Forget the Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps and chocolate bunnies. Spring is all about lamb, phyllo, feta and more lamb.
Did I mention lamb?
This Sunday was Ryan and my 2nd annual Greek Easter celebration with our (obviously) Greek friend and his family. The party was at his house in Yonkers, N.Y., which got me pumped for two reasons: 1. I'd finally be able to see his outdoor brick oven in action and 2. His mom would be there with one of my favorite versions of spanakopita.
I'm slowly picking up on Greek Easter traditions—including learning my first Greek phrase, "Christos anesti," which means "Christ is risen." (The response is "Alithos anesti," or "He has risen indeed.") Every person who walks in the door is greeted this way.
There's also the tradition of tsougrisma, where each person receives a hardboiled, dyed egg and taps it against another's; the player with the uncracked egg continues. The last person remaining without a broken shell is declared winner and will have good luck the rest of the year. (For the record, I didn't win—this year or last.)
Not surprisingly, all the food was delicious. The roast lamb, artichokes and lemon potatoes were the centerpiece, surrounded by spanakopita, cheese pie (tiropita), moussaka, roasted chicken, two salads, Easter bread, Greek-style sliders, and on and on. I contributed non-Greek dishes, including a fresh ricotta and smashed pea spread with crostini (thanks to my good friend and fellow culinary grad, Amanda) as well as a shaved asparagus, aged gouda and hazelnut salad with lemon-honey vinaigrette.
Of course, a boatload of desserts followed the gut-busting dinner. I had to laugh when a tray of Greek cookies was accented with a few electric yellow Peeps and foil-wrapped eggs—a little bit of American tradition tossed into the mix.
The feast was not unlike the holidays I grew up celebrating in that it was huge. Leftovers abounded, and every guest took home a 9 x 13 aluminum pan full of food. Ryan and I have been eating Greek all week. I even made a hearty ragu with the leftover lamb and artichokes, adding some diced tomatoes, onions, red wine and other herbs and spices, then topping it with a mound of ricotta cheese (thank you, chef Andrew Carmellini, for the inspiration).
A-tisket, a-tasket, next year I want lamb in my Easter basket.