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Make It Mediterranean

August 27, 2009
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Give your parties a Mediterranean flair while you upgrade taste and health appeal. A new take on traditional favorites and a few new ingredients in your pantry will let you offer your guests an array of tempting dishes sure to delight.

Put a modern twist on classics or create something entirely original by combining robust essentials, including fresh produce, zesty spices and heart-healthy olive oil.

Consider dishes that combine bold flavors to add some snap to meals. You can save time by choosing recipes that use both fresh and prepared ingredients. Appetizers should be light and easy to prepare. Main dishes should include herbs that accent, not overtake. And dessert recipes should satisfy sweet cravings and leave guests comfortably satisfied.

To prepare a Mediterranean meal in minutes, stock your kitchen with staples like olive oil, nuts, brown rice and in-season veggies and fruit. Grains, couscous, barley, pastas, cheeses and fresh herbs will round out your pantry. These heart-healthy alternatives offer freedom and variety in your meal-planning, and will keep your family eagerly anticipating the next meal you prepare.

The following recipes were created by Chef Jean Paul Desmaison for the North American Olive Oil Association.

Mozzarella and Homemade Dried Tomatoes Flatbread
(Dairy)

For this recipe, you make your own caramelized onions and homemade dried tomatoes easily in the oven. Then use them for a topping on this savory flatbread.

Caramelized-Onion Ingredients:

1/2 yellow onion, juliénned
1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil

In a pan over medium-low heat, sauté the onions with all the ingredients for approximately 10 minutes. Reserve.

Dried-Tomato Ingredients:

6 plum tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and sugar

Preheat oven to 125°.

Cut each plum tomato lengthwise in 6 wedges and seed.

Place in mixing bowl.

Sprinkle lightly with salt and sugar; drizzle with olive oil.

Place the tomatoes on a baking pan, and bake for 1 hour.

Flatbread Ingredients:

1 flatbread or refrigerated thin crust pizza dough, prepared as directed on package
31/2 oz. fresh mozzarella, grated
2 button mushrooms, sliced
8 slices of the homemade dried tomatoes
caramelized onions
2 Tbsps. Parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400°.

On top of the flatbread, evenly spread the mozzarella cheese; add the sliced mushrooms, tomato slices and caramelized onions.

Top with Parmesan cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and salt.

Bake for 4 to 5 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

Jalapeño and Roasted Red-Pepper Hummus
(Pareve)

2 cans (15 oz.) garbanzo beans
2 Tbsps. tahini paste
3 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt to taste
2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
3 roasted peppers
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine the first seven ingredients; blend into a smooth paste. Reserve.

In a bowl, mix the jalapeños, roasted peppers and olive oil; add salt, if needed.

Place the pepper mix on top of the center of the hummus.

Serve with pita bread or pita chips.

Serves 10 to 12.

Recipe Tip: You can purchase prepared roasted red peppers at the grocery store, where you can also find tahini paste in the ethnic or international aisle of most major grocery stores.

Quinoa Salad With Zucchini, Eggplant and Peppers
(Pareve)

1 package quinoa
1 eggplant, seeded, diced into 1/4-inch squares
2 red peppers, seeded, diced into 1/4-inch squares
11/2 zucchini, seeded, diced into 1/4-inch squares
1/3 cup olive oil
4 stems fresh thyme (leaves and thin stems only)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 stems fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet at medium heat, add 1/3 cup olive oil, the garlic cloves, cut vegetables, leaves from 4 stems of thyme and salt.

Sauté 10 to 12 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package directions until tender; strain and run cold water over the quinoa to stop it from cooking further.

In a bowl, mix the quinoa with the vegetables, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, remaining thyme and salt to taste. Mix well.

Garnish with additional fresh thyme.

Serves 9 to 12.

Goat Cheese and Kalamata Olives Flatbread
(Dairy)

1 flatbread or refrigerated thin crust pizza dough, prepared as directed on package
11/2 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 oz. goat cheese
2 kalamata olives, sliced
1/8 roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
1/8 red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsps. Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
fresh basil, juliénned

Preheat oven to 400°.

Spread the mozzarella and goat cheese evenly on the dough.

Place the kalamata olives, red roasted peppers and onions on top of cheese.

Top with Parmesan cheese; drizzle top with extra-virgin olive oil.

Bake for 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve with garnish of fresh basil.

Serves 4 to 6.

Honey, Citrus, Olive-Oil Fruit Kabobs
(Pareve)

Find melons that are in season for this recipe; cantaloupe or honeydew work especially well.

Glaze Ingredients:

1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsps. lemon juice
2 Tbsps. Cointreau or any similar orange liqueur
2-3 mint leaves, chopped

In a bowl, add the honey, lemon juice and Cointreau; use whisk to blend.

Little by little, gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add mint and continue mixing. Reserve.

Kebab Ingredients:

8 bamboo sticks (6- to 8-inches long)
8 cantaloupe or honeydew wedges, cut in 1-inch pieces
8 pineapple slices, cut in 1-inch squares
8 large strawberries
powdered sugar, optional
1 pint lemon fruit sorbet (optional)

On each bamboo stick, place 1 piece of melon, then pineapple, ending with a strawberry.

Arrange two kebab on 4 serving plates; drizzle with the glaze.

To serve, sprinkle kebab with powdered sugar and decorate with a mint leaf.

Serve with lemon sorbet, if desired.

Serves 4 to 8.

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