Easter is around the corner and if you watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you learned some very important things:
#1 Lamb is vegetarian.
#2 The origin of the word kimono is Greek.
#3 Easter is a REALLY big deal.
At a recent meeting of the hens, the topic of conversation somehow steered toward sweets (probably my fault). One of the girls said something to the other in Greek, then turned to me, nodding knowlingly as if I had a clue – I’m Armenian and don’t speak a lick of Greek over here. Then, she said one very long word. The fact that I could neither spell nor pronounce it did not stop me, of course. There I was, typing away frantically on my phone, desperately seeking a recipe for whatever this dessert was that she absolutely loves, but can not have because it is just too difficult to make. Too difficult? We shall see about that.
As my friends moved on to some other topic of conversation about the neighbour’s husband’s brother’s cat (by now, I was really not paying attention), I was singing Galaktoboureko in my mind and scouring the internet for the stuff. It sure looked good, but the recipe had to be authentic, so it had to come from a Greek. After doing some research, I found a clip showing how to make this Galaktoboureko. Maybe it was the hostess’s funky hairdo and cute dress or her confidence and smile that had me convinced she has the best recipe in town
Now, to be clear, for Greeks to deem anything too difficult means that it is truly a pain in the derrière for even the French to fathom. Everyone knows French recipes are often either elegantly simple or painstakingly difficult. My experience with Greek cuisine is quite limited, but from what I have attempted, I would say that Greek recipes rank up there with the Arabic and French for mouthwatering, but complicated.
Case in point: Pastitsio, the Greek interpretation of lasagne crowned with Béchamel sauce. Their sweets, on the other hand, are typically not as involved. Only a handful of ingredients, tossed together, drenched in luscious syrup.
Greek kitchens are buzzing with activity this time of year. There is so much to do. Big, elaborate recipes from ancient times are revived. This not to say that we Armenians do anything simple, either. We insist on baking a special Easter cake called Paska. This seemingly plain cake with a hint of orange favour is actually a fuss to make. Look the wrong way and it instantly deflates. This year, I decided to start my own Easter tradition with my grandmother’s Nazook (buttery streusel-stuffed cookies) and Greek Galaktoboureko. After learning to spell it, pronounce it and make it, I risked death at the hands of the Greek gods with a few changes to the original recipe. This luscious phyllo custard pie got a crunchy foundation of cinnamon, brown sugar and crushed pecans and a crown of orange marmalade. Hopefully, the Greek pantheon will forgive me.
Baklava Fans, hold on to your hats, because galaktoboureko is going to rock your world. The first time I made it was for Mom’s birthday and found a mob outside my window, demanding some. Despite the lengthy instructions and seemingly difficult technique, it was actually fun to make, especially with the help of my li’l blue-eyed beauty. Neither the pecan streusel nor marmalade are authentic to the original recipe, but provide a nice crunch in texture and more punch of the orange flavour to this very unusual dessert. This Easter, go Greek!