Greek Easter Recipes from Giorgios Bakatsias

Restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias of Bin 54 in Chapel Hill, Parizade and Vin Rouge in Durham, and Rosewater in Raleigh shares some of his favorite spring recipes.
recipes by Giorgios Bakatsias | photography by Eamon Queeney

At home, Giorgios Bakatsias cooks simple, vegetable-forward meals driven by what he finds in the garden. But when it’s time for a party, abundance abounds. “We put big lambs on the spit, we open the garden, we bathe in the aromas of rosemary and thyme and oregano,” he says. For this meal, he roasted a leg of lamb in the oven, then accompanied it with a mix of traditional Greek sides. “It’s a great joy, when we have the pleasure of having someone over,” says Bakatsias. “It’s a great gift.” Here are the recipes he shared.

Slow-Cooked Leg of Lamb

Serves 6-8 people
1 bone-in 3.5-4 pound leg of lamb 2 cups dry red wine
Head of garlic
Salt and pepper generously
2 sprigs chopped rosemary 2 sprigs of thyme
1⁄2 cup of olive oil

Massage leg of lamb with olive oil, salt and pepper. Incorporate spices and herbs into marinade of red wine and smashed garlic. Bathe and marinate the lamb in the mixture overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In roasting pan, add 1⁄2 cup of water and marinated leg of lamb with all remaining marinade mixture and cover completely. Place covered roast in oven, cooking for 4 hours. Note: If the leg of lamb is bigger, add 30 minutes to the cooking time.


Serves 4 people
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced 1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup Kalamata olives
4 ounces feta cheese
Pinch of mountain oregano Chopped fresh parsley
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄2 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper

Cut tomatoes into wedges. Season cucumbers with salt and pepper to taste. Combine all vegetables and olives in mixing bowl, coating evenly in olive oil and lemon juice. Add two thick slices of feta and sprinkle with oregano and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy.


Serves 8
1⁄2 cup olive oil
1 pound ready-made phyllo, size 4 thickness
2 1⁄2 pounds spinach, stalks removed, chopped 1 cup finely chopped scallions
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound feta
3-4 eggs lightly beaten
4 tablespoons clarified butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brush a 14-inch baking pan with oil. Sprinkle the spinach with a little salt and rub with your fingers. Rinse, drain and squeeze excess water. Combine the spinach, scallions, dill, parsley, cheese and eggs in a bowl and season with pepper.

Lay a quarter of the phyllo sheets in the prepared pan, one on top of the other, brushing each with butter. Spread 1/3 of the spinach filling evenly on top and cover with the another 1⁄4 of the phyllo sheets. Repeat for 3 layers. Put remaining 1⁄4 of phyllo sheets on top. Roll up the overhanging phyllo neatly around the pan. Score into 12 serving pieces, and brush the top with oil. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature.


Makes 2.5 cups
1 cup cucumber- peeled, seeded and shredded
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon- juiced
Salt and pepper
3 cups strained Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic- minced
1 tablespoon chopped dill

Shred cucumber and strain with cheese cloth. In a mixing bowl add shredded cucumber, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper to taste. Fold in strained yogurt, mixing thoroughly all ingredients. Refrigerate for 2 hours prior to enjoying to allow it to properly set. Serve with spears of cucumbers, carrots or pita bread.


Serves 4-6 people
2 small Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced 3 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 red onions, thinly sliced
3-4 tomatoes, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped 1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fine oregano
1 tablespoon dill (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl, toss all thinly sliced vegetables in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. In a casserole dish, layer the seasoned vegetables, in order from bottom to top: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, zucchini. Spread all remaining olive oil mixture in mixing bowl evenly on top of layered casserole. Bake for 40 minutes, covered for the first 20 minutes, then uncovered
for the remaining time, until golden brown.


