This Easter season, enjoy traditional Greek Easter dishes featured in Katerina Katsarka Whitley’s new cookbook, “Around a Greek Table: Recipes and Stories Arranged According to the Liturgical Seasons of the Eastern Church.”
Whitley, born a Protestant in Thessaloniki, Greece, shares the flavors and memories of her childhood with 100 unique recipes, arranged and categorized in accordance with the Orthodox church’s liturgical calendar: Easter, the seasons of Pentecost, Advent and Epiphany.
“I have used the liturgical calendar as a frame because it has an order that appeals to me and that has affected Greek cooking for generations,” Whitley explains in her introduction. “As a writer of recipes, I am singling out not the many fasting periods of the church, but the many feast days and the seasons that follow them” (p. xiv).
“Around a Greek Table” interweaves recipes with Whitley’s memories of growing up surrounded by a Greek Orthodox community, stories of her family, and interesting facts about Greek mythology, Greek culture, and Greek history.
The first chapter focuses on Easter Day – and although many Christian churches celebrated Easter several Sundays ago, there is still time to enjoy these recipes in celebration of Greek Orthodox Easter, which falls on May 5, this year. Eleven dishes are featured for Easter Day, and a complete menu is also provided for planning a Paschal meal: Easter bread (tsouréki) , Easter soup (mayirítsa), fig and walnut salad (saláta me sýka), oven-baked lamb with potatoes (arní toú foúrnou), and green peas in sauce (arakás me sáltsa), with fresh fruit, coffee and baklavá for dessert.
The second chapter, “The Easter Season,” includes popular Greek dishes such as flaming cheese (saganáki), grape leaves with rice filling (dolmadhákia), meatballs (keftedhákia), and spinach with rice (spanakórizo).
Although presenting traditional Greek recipes, Whitley offers her own methods of preparation: “In this collection of recipes, you will find ways to cook vegetables as the Greeks have done for generations, but with my own adaptations for a light diet that is both delicious and beneficial” (p. 29), she explains.
The dishes are beautifully photographed by Jasmin Hejazi, and the writing is easy to follow and understand, even for inexperienced cooks (such as myself; my mother and I had a wonderful evening trying out some of the recipes and cooking a memorable Greek meal together).
Whether you begin with the traditional Easter dishes or skip straight to the moussaká, “Around a Greek Table” offers a delicious way to explore the liturgical calendar.
— Sarah Johnson is a writer and editor for the Office of Communication of the Episcopal Church.