Executive Chef George Delidimos marks this spring holiday with a menu full of kokkina avga, horiatiki and other traditional Greek dishes
By Jessica Stringer | Photography by John Michael Simpson
At the end of his family’s Easter meal in Thessaloniki, Greece, George Delidimos’ grandmother would disappear into the kitchen. She would emerge with a platter of eggs dyed red, known as kokkina avga.
This signaled it was time to play a game called tsougrisma, where two people take turns tapping eggs, each trying to crack the other’s without doing damage to their own. “The oldest person in the family goes first with the youngest person in the family,” he says. “So usually you have a grandma and young kid cracking eggs together to start.” In the Greek Orthodox church, the eggs, traditionally dyed with red onion skins, symbolize Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The game is a custom of “good luck and tradition,” George says. “If I break your egg with my egg, then it’s good luck for me for the rest of the year.”
Another mainstay on his family’s Greek Easter Sunday table was lamb. “Despite the understanding in America that Greeks eat lamb a lot every day, that is not the case,” George says. It’s expensive, he says, and a delicacy, so they save it for special occasions, preparing it the way North Carolinians might a pig – smoked whole on a spit over coal. “It wouldn’t spin by itself, so we had to [take turns to] man the rotisserie,” George recalls. “Usually the kids would wake up early in the morning and do our shift on the rotisserie, just spinning and spinning it, tending to the lamb and making sure it didn’t get burned.” He says all the work was worth the reward. “[I have] very fond memories of gathering with our loved ones in Greece and enjoying that lamb right off the spit,” George says.
Thankfully, as executive chef, George doesn’t have to pull an early morning shift for Greek Easter at Kipos, celebrated this year on April 24. He says the menu that day will feature the restaurant’s familiar cuisine but with one colorful addition, those red eggs for playing tsougrisma. “It’s always nice to [share] those traditions with customers in the restaurant and see a part of Greece around here,” he says. “It makes our hearts a little full.”
Yields 2 to 4 portions
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 8 fresh medium-size shrimp, head off, peeled, deveined and tail on
- ½ oz. ouzo liquor
- 1 cup tomato sauce of your choice
- ½ cup feta, crumbled or in small cubes
- 6 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh mint, chopped
- Black pepper to taste
Place a medium saute pan on high heat. Let the pan get hot for a couple minutes and add olive oil. When the oil is hot, carefully add the shrimp in the pan. (Be careful to avoid splashing so as to not burn yourself.) Saute for 1 minute on each side.
Deglaze the pan with the ouzo, being mindful if you have a gas stove with an open fire as it will flambé. Wait for a few seconds for the alcohol to evaporate and add the tomato sauce. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes or until shrimp are done.
Turn the heat off. Uncover and add feta and olives. Stir once or twice. Add the fresh dill, mint and black pepper to taste right before serving.