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July 2003 Issue
A Mediterranean Menu
by Ronda L. Halpin
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Feta Tzatziki

This twist on the traditional Greek garlic-yogurt dip features feta cheese -- another Greek favorite -- that gives it a tangy, salty note. It's wonderful served with pita and grilled meats. Add some low fat buttermilk to any remaining sauce and use as a tangy dressing for summer salads.
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 3 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Scrape out the center of the cucumber, discarding the seeds. Coarsely grate the cucumber into a colander and sprinkle with the salt; allow to drain for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the white wine vinegar, oil and garlic in a medium bowl. Allow the mixture to marinate while the cucumber is draining.

Squeeze the cucumber as dry as possible and blot on paper towels. Transfer it to a bowl with the garlic mixture; add the plain yogurt and feta cheese and stir.

  • Yields: about 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: about 45 minutes


Warm Veggie Salad

Grilling a variety of vegetables and tossing them with roasted garlic oil and high quality vinegar make for a simple, yet satisfying salad. Sprinkle some sliced green onions and diced tomato in for another flavorful addition.
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 oz. button mushrooms
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 c. roasted garlic olive oil -- or use your favorite flavored oil
  • 1/4 c. high quality balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a grill to medium heat and place the vegetables in a grill basket coated with cooking spray. Lightly spray the vegetables to give them an even coat of oil too. Place the basket on the grill and grill the vegetables for 15-20 minutes, turning once. Remove them to a large bowl and allow to sit for about 5 minutes, covered.

Uncover the bowl and toss the vegetables with the oil, vinegar and seasonings. Serve warm.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 30 minutes


Speedy Greek Couscous

Couscous is a quick-cooking pasta that readily absorbs the liquid in which it’s cooked. Therefore using a flavorful cooking liquid is important. Adding other yummy ingredients doesn't hurt either! I used a tomato-basil couscous, but regular couscous will work just as well.
  • 3 c. chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c. couscous
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 c. diced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 oz. grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous and remove the pan from the heat. Cover and allow to sit.

Meanwhile, sauté the vegetables in a small skillet sprayed with cooking spray until they are crisp-tender. Add the cooked vegetables, cheese and seasonings to the couscous and mix to combine. Add a little more chicken broth if the mixture appears too dry. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

This meal can really be tweaked based on the drinks and desserts you choose to serve. For an elegant spread, pair the meal with a light and fruity wine. Whites are traditional, but there are a large variety of perfectly suitable reds -- just stay away from intense merlots and the like. A variety of finger desserts served with strong coffee make a lovely dessert. Baklava is traditional, but also a variety of cookies and small fruit tarts would also be appropriate.

To make the meal a little more casual, try offering guests some lightly-flavored iced tea. An entire pitcher of peach iced tea was quickly consumed at my own gathering in June! Another fun beverage to pair with this meal is tart and tangy lemonade -- a summer favorite that plays nicely with the flavors in this meal. Finish off the meal with a simple lemon tart or an easy sponge cake with fresh fruit.

What did we have for dessert? Well, since my Indian guests brought that, we enjoyed kheer and ice cream! Well, it might not have fit the theme, but it was fantastic and a lovely way to end a meal that was enjoyed in the company of friends. And isn't that what entertaining is all about?

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