Just when you thought that the Spring festivities were over, this weekend brings Greek Easter. Occasionally Greek Easter and Western Easter fall on the same day, but they can be up to a month apart. (Easter is a moveable feast in both the Eastern and Western churches, based on some complicated calculations involving the moon and ancient calendars: Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian calendar, while the Western church uses the Gregorian calendar.) We don't entirely understand the math there, but are psyched at another chance for lamb. And some galaktoboureko
or herb-y good hortoposomo
. So we turned to Jim Botsacos to find out what he is planning at New York City's Molyvos. He shared his plans and some recipes
Chef/Partner Botsacos has helmed the kitchen of Midtown’s Molyvos
since opening day in 1997 and calls his food — and his 2006 cookbook — “New Greek Cuisine.” “Part of what I do is very traditional,” he says, “like trying to re-create a stew that I had as a child. But I also want to bring a modern idea or taste.” And that applies to Easter as well.
"Right now we are in the period of Lent" explains Botsacos "where we are abstaining." And Orthodox abstaining is fairly fierce for the entire forty days. No meats, poultry, game, cheese, milk, eggs or fish with backbones. There are also restrictions on olive oil and wine consumption. So the breaking of the fast is big. "Saturday night after midnight mass, the breaking of the fast is equally important as the Easter Sunday meal" explains Botsacos. "It's an indulgence of all the things that you have been denied."
According to Botsacos the feast on both Saturday and Sunday involves taramosalata, "a salad course that celebrates spring, with arugula, spring onions, dill" and the temporarily banned olive oil, some kind of pie and some kind of lamb innards. Botsacos honors these traditions but makes some updates for the modern palate. "So often people do things out of tradition, not because they like it." He was never particularly fond of Magiritsa, the traditional lamb, lemon and egg soup. "The old way calls for cooking all of the offal for a long period of time in one liquid, which is really strong." he explains. Botsacos' new way is to cook everything separately. After making a white stock from the lamb's head "I blanche the intestines in water and lemon and cook the tripe in a sort of court bouillion. And then I add the innards after the avgolemono, so that it's all beautifully balanced."
He also swaps out the expected spanikopita or spinach pie for a crustless and herb-filled hortoposomo
— a mixture of dill, mint, scallions, wild spring greens, "with a little bit of salt, polenta, milk, butter, feta and kefalotyri." Check out Chef Botsacos's recipes here
and have yourself a Kalo Pascha!