Monday, May 12, 2008

Mediterranean-inspired entertaining

If you've been off the planet, then the current economic crunch might have passed you by.

The rest of us are well aware of it. People who like to have friends over (man, does this hit close to home) are finding ways to entertain without fiscal pain.

the Mediterranean region is responsibile for some of the most elegant cuisine you'll ever put between your lips. Yes, we'll acknowledge that the 16 countries that border the Med make variety a must by sheer geography, but the flavor profiles, the types of food, all come together in dishes that fairly bubble with warmth and charm.

More of us are opting to at home rather than dine out, movie rentals are on the rise, and consumers are becoming more value-conscious and frugal—this is especially true when it comes to food.

The folks at the California Walnut board have passed along some ideas for a easy, fairly inexpensive plan: Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to entertain and not break the bank. Besides, being in charge of ingredient selection and meal preparation can be a more nutritious choice than dining out. Plan a Mediterranean night with a menu showcasing plenty of grains, walnuts and seasonal fruits and vegetables. This will be a party both your wallet and guests will enjoy.

The menu uses a few recipe ideas along with a number of tips that will offer options for successful, budget-minded entertaining. Paying attention to sale items, purchasing seasonal fruits and vegetables and avoiding oversized portions can all go a long way toward making a dinner with friends or a backyard get together both affordable and enjoyable. (The oversized portion deal is the key, here.)

Walnut & Cucumber Gazpacho
English cucumbers are practically seedless and have a thin skin. You can get them here in Calhoun County; they're a little more expensive than standard cucumbers, but they're almost a totally different vegetable.

4 English cucumbers, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 bunch mint
1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, peeled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
6 ounces plain yogurt
1 cup toasted walnuts
1 cup ice
Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Salt the cucumbers and let sit one hour. Drain off liquid. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth; salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a chilled bowl, and garnish, if desired, with Meyer lemon olive oil.

Turkey & Veggie Skewer with Walnut Lime Curry Sauce

2 lbs boneless, skinless turkey breasts (or substitute chicken)
2 red pepper
2 green pepper
2 yellow pepper
16 cherry tomatoes
Bay leafs
2 tablespoons olive oil (and more if needed)
Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Walnut Lime Curry Sauce
1 cup California walnuts, chopped
2 cups of low-fat plain yogurt
2 limes, juice & zest
2 Tablespoons of curry powder
Salt to taste

To make the skewers, chop the turkey and the peppers into 1 1/4 inch pieces. Divide the turkey, peppers, tomatoes and bay leafs between 8 skewers, adding them in an alternating pattern. Drizzle each skewer with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Grill the skewers, turning often, for 12 to 15 minutes or until the turkey is done. To make the sauce, combine the walnuts, yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, and curry powder in a small bowl. Stir well, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve along side the turkey skewers.

Serves 8