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July 2003 Issue
A Mediterranean Menu
by Ronda L. Halpin
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There's something magical about summer entertaining. There's also something particularly challenging about it too. You want to be able to share a medley of wonderful flavors with your guests, but you also want to minimize time and energy spent in the kitchen. After all, you want to spend time with your guests and also keep your kitchen cool on a hot summer day. How can one do that while still offering a spread that will tempt your guests?

Well, this month, I'm offering you my own personal solution to that very dilemma. We recently had a group of Indian friends over for dinner and I wasn't looking to try to offer them Indian food; if I want that, I let them -- the experts -- cook! But I wanted to offer a menu that would be comforting and adventurous at once and allow me to make ahead some dishes, prepare others very quickly and still others with a minimum of fuss. That's where my Mediterranean-inspired menu comes in. Many of the dishes presented here have been inspired by the food of Greece, but other countries like Turkey and Italy also have an impact on it as well.

You can feel free to tweak this menu by adding other dishes, removing some suggested here or slightly changing the ingredients in the recipes. Even changing the types and varieties of beverages and desserts can make it new. Speaking of which, check out the end of the article for some thoughts on them as well.

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at . Enjoy!


Simple Hummus

While this spread is not truly Greek, it fits nicely with the menu and is a great starter to this meal. This one includes fresh cilantro instead of parsley for extra kick -- opt for parsley if you want something more traditional. You can make it a couple of days in advance and simply garnish it before setting it out with pita wedges and fresh vegetables for dipping. I also highly recommend rounding out the appetizer course by adding a bowl of mixed marinated olives to the table. These and a glass of white wine will only be made better by good conversation with good friends.
  • 1 (15.5 oz.) can chickpeas
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T. tahini sauce
  • 1/4 c. packed cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 c. roasted garlic olive oil
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
Drain the chickpeas and reserve the liquid. Place the chickpeas and garlic in a food processor. Add about half of the liquid from the chickpeas and process until smooth. Add the tahini sauce and cilantro leaves and process again until incorporated into the chickpea mixture. Add the oil and the seasonings and process to combine. Taste the hummus and add more oil or seasonings to taste. If desired, sprinkle the bowl with paprika and a drizzle of olive oil before serving.
  • Yields: about 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: about 10 minutes


Sun-Dried Tomato Marinade

This zesty marinade brings many of the bright flavors associated with the countries near the Mediterranean Sea to the party. Do not substitute oil-packed tomatoes for the dried ones or you will not get the strongly flavored infusion described here.
  • 4 oz. sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
Using a sharp pair of kitchen shears, snip the tomatoes into little pieces. Place in a small microwavable bowl and cover with the white wine. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. Place the contents of the bowl and the remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Use as a marinade for chicken or pork.
  • Yields: about 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes


Mediterranean Grilled Chicken

These simple grilled chicken breasts couldn't be easier to make. Just make sure you keep an eye on the internal temperature of the meat so that it doesn't end up dry. The easiest way to do that is by using a digital thermometer. Serve it with a side of feta tzatziki -- the recipe's below.
      7-9 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
    • 2 cups Sun-Dried Tomato Marinade -- see above
    • Cooking spray
    Trim any visible fat from the chicken breast halves. Place them in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over them, turning the meat to evenly cover them. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes -- overnight is better.

    Prepare a grill for medium-heat grilling. Spray the grates with cooking spray and place the chicken breast halves on the grill (discard the marinade). Grill, covered, for 10-15 minutes -- turning once. Remove to a platter covered with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

    • Yields: about 8 servings
    • Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time

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