Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter

In between snowstorms and rain falling from sullen grey skies, the sky became clear enough on Wednesday evening for me to see the full moon, meaning that Easter was just around the corner. I had thought about it a little bit about a month ago when Ann first brought up doing lamb again for Easter. I thought about it for about five minutes, long enough to scratch out a menu on my clipboard—yes, in this digital world, this particular dinosaur's personal assistant is a clipboard—and then promptly forgot about it until I saw the full moon.

I don't know why, but it somehow seemed fitting to do a little Greek food for Easter this year. I just had a hankering for some honest, home-cooked Greek food with no shortcuts. So I set about this menu on Good Friday by getting my pita dough started and then prepped most of the dinner on Saturday during the day, and what little was left over à la minute on Sunday.

Tom and Ann Matthes joined us for dinner. We had expected Ann's parents but her dad, Bob, was not feeling well. We missed them.

Mezés
Olives
Pita
Taramosalata
Marinated Cucumbers
Dolmades

Dinner
Arni Lemonato (Slow-Roasted Lamb)
Roasted Potatoes
Horta: Spinach Braised with Onions and Dill

Dessert
Orange Salad with Pistachios, Candied Pine Nuts, Feta, Mint, and Olive Oil
Cheeses

Dolmades and Marinated Cucumbers

Top to Bottom: Tzatziki, Olives, Taramosalata
I made tzatziki from really awesome goat milk yogurt and traditional taramosalata from bread, tarama, olive oil, grated onion, and lemon juice. I wish that my tarama (mullet roe, bottarga) had a more pronounced fishy flavor, but it was still good.

Ed-made Pita
As I mentioned earlier, I started pita dough on Friday to let it ferment through several rises to develop flavor. Then I baked several sheet trays of it on Saturday and rewarmed it in the oven on Sunday. I make pita from the exact same dough that I make focaccia and pizza dough. And I make naan from the same dough, substituting yogurt for the olive oil.

Arni Lemonato me Patates, Horta
For the lamb this year, I decided to go with shanks because they are my favorite cut, but I decided to do something different: slow roast them. For whatever reason, I have always braised them in the past. I cut 5-6 slits in each shank and inserted a sliver of garlic, rubbed them with olive oil, and gave them a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, then roasted them in a very hot oven for about 20 minutes, turning once, until they were browned all the way around. I squeezed a couple lemons over the shanks and sprinkled them with oregano, then added about four ounces of water to the bottom of the roasting pan and double-wrapped it in foil. The shanks cooked in a slow oven for an additional two and a half hours.

I scored some pretty Kennebec potatoes at the farmers market and they got roasted in a very hot convection oven until crispy done. The star of the plate was the horta, the greens, which I only wilted instead of braising. I only used spinach this time because Ann is a bit iffy on other greens and I wanted her to enjoy them. I sweated a finely diced onion in olive oil with several slivered cloves of garlic, then added the spinach and just wilted it. Into the pan next went a little feta cheese, fresh dill, and the first tiny mint leaves of the year from the garden. A quick season with salt and pepper and we had a fabulous side dish.

Tom's Cheeses: Gouda, Detroit Street Brick, Gorgonzola, Cabot Cheddar
Tom and Ann brought cheese for dessert. The orange gouda and the goat brick, I've already discussed in a prior post. The cheese in the front right is Cabot's (yes, the same people who make so-so block grocery store cheese) Clothbound Cheddar, that has been aged by affineurs in Vermont for a minimum of 13 months. Really, really delicious Cheddar that even the Brits would be forced, albeit most grudgingly, to admit is worthy. The hit of the day for me though was the Gorgonzola Naturale, just above the Cheddar in the photo. The texture is just so damned creamy and perfect on this particular wheel of cheese. Splendid!

Blood Orange Salad
No doubt we all know by now that I just don't care for sweets for dessert, though I do have a fondness for fruit. So I made a salad of sliced blood oranges and then tossed chunks of blood oranges with olives and feta and put that over the sliced oranges. I drizzled this with honey and extra virgin olive oil then sprinkled it with salt, pistachios, candied pine nuts, and the cutest, tiniest baby mint leaves from the garden.

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