Serves 4
2/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, grated
1 pound ground beef
1 soup spoon of tomato paste
Pinch of cinnamon
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley 1 egg white lightly beaten
1 cup grated kefalotyri
11 ounces tubular pasta
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups grated gruyère
3 egg yolks beaten
3 cups béchamel (recipe below)
Pinch of grated nutmeg

Heat 1⁄2 cup of the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until softened. Increase the heat to medium, add the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with the spatula for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Stir in the tomato paste, cinnamon and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Fold in the egg white and a 1⁄2 cup of the kefalotyri and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, stir in salt and remaining oil, add the pasta and cook for 8-10 mins or until al dente. Drain. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a 10 x 14-inch cazuela or casserole dish. Stir the gruyère cheese into the drained and cooled pasta. Mix together pasta mixture with seasoned ground beef. Pour mixed pasta and beef into lightly oiled oven-proof cazuela or casserole dish. Fold in the egg yolks and remaining kefalotyri into the béchamel sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the bécha- mel sauce over the pasta/beef mixture. Bake for 1 hour or until top is golden brown. Let dish stand for 15 minutes prior to serving.

Béchamel Sauce

makes 1 cup
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup of kefalotyri
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and white pepper

Pour milk into a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Melt the butter in a nonstick pan, whisk in flour, stirring fervently for one minute. Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in hot milk, whisking constantly until mixture is even and smooth. Return sauce to medium heat and simmer, pour in kefalotyri cheese stirring constantly for about 12-15 minutes until mixture thickens. Season with nutmeg, salt and white pepper.

Spiced Kalamata Olives

2 cups pit-in kalamata olives
Large spoon zest of orange
Large spoon zest of lemon
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
Teaspoon fine oregano
Teaspoon red chili flakes
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil

Toss all ingredients together and let marinate for 3 hours. Serve and enjoy.


Serves 4-6 as prepared in 14” round cazuela
1 large eggplant
1 medium yellow onion-diced
1 medium Yukon gold potato-sliced
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup of goat cheese
½ cup kefalotyri or parmesan
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
½ cup heavy cream
1 large soup spoon tomato paste
Kosher sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of clove
Pinch of nutmeg
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic – minced

Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and let drain in a colander for 1 hour. Rinse, squeeze excess water and pat dry. Heat half the oil in a skillet or frying pan. Add the eggplants and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 6-8 mins or until lightly browned on both sides. Slice the potatoes thin, season with salt and pepper, and cook similarly to eggplant. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Heat remaining oil in a heavy pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 mins until translucent. Increase the heat to medium, add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with the spatula until browned. Add the tomato paste, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Blending all together until coated evenly. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take 14” cazuela and coat with olive oil. Layer potatoes evenly to cover bottom of cazuela. Add a layer of eggplant over potatoes. Add seasoned ground beef over layered eggplant. Sprinkle kefalotyri over ground meat and repeat with layer of eggplant and additional layer of seasoned beef.

For goat cheese cream souffle: Whisk 3 egg yolks and slowly add heavy cream. Whisk goat cheese and remaining kefalotyri into egg/cream mixture and pour over top of seasoned beef in cazuela. Bake for 50 mins at 400 degrees. Finish with chopped parsley.

Chef Giorgios Bakatsias cooks a traditional Greek Easter meal at his home in Bahama, NC, Tuesday, February 25, 2020. Bakatsias is a prolific restauranteur. Starting his first restaurant in his early 20s, Giorgios is behind some of the Triangle’s favorite eateries. (Eamon Queeney for Walter)

Red Eggs

Makes 12
1 dozen eggs
5 cups water
12 yellow onions, skins removed and reserved
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Olive oil
Combine water, onion skins, and vinegar in a pot; bring to a boil. Set aside onions for another use. Reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure skins are submerged, for 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat, remove cover, and cool dye to room temperature. Remove skins from dye and discard. Place eggs in the dye and bring to a boil; cook for 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and leave eggs in the dye until a deep red color is reached, about 30 minutes more.