Sunday, May 5, 2013

Food & Friends: Easter in the Mountains + Some Unexpected Offal

With a couple of weeks delay compared to all other Christian nations, we the Orthodox (read the Greeks and the Serbs) are finally ready to celebrate Easter. We the Orthodox (read the Greeks and the Serbs) still operate according to the Julian calendar, and still calculate the timing of the full moon or the vernal equinox according to the Julian calendar. You surely remember that in the year 325, the Council of Nicaea established that the date of Easter would be the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox, don't you? The Council was not in a position to specify which calendar to apply, hence we the Orthodox (read the Greeks and the Sers), with our outdated calendar, trail the other Christians by up to five weeks.

I always welcomed the opportunity to celebrate two Christmases. Getting presents two times was priceless, until Dr. V saw through my passionate love for the holiday and discontinued the tradition. And even while I enjoyed the privilege of double gifting immensely, nothing could really beat the cheerfulness of the Easter Sunday. And today, when a small group of us Orthodox souls gathered in Master Achilles's Lake Placid lodge to celebrate, turn some lamb on a spit and fight the egg battles, the spirit of Easter was all around us. The sky was brilliant, the lake glittering, the air peaceful.

Nobody celebrates this holiday quite like the Greeks. They are the masters of Easter, the gurus of lamb roasting, with their infinite enthusiasm and patience for never ending turning of the spit. 

Another thing I quite like about my Greek friends is that they hate offal. Almost everyone hates offal. I come from the lands where every part of animal is used, cherished, and prepared with a lot of love and knowledge. Offal is mighty fine with me. Hereby in this post, I express enormous gratitude to the offal-hating people and the spirits of Easter who gifted me today with the cutest pair of lamb kidneys, tiny, shiny and fresh. Only once in a blue moon I manage to acquire a food item as precious as a pair of fresh lamb kidneys. And when such miracle happens, the little guys receive the utmost respect and nothing else but royal treatment. Usually, it means the simplest possible preparation, accompanied by the very best ingredients. Instead of a milk soak, they get a bath in a marinade of olive oil, balsamic and fresh herbs. They then meet the grill for a perfectly timed moment; long enough to acquire a beautiful char on the outside, yet short enough to remain tender and pink in the center. That’s about all the cooking that happens, and on the plate they go! No fancy sauces, just a generous sprinkle of Maldon crystals and black pepper. And with a slice of freshest baguette on the side, this is my idea of Easter heaven.

Grilled Lamb Kidneys With Crispy Sage

* 2 lamb kidneys 
* 4 – 5 tbsp good quality olive oil 
* 2 tbsp finely minced sage, plus another 16 or so leaves for garnish 
* 2 tsp aged balsamic vinegar 
* 4 tbsp frying oil 
* Maldon salt (or your personal favorite) and freshly ground pepper. 

1. Clean the kidneys from the fat and membranes attached to them. Cut the kidneys in half lengthwise, and gently remove ureter, the white tissue in the center. (Even if you have never done it before, no worries, it will be immediately obvious. You will need a sharp knife though, to avoid damaging the precious little ones.)

2. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, minced sage and balsamic. Place the kidney halves in the marinade and marinate for about two hours.

3. In a small pan, over medium heat, heat the frying oil until very hot but not smoking. Fry 6–8 sage leaves at a time until crisp, for about 5-10 seconds. Using a fork, transfer the leaves to paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt.

4. Preheat the grill (griddle, grill pan or cast iron pan). Remove the kidney halves from the marinade and place them on the grill. Grill about a minute or two per side. (This will depend on the size of the kidneys, the grill/pan, etc., but make sure not to overcook them, or they will be dry and rubbery. The end product should be wonderfully charred on the outside and medium rare inside.)

5. Place each half on a plate, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, garnish with fried sage leaves and serve immediately.

Serves 4


  1. Ok, not related to food, but got me confused here. Aren't Greeks following Gregorian calendar??

    1. You are correct, the Greek Orthodox church follows Gregorian calendar (and hence they celebrate Christmas with the Western Christian churches), but they use the formula of the Eastern Orthodox churches to calculate the date for Easter. The two churches vary on the definition of the vernal equinox and the definition of the full moon, which are both used to calculate the date of Easter.

  2. Thank you for clearing this up!! Even Google was wrong on this ..... Super tekstovi i fotke !! Samo nastavi!!!


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