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Magnificent Mediterranean Cuisine

Mediterranean herbs
Excerpted from "Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen" by Donna Klein
August/September 2004
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Our passions for herbs stem from many Mediterranean herbs, and once you’ve grown a few of your favorites with the tips from the story on Page 42, you might enjoy indulging in some tasty recipes from the Mediterranean using those herbs as well. The following recipes and more can be found in Donna Klein’s Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen on our Bookshelf, Page 54. Enjoy good food and good health!

BAKED BLACK OLIVES WITH HERBES DE PROVENCE AND ANISE

Makes 12 servings
Ready in 30 minutes, this easy yet elegant recipe is a great way to dress up plain black olives anytime of the year when unexpected company is on the way and there’s no time to marinate. In fact, this is one of those few instances where the fairly inexpensive and decidedly bland canned California black olives can be used with success. Although you can pit the olives if you prefer, leaving the pits in not only helps them retain their shape during baking, but also ensures they won’t disappear as soon as they appear on your appetizer or meze table. If you’re lucky enough to have any left over, pit, chop and toss them over hot pasta with a little more olive oil the next day.

1 pound large brine-cured black olives, pitted or unpitted, drained
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons pastis, anisette, Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur (optional)
1 shallot, finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons finely chopped white parts of scallions
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence or dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon grated dried lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the olives in an 81/2- or 9-inch pie plate. Combine the broth, oil, liqueur (if using), shallot, herbes de Provence, lemon peel, fennel seeds and pepper in a small bowl; mix well. Pour over the olives, stirring to combine. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring 3 or 4 times. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Note: The cooled olives can be covered and refrigerated for up to three days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Orzo-Stuffed Peppers with Basil and Mint

Serves 4
Americans increasingly are discovering the versatility of orzo, a rice-shaped pasta that used to be sold only in specialty stores but is now found in most well-stocked supermarkets. Indeed, in many recipes, this quick-cooking pasta can be substituted for the longer cooking rice, and it will not harden in the refrigerator, as long-grain white rice will do. If you prefer, however, about 31/2 cups of slightly undercooked white rice — preferably Arborio, which will not harden in the refrigerator — can be used instead of the orzo in this recipe.

21/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion (about 6 ounces), finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
11/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces (about 11/4 cups) orzo, slightly undercooked according to package directions
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons chopped black kalamata olives
4 large bell peppers (8 to 10 ounces each)
2 cups tomato sauce or pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer briskly until the mixture has thickened and most of the liquids have evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.

Remove skillet from heat and add orzo, basil, mint, capers and olives, stirring well to thoroughly combine. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.

Cut a lid off the stem end of each pepper and reserve. Remove the seeds and white membranes from each pepper shell. Brush the outsides of the lids and shells with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Stuff each pepper shell lightly (do not pack) with equal amounts of the orzo mixture and top with its lid (lids will not close).

Place stuffed peppers upright in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Add enough water to the dish to measure 1/2 inch deep. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the peppers are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Remove the foil and bake for 5 minutes, or until the lids just begin to blister.

To serve, heat the tomato sauce. Ladle 1/2 cup warmed sauce on each of 4 heated serving plates. Arrange a pepper in the center of the sauce and serve.

Note: The assembled stuffed peppers can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator overnight before baking.

HERBED SCALLOPED POTATOES, PROVENÇAL STYLE

Serves 6
Scalloped potatoes always seem special. It’s hard to believe this creamy Provençal-style variation of the famous pommes de terre Dauphinoises is made with not one drop of milk or cheese.

13/4 cups vegetable broth, preferably low-sodium
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large fresh sage leaves
2 large bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Salt, to taste
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the broth, garlic, sage, bay, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and salt in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately remove the pan from heat. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a shallow 21/2-quart baking dish. Arrange the potatoes as flatly as possible in the dish. Strain the herbed broth over the potatoes, discarding the solids. (The potatoes will not completely be covered by the liquid.) Drizzle the tops of the exposed potatoes with half of the oil.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove the dish from oven. Using a wide spatula, turn the potatoes over, pressing down gently to immerse them as much as possible in the liquid. Drizzle the tops of the exposed potatoes with the remaining oil. Return to oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, liquids are reduced and the top is nicely browned. Serve at once.

Note: The herbed broth can be strained into a container and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for two or three days before completing the dish.

Recipes excerpted from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen (see Bookshelf, Page 54) by Donna Klein. Reprinted by permission HPBooks/Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


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