Monday, 25 April 2011

A Mediterranean Summer

Mediteranean way of eating emphasizes abundant plant foods, fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert, olive oil as the principal source of fat, dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt), and fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts, zero to four eggs consumed weekly, red meat consumed in low amounts, and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts. Noted Gastronome Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal did a series of culinary demonstrations at Natures basket stores in pune and Delhi last week. She ssays "Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods are perfectly suited to summer dining. They are fresh, simple, high on fruit and vegetable content, flavorful and sure to please the sluggish palate. Eating this way may open you up to a new way  to eating that may change how you  fill your plate for all seasons. Inspired by the diets of  Spain, Greece, Southern Italy and Crete and the Middle East eating this way is so much better for you, reducing your fat, sugar and red meat intake considerably whihc is great in the summer months. An additional visual benefit is the symphony of color on your plate with all the fruits and vegetables and the pleasant feeling you get after eating a meal that won’t weigh you down there is something so soul-satisfying and summery about eating this way that makes it perfect in warmer months."


I like to plan ahead and keep stuff ready that allows me to put meals together instead of actually cooking. I call it diningMezze style and you don't have to be entertaining to dine like this. It is a great option for quick weekday meals.

Mezze is a very civilised practice of serving small plates of tasty food with drinks all over the Eastern Mediterranean. In addition to being an array of mouth-watering dainties mezze are a great way to serve food without resorting to the usual over-handled fried finger foods. Not only as an assortment of appetisers is visually appealing, but also makes life easier on the host who is free to enjoy the occasion once the mezze is laid out. The great thing is that the Mezze IS the meal and needs nothing more (although, I always add a couple of decadent desserts!)

First off pull out all your small bowls, saucers and plates and forget about having everything match the casualness of mix-and-match adds to the charm of the concept, plus this way your bowls can go from the fridge to the table directly. (If you are entertaining and expecting a big crowd, plan on multiple serving bowls of each item - better to have three small bowls of hummus, rather than just one big one!)

Besides all of the above supplement your mezze with assorted bowls of black, green and stuffed olives, slices of cold and smoked meats, assorted cheeses, some chilli sauce for the chilli heads, roasted almonds and nuts, lots of Lavoush, pita and/or other crusty breads, dried fruit like apricots and prunes, fresh fruit wedges. Add a few bottles of good wine and a couple of good desserts and your on your way to a great evening!-

Dips

No Mezze is complete without dips here are a few suggestions. Use ready Hummus from Athenos in different flavours, Tahini sauce from al Fez or use Danone yogurt to make thes fabulous Labneh Balls. I love serving chilled Labneh balls

Middle Eastern Labneh Balls (Time taken: 10 minutes + 24 hours hanging time for yoghurt)

I find having some labneh in the fridge makes for a great quick snack with good bread. Savour Labneh Makbus cut into halves, drizzle with olive oil accompanied by olives and fresh pita bread. (These can be stored in a sterile, air tight jars, covered with olive oil in the fridge for upto 2 -3 weeks and come in very handy so make extra.)

Ingredients

1 kg yoghurt

1 clove garlic crushed to a paste

1 small onion finely chopped

1 tsp Salt

For Pepper Labneh Makbous

3 tbsp fine Red chili flakes

1 tbsp Crushed pepper

2 tbsp Oregano

1 tsp extra virgin Olive oil

Place Yoghurt is a large bowl, add the salt, crushed garlic and chopped onion and mix well. Place a thin clean muslin cloth over an empty bowl and spoon yoghurt mixture into it. Pull the corners together and tie together. Suspend this bundle from a stationary object over a bowl or tie to a rack in your fridge with a bowl underneath (to catch liquid). Allow to hang for about 24 hours. What you should aim for is yoghurt the consistency of cottage cheese. When you have this remove yoghurt form the cloth, cover and return to fridge until required. What you have is Labneh.  Place chili flakes in a small saucer and flatten into a thin layer. Combine Oregano and pepper, place in a saucer and flatten into a thin layer. To make Labneh Makbus remove Yoghurt from refrigerator, take about one tablespoon at a time and shape into smooth, round balls, roll in the chilli flakes or Pepper oregano mix and arrange on a tray. Return to fridge and chill until firm. When firm and slightly dried out, they are ready for consumption. They can also be stored in a sterile, air tight jar, covered with olive oil in the fridge.

