13 April 2011

Greek Easter Dinner

Disclaimer: I have never hosted Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter.  Our home, my parents' home, and my husband's parents' home form an equilateral triangle whose sides are ten miles.  I have never made a meal (besides breakfast) for those holidays.  So, no, I have not made the following menu, although I have made the individual dishes separately. (And they are all yummy; my 2-year-old, 3-year-old, and picky husband have not complained.) 

To expand this disclaimer, I probably actually do ( and/or complete) only 20% of the activities I suggest on this blog (if you already haven't figured this out from the lack of photos I post).  So hopefully a poor reader out there isn't feeling guilty because she isn't coloring every single coloring page with her kids.  I'm blogging because I want to start compiling a curricula now, while my kids are very small, and because I want to hear what you all do!  Hopefully, by the time my older children are 6 or 7, I'll have all the Church Year activities anyone could hope for on this blog (or maybe even in organized print!).

This menu is taken from A Return to Sunday Dinner by Russell Cronkhite.  Although some of the author's essays are corny, I highly recommend this cookbook.  It offers 15 or so regional/ethnic Sunday dinner plans and recipes, with tips for how to have it ready to serve by mid-afternoon, with minimum morning prep.  (Key: LOTS of prep on Friday and Saturday).

Salad of Spinach, Cucumber and Radish with Lemon Yogurt Dressing

2 8-ounce bags baby spinach leaves
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
8 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Thoroughly rinse the spinach leaves in cold water to refresh them and discard any tough stems or wilted leaves.  Shake the spinach dry in a colander covered with a clean tea towel or in a salad spinner.  Toss with the sliced cucumbers, radishes and green onions.  Refrigerate in a salad bowl covered with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap.

2 cloves garlic
1/2 t. coarse salt
1 t. sugar
2 T. lemon juice
1 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. fresh chopped dill
1 T. fresh chopped parsley

Combine the garlic cloves in a small mixing bowl with the salt and sugar; use a fork to mash them into a paste.  Whisk in the lemon juice and the yogurt; then slowly whisk in the olive oil until blended.

Just before serving, add the fresh chopped dill and parsley to the salad and lightly toss together with the dressing.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Roasted Red-Skinned Potatoes

[note: most of my Church Year recipe books note that a variety of Easter bread, NOT potatoes, is traditional.  Everyone was tired of eating potatoes all winter/Lent.]

Have your butcher bone out the leg of lamb keeping the shank attached and trimming away any excess fat, and then butterfly it for easy preparation.

1 lb. leg of lamb, butterflied
6 whole cloves of garlic
Pinch of coarse salt
2 T. fresh chopped rosemary
1/2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. packed fresh mint leaves
2 T. cracked peppercorns
2 lemons, halves, seeds removed
1/4 c. olive oil
Coarse salt to season

1. Place the lamb cut side up on a clean work surface.  Sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of salt in a small mixing bowl and use a fork to mash the garlic to a paste; spread the mashed garlic evenly over the inside of the lamb and sprinkle with half of the chopped rosemary.  Lay the basil and mint leaves over the rosemary, then roll the lamb leg back into its natural shape.

2. Tie the lamb securely with kitchen twine, knotting it every two inches, then tie lengthwise. Rub the remaining rosemary and the cracked peppercorns into the exterior surface of the lamb.  Squeezed the halved lemons over the lamb and drizzle with the olive oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and marinate overnight or for up to 24 hours.

3. Adjust the lower rack near the bottom of the oven, leaving enough room on the top rack for the veggie casserole.  Remove the lamb from the refrigerator.  Sprinkle it with coarse salt and allow it to rest for 45 minutes at room temperature. (Note: now is a good time to grill the vegetables for the casserole.)

4. Place the lamb in a shallow roasting pan and transfer to a 450F oven.  Roast the lamb for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325F and cook for 1 hour longer.  The roast will be rare at this point.


2 lbs. small red-skinned potatoes
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 T. fresh chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the potatoes in half and toss them with the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary in a mixing bowl.  After the lamb has roasted for 1 hour, scatter the potatoes around the roasting pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and continue baking with the roast until the meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the lamb reaches 140F (about 20-25 minutes).  Remove the lamb from the pan and place it on a clean cutting board.  Allow it to rest 15 minutes before slicing.

2. Increase the oven temperature to 400F and spread the potatoes evenly in the bottom of the roasting pan.  Return the potatoes to the oven and let them continue baking until they are fully cooked and nicely browned, 15-20 minutes.

Carefully cut away the kitchen twine.  Hold the lamb at the shank end and evenly slice the meat witha sharp carving knife.  Transfer the shank to a warm platter and fan the slices out from the shank across the middle of the platter.  Scatter the potatoes around the meat; if desired, garnish the platter with fresh herbs.  Pour the juices from the pan and the cutting board over the meat and potatoes.

Grilled Zucchini with Eggplant, Feta and Tomatoes

[I've never made this dish in April (or March, for that matter); who in the Midwest has eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes at Easter?! Who in the entire United States?  If I use this menu in the future, I will probably substitute an asparagus dish. But here it is. I have made versions of this many times in August, and it is really yummy.]

