Do you like the exotic flavors associated with the Mediterranean? Are you fond of such items as lemon, oregano, lamb, and goat cheese? Would you love to prepare these dishes for your family, but are afraid they won’t like the taste or that the recipes are too complex? Take heart; even cooks with very little experience in the kitchen can prepare Mediterranean style dishes. If your family includes a fussy eater, you can temper the recipes for their taste. Many recipes are so simple that you’ll wonder why you didn’t try cooking this way before. The Mediterranean is a huge geographic area, encompassing the countries of Portugal, Spain, southern France, Italy, Greece, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries and North Africa. That being said, the adventurous cook might want to narrow down the area of interest in order to find a compatible cooking style. Coming from a family tree that includes roots in Greece, we have always cooked with a Mediterranean bent. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that can be mixed or matched with traditional entrees or used together for a complete meal. Note: These are not traditional Greek dishes, but adaptations for the food we like.
Baked Cheese: Take any type of Greek cheese (feta or Kefalograviera if you can find it). Salt, pepper, and bake until soft. Serve with pita or bread. The more daring cook will prepare this dish on the stovetop, and then flambé for Saganaki.
Orzo Salad: This is an easy recipe. Ingredients include:
½ box of orzo
1 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup feta
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
chopped oregano to taste
olive oil and vinegar
Prepare the orzo to package directions. Rinse thoroughly and drain. In large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix. Add oregano, olive oil and vinegar to taste. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
Grilled Lamb Chops:
You will need two thick lamb chops for each serving.
Marinate lamb chops for at least two hours in olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped oregano, chopped rosemary, chopped garlic and lemon. Turn once. Grill according to taste. (I would highly recommend medium rare.)
As an alternative, prepare chicken or Cornish game hens in the same way. Chicken can be cut up, halved, or cooked on a rotisserie. When making chicken, I use more lemon and rosemary than I would with lamb.
Like the lamb chops, take your vegetables and marinate with the above ingredients. You may be surprised to find that your fussy eaters will enjoy grilled vegetables! Good vegetable choices for grilling include zucchini, onion, bell peppers, Portabello mushrooms, and asparagus. Grilled vegetables can be made in advance and served cold.
Cut up your meats and vegetables (from above) into two-inch squares, place on wood or metal skewers, and then grill. Kids love kebabs, and the nice thing is that you can make these a day or two ahead and keep marinated in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.
Serve your homemade pizza with a taste of Greece. Use fresh pizza dough or pre-made pizza crusts. Brush crusts with olive oil before assembling. Instead of the traditional pepperoni, sausage and mozzarella, use these ingredients on your pie: grilled chicken, roasted garlic, feta, onion, olives, bell peppers, chopped tomatoes and oregano. It will be a lighter and healthier pizza.