Salads

Salads are important in a Mezze to do a simple green salad and try one or two of these

Pomegranate salad Shots (Serves: 4 ;Time:15 mins)
Layer jewel like pomegranate with onion and cucumber for a melange of flavours and textures. The idea is to squeeze lime into the prepared salad just before you “shoot it” all at once. Fruity sweet tart Pomegranate, pungent onion and soothing cucumber come together with the lime juice and the salt on the rim to deliver a bite full of zing! (You could even add Vodka to liven things up!) Serve prior to any meal!

½ cup Pomegranate seeds
½ cup finely chopped Cucumber
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup salt
1 tsp pepper
2 lemons cut in half and deseeded + juice of 1 lemon
4 Shot glasses to serve

Pour lemon juice in a saucer. Combine salt and pepper and spread out in another saucer. Take each shot glass, dip rim in lemon juice and then lightly in the salt pepper mixture.  Using a small spoon, put one spoon full of Pomegranate into the bottom of each glass. Repeat with a spoonful of cucumber and then onion taking care not to spoil the salted rim. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with a lemon half on the side.

Citrus salad with feta and parsleyServes: 4 Time: 15 mins

Ingredients

3 c orange segments

½ c whole leaves of flat leaf Parsley



1 ½ c feta or fresh paneer, cubed

1 ½ tbsp fresh or preserved red chillies sliced thinly

1 tbsp Zest of Orange

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Combine everything in a mixing bowl. Toss well and chill untill ready to serve.

Small plates

To add substance to my mezze I would add one or two small plates



Chermoula prawns

Chermoula is a marinade used in Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking, usually for fish and seafood, but I even like it with chicken and vegetables. Chermoula has many recipes using different spices, in varied proportions. Here is my favourite.

Ingredients

1/3 c (80ml) of the best EVOO

3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

2 tbsp lemon zest

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 green chilli

20 Prawns cleaned an de-veined but with tails on

Method:

In a food processor, grind all the ingredients (except the prawns) into a coarse puree, then season with salt. Skewer each prawn onto a cocktail stick to keep them straight, place on a glass dish and spoon on the chermoula ensuring the prawns are well coated on all sides. Cover and refrigerate, for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Arrange prawns on a foil-lined grill tray and cook under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes each side, or until pink and cooked. Serve hot.

Preserved lemon Chicken

Ingredients

1 kg boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite sized cubes
½ c garlic cloves, finely minced
1c Preserved lemon pith removed skin chopped fine
1tsp salt or to taste
1tsp toasted ground Cumin
1/3 c olive oil
Place everything except the oil in a bowl combine well, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, bring meat to room temperature. Place a non stick pan on the flame and heat on a low flame. When hot, add 1 tsp of oil and swirl to
coat pan. Lay chicken pieces in the pan cover and allow to cook till one side is golden and brown speckles have appeared on it. Spoon marinade over it and flip over basting with the reserved marinade regularly. Cooking time will depend upon size of poultry pieces but do
not let meat become dry.
FelafelA no fry version
2 cans cooked chick peas (Kabuli Chana)
6-8 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
1tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
½ cup finely minced onion
¼ cup minced parsley
¼ cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
Few dashes of cayenne
1/3 rd cup flour
Oil for shallow frying
Rinse the chick peas and drain them well.
Combine all ingredients except flour in a food processor and mash until you have a uniform batter. Add flour and stir until thoroughly combined. You can cook the falafel right away.  Heat a not stick pan and add about a tbsp of oil ensuring the pan is well coated. When hot,
shape batter into 'tikkis and drop into the pan, flattening each slightly, like a small thick pancake. Allow to cook till golden and crisp on both sides.

Putting Mediterranean foods on your plate during summer is a great way to satisfy your hunger and palate and feel good for doing it. Filling your table rich in the staples of the Mediterranean diet with these foods to your table also gives the meal a sense of abundance and can make it more satisfying with the addition of details like breads and olives. These nibbles on the table give the meal that little something extra! There is a great celebration of good food in eating this way you may find hard to give up once the summer is over!

Also you can buy flavoured yogurt online from Natures Basket store at best prices!!  

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