4 medium zucchini
2 medium onions
2 medium eggplants
1/4 c. olive oil
Coarse salt

1. Trim the  zucchini ends and cut lengthwise into 1/3" thick slices.  Peel the onions and cut into 1/3" thick slices.  Hold at room temperature while you prepare the eggplant.

2. Use a sharp knife to cut the stem and ends off each eggplant; then peel and cut lengthwise into 1/2" thick slices.  Sprinkle the eggplant slices with coarse salt and place in a colander for 30 minutes to drain the bitter juices; then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.  Brush the slices of zucchini, onion and eggplant with olive oil and season with salt.

3. Grill the vegetables directly over high heat, turning them once: 6-8 minutes for the eggplant, 4-5 minutes for the onion, and 2-3 minutes for the zucchini; or lay the vegetables on lightly oiled baking sheets, turn your oven heat to high and broil.

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. diced onion
4 c. peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes
2 t. fresh chopped mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 c. crumbled feta cheese

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute the garlic and onion until translucent, 2-3 minutes.  Toss in the tomatoes and simmer until the liquid is reduced, 4-5 minutes. Add in the chopped mint leaves, season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Arrange the grilled eggplant on the bottom of a lightly oiled 13x9-inch casserole, followed by the onion and then the zucchini.  Cover with 1 1/3 cups of the crumbled feta and lace the dish with the tomato topping.  Place the casserole in the oven at the same time that you add the potatoes to the lamb roast; bake at 325F for 20-25 minutes.  Increase the temperature to 400F, sprinkle the top of the casserole with the remaining 2/3 c. feta and continue baking 10-15 minutes.

Rustic Village Bread

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water
1 T. honey
1 T. olive oil
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1 c. water, room temperature
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. bread flour
1/2 c. wheat germ
1/2 t. coarse salt

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand 1 minute.  Then stir with a wooden spoon until it is dissolved.

Whisk the honey, olive oil and yogurt together in a mixing bowl until blended; whisk in the additional 1 cup of water and the dissolved yeast.  Use a wooden spoon to stir in the whole wheat flour and 1/2 c. of the bread flour; continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and elastic, about 200 strokes.  The dough will now have the consistency of a thick batter.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Cover with a clean towel and set until the dough is bubbly and has doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours. 

3. Whisk the remaining bread flour together with the wheat germ and salt in a separate bowl.  Use an electric mixture fitted with a dough hook to slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the bubbly dough, adding in extra flour as needed, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball.  Knead on low speed for about 8 minutes--the dough should be densely textured and stiff enough to hold its shape. [I just knead this bread as I do other yeast breads; I don't use a mixture.  This recipe also does well in a bread maker.]

4. Let rise again in an oiled bowl, about an hour.

5. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 1 minute.  Shape into a smooth ball. Flatten the ball into a 7-inch round loaf and score a 1/4" deep cross on the top.  Brush with a little water.  Cover the loaf with a clean towel and let rise for 45 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 400F.  Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Transfer the loaf to a pizza stone or a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal and bake for 30-35 minutes.  When it is done, the bread will have a dark brown crust and sound hollow when tapped at the bottom.

Orange-Soaked Honey Walnut Cake

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. fresh white bread crumbs
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
4 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. honey
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 c. fresh orange juice
1 c. finely ground walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F

Combine flour and bread crumbs with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl; whisk together thoroughly.

Combine the egg whites with the cream of tartar in a separate bowl.  Beat the whites using an electric mixer and clean, dry beaters until they hold their peaks and are stiff, but not dry.

Combine the oil, sugar and honey in an electric mixer fitted with a balloon whisk; blend on medium speed until the sugar and honey are dissolved.  Then blend in the egg yolks.  Fit the electric mixer with a paddle attachments and slowly add the dry ingredients in 3 batches alternately with the orange juice, mixing just enough after each addition to blend the ingredients.  Then use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the beaten egg whites, followed by the ground walnuts.

Spoon the batter into a lightly greased and floured 10-inch bundt pan.  Bake until a wooden pick comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Turn out on a cooling rack and let it cool 20-30 minutes.

3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 cinnamon stick
2 T. honey
3/4 c. fresh orange juice
Zest of one orange

Mix the sugar into the water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the cinnamon stick, honey, orange juice and zest.  Turn the heat down and simmer until the liquid reduces to 1 cup, about 20 minutes.  Discard the cinnamon stick. 

Brush the warm cake with the syrup until all is absorbed. 

"Time-saving" schedule
Saturday: bake the cake and soak with syrup.  Marinate the lamb. Bake the bread.  Prepare the salad dressing and refrigerate.  Prepare and grill the vegetables for the casserole (refrigerate in well-sealed containers). Because what else do you have to do on Holy Saturday?
Sunday morning: Prepare the salad vegetables and refrigerate.  Assemble the veggie casserole.
Right when you get home from church: cook the casserole, lamb, and potatoes. Toss the salad.

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