Lenten fast breaking party on Easter Sunday.
It makes perfect sense that food is so integral to celebrating the resurrection. Just as Christ has risen, our stomachs are being revived from the deprivation of Lent and the barren gardens of winter. Greek Easter feasts often take days to prepare and hours to eat. Not to worry—you can still make these traditional recipes even if you don't have the proper equipment to roast a whole lamb on a spit. Kalo Pascha! Christos Anesti!
To start, lay out an assortment of mezzes, or small plates. (Just be careful when you start eating them—this is where I always, always, overdo myself and leave little room for the main meal.) My favorites include dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice), marinated kalamata olives, and spanikopita (spinach stuffed phyllo pies). For cheese, try Manouri, a semi-soft, fresh white whey cheese made from goat or sheeps milk. The taste and texture resemble what would happen if feta and ricotta had a love child. Yum.
Kolokithokeftedes (Zucchini Fritters) with Tzatziki
Kolokithokeftedes is one of my go-to dinner dishes, but they're always a hit at a party. Eggs and feta make the fritters fluffy and creamy on the inside, while a turn in hot oil gives them a crispy crust on the outside. Served hot with a large dollop of cool, cucumbery tzaziki, these fritters are just heavenly.
Roasted Leg of Lamb
Lamb is the centerpiece of Greek Easter because it's symbolic as well as delicious: It represents Christ, the Lamb of God. At big gatherings, a whole baby lamb is traditionally roasted on a spit. For a home version, try infusing it with this lemon-thyme marinade then stuffing the skin with garlic and thyme. After a few hours in the oven, you'll have citrus- and herb-scented lamb that is tender, pink and juicy.
Lemon Thyme Potatoes
These potatoes replicate the flavors of the lamb: bright lemon and earthy thyme. Use the smallest baby potatoes possible and not just because they're cute—the small surface area ensures that the lemon juice will caramelize on the skin.
These cookies are traditionally made in large batches around Easter time to be shared with guests. A little dry and not too sweet, they are much closer to Italian biscotti than American drop cookies. They have a hint of orange and pair perfectly with a cup of strong coffee and maybe some spoon sweets. A note on the shape: I made them in an S because I think that's the perfect dunking shape, but other versions are made in rings or figure-eights.
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