Easter 2009

I hope you all had a Happy Easter or Passover. Here in Florida, the season is in full swing. I had an enjoyable Easter weekend (save my visit to the ER to get a sliver removed from my eye but that’s another story).

My family hasn’t had many home based traditions around Easter. Normally we have gone out for a brunch at The Four Seasons or somewhere nice and enjoyed the company of friends. This year, I took the morning off and went for a walk in Jupiter, Fl at the “dog beach”. It was a fun way to start the day. I saw every shape and size of dog and every shape and size of human. The economy has not slowed down the tourist season here.

We had Easter dinner at Tramonti in Delray Beach (http://tramontidelray.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1 ). The restaurant was recommended to me by a New Yorker I met at a wine tasting several months ago. Since then, 3 other New Yorkers gave it high ratings as the best NY Italian Restaurant in the area. They have a sister restaurant, Angelo’s in Little Italy.

The place was a zoo but the food was fabulous. I had the Papparadelle Campagnole, Wide ribbon pasta, wild mushrooms and garlic in a light cherry tomato sauce. My mother and her friend had the Scaloppini Sorrentina, Veal topped with prosciutto, eggplant and melted mozzarella over a bed of spinach. My mother had hers without the eggplant. Each was enough for two meals and they loved the dinner. We sat on the Patio overlooking Atlantic Avenue. It was a beautiful evening and great for people watching.

My family background is Albanian and the traditions around Easter are similar to those of the Greeks. Many Albanians are members of the Greek Orthodox Church and share in the food and traditions of the season.The Greek Orthodox observe periods of fasting (restricted foods) followed by a post midnight meal to break the fast. I am not Greek Orthodox, but I love Greek food, so for the season I often make a few Greek/Albanian dishes to celebrate.

The past couple of years I have spent the holiday with my friend Jill. She has supplied the main dish and I have brought what she terms my “Albanian Salad”. An “ Albanian Salad” is a combination of either fresh Spinach or Head lettuce, Black Olives (Kalamata are traditional but sometimes I prefer the American Black Olives), Cucumber slices, Red Onion slices(optional), Avocado, Feta Cheese and toasted Pine nuts or Walnuts and some dried dill (or fresh) and a bit of garlic salt or powder . The dressing is simply fresh squeezed Lemon juice and good quality Extra Virgin Olive oil. The secret to the dressing is first mixing the olive oil with the salad ingredients to coat them, and then adding the fresh juice of a lemon. If you coat the ingredients first, you don’t have to use a great deal of olive oil. When I make 2 servings I only use about 1 ½ tablespoons of oil and the juice of ½ a lemon.

There are many varieties of Feta Cheese. I prefer the Greek Feta. In Dallas, I bought it at the Mediterranean Market at Beltline and Preston. The cheese is creamy, not dry and delicious.
Many people prefer the milder French Feta. Bulgarian Feta is my second favorite, but more difficult to find. There is also Turkish feta, but if you are standing next to a Greek customer, I wouldn’t recommend you let them know you have chosen Turkish Feta. They won’t have a high opinion of you and you might actually feel like a traitor (at least that was my experience!).Vigo makes a good store bought Feta. I had trouble finding it in Dallas. In Florida it is available at Publix. You can also buy it from Zingerman’s Deli and according to them, true Feta must be made mostly from Sheep’s Milk (http://www.zingermansdeli.com/content/pages/foodnews/2008/may/foodnews_bettafetaangles.php )
My other self imposed tradition is to make Stuffed Grape Leaves. I am a bit late making it this year, but since Greek Easter is a week after ours, I have bought the ingredients to make in time for Greek Easter. I will try and share the recipe and my experience next post.

Since this is the first post with the new focus, you will find that my tastes tend toward Mediterranean, Asian and American foods. Seafood, vegetables and vegetarian fare will be the most discussed foods, but I am not beyond throwing in some Meat related recipes for my carnivore friends. I try to keep the food choices healthy, but not always low fat. Everything in moderation and don’t forget to exercise!!
Until next week…

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