Fragrant flavors of the Mediterranean in menu for two
Here is a dinner for two people that is redolent with the flavors of the Mediterranean. With a little planning, you will find it inexpensive in time and effort as well as money, yet rewarding.
The first course is an eggplant split in two, the halves stuffed with vegetables similar to ratatouille.
Colorful and aromatic, it can be prepared partly or fully ahead. You may decide to serve it with the main course or even to make it the centerpiece of a meatless lunch or dinner. It is eminently adaptable.
These lamb chops are seasoned with allspice, that single spice that hints of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Quick broiling is not only practical for the cook, it also seals in the juices of the lamb.
The accompanying bulgur is parched, cracked wheat, a starch found in the eastern Mediterranean and a refreshing alternative to rice. In this recipe it is subtly seasoned with mint and lemon. You can make it beforehand at your convenience and reheat it before serving if you like.
For dessert you need only these delicate little pastries of phyllo wrapped around an apricot filling. You can buy the pastry frozen, so they are surprisingly easy to make. Stuffed Eggplant Provencale 1 fairly small eggplant Olive oil 1 small onion 1 garlic clove 1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1 small yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1 tomato, skinned, seeded, and chopped 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon fresh Salt and pepper to taste 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and score flesh without cutting through skin. Pour olive oil about 1/4-inch deep in a pan and saute, cut side down, for about 8 minutes, until flesh is soft.
Remove from pan, then scoop out and reserve pulp, leaving a 1/2-inch shell intact. Set shells aside in a shallow baking pan.
In remaining oil saute onion and garlic until transparent. Add more oil as needed. Saute zucchini and yellow squash until they soften, stirring often.
Chop up reserved eggplant pulp and add to pan then add tomato. Stir until vegetables are well combined and moisture partly evaporated. Season to taste with basil, salt and pepper.
Stuff vegetables into eggplant shells, mounding them attractively. If you have too much, save some for an omelet or another dish. Grate a little cheese on top.
You may cover and chill the eggplant overnight at this point, but leave at room temperature if the wait is only a few hours.
Bake in preheated 375-degree F. oven about 20 minutes, until top is lightly browned. Serve hot or at room temperature. Broiled Lamb Chops With Allspice 4 meaty rib or loin lamb chops, about 1-inch thick 1 garlic clove, split in two Olive oil 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper Salt to taste Rub lamb chops with split clove of garlic, then brush with a little olive oil. Combine allspice and pepper and rub spices into both sides of meat. This is best done a little in advance to allow flavors to penetrate.
Just before cooking, sprinkle with salt. Preheat broiler and cook chops fairly close to flame, turning them once. Let outside sear but keep insides pink and juicy for delectable eating. These chops are even better grilled outside over a charcoal or wood fire. Bulgur 1/2 cup bulgur (dried, cracked wheat) 1 scallion, finely chopped 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 1 tablespoon chopped fresh, not dried, mint 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest 1 cup boiling chicken stock or water Salt and pepper
Put bulgur into small bowl and add scallion, herbs, and lemon zest. Pour over boiling stock or water, stir, and allow to sit 30 minutes or so, until liquid is absorbed. Salt and pepper to taste.
If you want to heat bulgur, steam it in a double boiler. Apricot Phyllo Pastries 4 sheets of phyllo pastry, thawed slowly and at room temperature Melted sweet butter 6 teaspoons apricot preserves or your favorite flavor Confectioners' sugar
To prevent phyllo from drying out and cracking, work with 2 sheets at a time and keep others wrapped and covered with a damp towel.
Spread 2 sheets of pastry on a work table and cut each lengthwise into 3 long strips. Quickly brush surface with melted butter and stack in pairs.
Place a teaspoon of preserves in a line near the bottom center of each. Fold over right and left edges the whole length of the strip to meet in the middle, enclosing preserves.
Start folding up until completely rolled up. Put on baking sheet either buttered or lined with parchment paper and brush top with more melted butter.
Bake in preheated 350-degree F. oven about 13 minutes, until tops are golden. You may also freeze them filled but unbaked, putting them directly into oven from freezer. If you like, dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.