As we enter into Greek [Christian] Orthodox Holy Week following the 40 days of fasting and prayer known as Great Lent, we become mindful of the passion of Christ during this very special and meaningful time of year.
Throughout this period of reflection, the discipline of abstaining from meat, fish, and dairy products strengthens the spirit and allows the heart and mind to focus on non-material things: the temptations of power, pride, and possessions. This process allows the faithful to travel the road Christ followed for 40 days and nights before being tempted by Satan.
Palm Sunday, symbolized by blessed palm crosses (left), welcomes Christ into Jerusalem and into our hearts. This day we share a meal of vegetables, legumes, beets, fish, and Skordalia (skor-da-liÁH, garlic sauce/dip) before entering a week of strict fasting.
But fasting isn’t the most important observance during this time. To quote a good friend and our priest, Rev. Father Elias Villis (Church of Our Saviour, Rye, NY), “It’s not necessarily what goes
into the mouth but rather what comes out of the mouth that is most important.” What good is it to fast and then gossip or be unkind?! Quoting another good friend and Pastoral Minister at our church, George Hazlaris, “Once we have changed our diet, we have to be careful to not be overfilling our stomachs.” Easier said than done…sometimes eating a meat-, fish-, and dairy-free diet can be challenging but for our cookbook we came up with many creative ways to make Lenten (Vegan) dishes by adapting some of Kukla’s traditional ones.
Wheat flour is a grain featured in Lagana, a Greek flat bread traditionally served on Clean Monday (the first day of Lent), that many now use to complement soups and stews throughout Lent and Holy Week.
2 to 2½ cups bread flour, divided, plus more for work surface
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup warm water, divided
1 packet active dry yeast (¼ ounce)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating
½ teaspoon salt
Sesame seeds, for topping
1. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour and the wheat flour. Make a well in the center and add ¼ cup warm water and the yeast, stirring together the yeast and water just until the yeast is dissolved (do not stir in the flour). Let stand 5 minutes.
2. Add the remaining ¾ cup water, the olive oil, and salt to the bowl and mix until combined well. Using hands, form into a dough (if too wet, add additional flour, as needed). On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and kneed 10 to 15 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
3. Coat a large bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly brush with olive oil. Kneed the dough for a couple of minutes, until deflated and smooth, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Gently stretch out the dough into an oval, about 12 by 8 inches, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Cover again and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
5. During the last 10 minutes of rising, arrange rack in center of the oven and heat to 375°F. Press fingertips into the dough to create dimples throughout. Lightly brush the dough with water or olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
6. Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 5 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe © copyright 2019 Kukla's Kouzina: A Gourmet Journey~Greek Island Style, kuklaskouzina.com
Holy Thursday evening presents the reading of the 12 gospels that recant the Passion of Christ.
On Good Friday evening the candle-bearing faithful exit the church during the Lamentation service and join the procession following the priest and the flower-laden kouvouklion (casket) of Christ—a magnificent sight that draws the attention of everyone within viewing distance.
Holy Week comes to a climax Holy Saturday evening just before midnight when the priest and congregation gather outside the church (weather permitting). At midnight the church bells ring in celebration of the resurrection of the Lord and “Xristos Anesti!” (Christ is risen!) is proclaimed by the priest, then a resounding “Alithos Anesti!” (Truly He is risen!) is the enthusiastic response from the congregation. This joyous exchange is ensued by the singing of the hymns of Odes and Praises of the Resurrection before reentering the church. After services, traditional Magiritsa (lamb’s-head soup), Avgolemono (egg-lemon soup), feta cheese, olives, and Tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) with red-dyed eggs (representing the blood of Christ and the Resurrection or rebirth), are served in the church’s hall. Some churches serve a full Pascha [Easter] meal!
Following the fasting comes the rejoicing and feasting on Pascha Sunday.
In lieu of a liturgy, we have a late morning Agape (Love) church service (during which the Gospel according to John is read in various languages)…that feeds the spirit!
At home, the scent of oregano-lemon roasted lamb and potatoes fills the air…and feeds the anxious belly, along with Tzatziki (cucumber-yogurt dip), Spanakopita (spinach pie), and Galaktomboureko (citrus-custard pita with syrup). A suitable celebration and a meal worth the wait!
Next week we’ll bring you photos of Holy Week church services and the foods from our upcoming Pascha banquet. Check us out on Pinterest for more photos of our foods!
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Kali orexi! Good appetite!
Greek Cheesefare Week
Lenten Cuisine~A Faith-Inspired Journey
Lenten Kouzina Made Easy
Greek Foods of Lent
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
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