Athena's home is a feast for the senses. There's the eclectic artwork and family photos, the vintage books, the fun little tchotchke's sprinkled throughout the home, and the beautifully upholstered cozy furniture. There's a seamless combination of old and new- like her grandchildren's books and toys stored in an antique chest. There's the sound of great music playing- sometimes classical, sometimes jazz or folk music. Never anything too loud to compete with a good lively conversation. And then there are the smells- the aroma of pot roast or bread baking or her famous Christmas cookies. Everything is wonderful and unique.
I first met my sister-in-law Athena about 8 eight years ago. I was newly engaged to my husband Michael. Athena's husband Buz is Michael's big brother. We were invited to an intimate dinner at their home, just the four of us. Athena's dinner parties are the perfect way to get to know her. This would be the first of many special meals. There was one that she prepared when our son MJ was born, our mother-in-law's 90th birthday dinner, and family baby shower brunches and graduation lunches.
Every event is original, but there are a few constants. Athena will always have the menu handwritten on her kitchen chalk board. As she prepares a meal, she'll invite you into the kitchen and offer you a seat and a glass of wine or a cocktail. There's usually a cutting board with bread or a few vegetables. If you offer to start chopping and help, she knows you'll fit right in with the family. She's also full of adventure. Just a few years ago she planned a get away to San Francisco for Buz's birthday with a pilgrimage to the ultimate food Mecca- Chez Panisse in Berkley.
Growing up as the daughter of a chef, her family's Greek heritage greatly influenced her cooking and entertaining talent. I've always wanted to make a traditional Greek lamb, and with Easter approaching, this seemed the perfect opportunity to ask for a few tips. Athena generously shared her family recipes for a traditional feast. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do.