Monday, April 28, 2008

Greek Easter at TableTalkPortland

It was Greek Easter this weekend, and although Michelle's and my dreams of a goat roast in the backyard did not come true, we still managed to hoop it up Orthodox style. Okay, sort of Orthodox style. All right, all right, we didn't follow all Orthodox traditions, but it was still an amazing evening!

I arrived at Michelle's at roughly 8 pm, only to find her and Mom looking a little sleepy after an afternoon spent lounging in the sun at a sidewalk table at the Bagdad. This was unacceptable! "Where is your Greek Easter spirit!" I howled. Michelle and Mom just just sipped their Greek coffee and looked at me disconsolately. Finally, Michelle put her apron on and we got down to business.

The Family Cookbook came out next, even though I'm not supposed to tell you that because Michelle likes to pretend she's allergic to recipes.

Mom made me a cup of Greek coffee (aka Turkish coffee) in a tiny Greek coffee cup. You must sip it carefully as the grounds are a half inch thick at the bottom and nobody wants a mouthful of that. Besides, the grounds need to be left undisturbed so that when you are finished, you can turn it upside down and let the final drops slide slowly down the side of the cup, drawing your fortune. We read my fortune, which consisted of three symbols: a cactus, a sexy man, and a flaming heart. So, apparently my true love lives in the desert or something. Great.

"I'm going home," I said grumpily. "This party is lame."

"You can't," Michelle said bossily. "You have to dye the eggs while I make sweet Easter bread."

"Fine," I said, "But I shall require a snack."

So, we ate Dave's Killer Sprouted Wheat Bread with fresh Noris organic butter from Farmer's Market. Yum!

Michelle began to mix the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest together with the yeast mixture and flour to make the bread.

But the crappy IKEA whisk broke.

So Michelle had to use her hands, while I added the flower in two-cup increments.

What a team, Sis! High five! Down low! Whoops!

Meanwhile, Mom played around with the green garlic and the leg of lamb.

Michelle took over, jabbing the suspiciously frozen-in-the-middle sounding lamb with a knife and pressing bits of green garlic into its flesh, then rubbing it with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary from her garden, and sprinkling it with lemon juice. "It's not frozen! It's not frozen!" she kept hollering. I said a little prayer for our lamb to thaw. Mom read Michelle's Greek coffee fortune, which depicted the spitting image of Michelle with an animal standing behind her rather menacingly. A frozen lamb, probably.

I set about dying the eggs red. Later, these eggs would be used in hotly contested Egg Wars.

The bread dough was ready, so we punched it down, divided it into two loaves, and Michelle and I each began to roll out and braid a loaf.

I really should learn how to turn these photos around.

We finished. My loaf was so beautiful I nearly wept. My loaf was so beautiful Michelle nearly wept too. Her loaf was a little homely.

While the bread rose again and the lamb thawed, I mean, rested, we went to Easter Mass at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral at NE Glisan and NE 32nd. It was a beautiful service, but the chanting and humming made me sleepy. We all lit candles and paraded outside into the sultry evening, dripping wax all over our shoes and trying not to light each other's hair on fire. "It happens every year," Michelle promised. I eyed her mistrustfully. After all, a woman's hair is her crown, as they say, and I needed all the help I could get if I was going to land that desert-dwelling flaming heart guy Mom saw in my coffee grounds fortune.

After the lovely ceremony, we returned home to find the bread risen and lustrous. My bread was still incredibly beautiful, while Michelle's desperately tried to cover itself with a kitchen towel to hide its shame.

My bread is still the most beautiful, even after having a red egg stuck into the center.

After he got off work, brother Elias Cairo, executive chef of Castagna Restaurant on SE Hawthorne ( joined the crowd, along with his girlfriend Anella. A Cubs apron was donned and the kitchen activity kicked up a few notches.

What a lovely salad, Jen! Fresh Portland Farmer's Market green leaf lettuce and arugula, a fat tomato and a hefty sprinkling of Michelle's favorite Bulgarian feta from the Greek store.

The Red Egg Wars, a fun Greek Easter tradition, began in earnest. Anella's egg must have been filled with the holy spirit, because it cracked every single other red egg in the house.

The bread is done! Mine continues to be the most spectacular!

Michelle boiled the fresh spaghetti, procured from PastaWorks on SE Hawthorne ( and began making the Greek spaghetti.

Basically, you brown a shedload of butter, then layer cooked spaghetti, grated hard Greek cheese, and brown butter on a platter, creating--a pasta miracle.

The lamb came out of the oven, and Mom tested the juices with a piece of Easter bread. They were pronounced delicious.

Elias sliced the lamb. He said it's a little overdone. Michelle began overturning tables in a fit of Greek rage!

In an attempt to restore kitchen comraderie, Michelle, Mom and Elias did a shot of Mavrodaphne, a very sweet red Greek wine, with a little Easter bread crumbled in it for good luck.

Anella poured a rich 1996 Rioja that was a perfect complement to the lamb, while Elias arranged the dishes around the festive table.

We commenced eating at 3 am. The storytelling began. What a magnificent meal! We don't stop eating until the sun was nearly visible on the horizon. Michelle wanted to go jogging up Mt. Tabor, but we talked her out of it.
Eeek! I woke up at 8:30 am, got off the sofa, took one look at Michelle's dining room table and kitchen, and hightailed it home!

Backyard goat roast or not, this was the best Greek Easter ever!!


1 comment:

  1. Dear Sis,
    I forgot to say that I tried some of your bread, and although it was certainly not the prettiest bread, it had a great personality.