With restaurant customers seeking artisan ingredients, smaller portions and more healthful menu options, Mediterranean cuisine is a natural for meeting those needs. We’re offering four ideas for fall menus.
Crusty Caramelized Onion Polenta
Yield: 12 entrée servings or 18 side dish servings
2½ qt. yellow onions, sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 qt. water
2 tsp. salt
2 cups coarse-grain yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. rosemary, crushed
2 cups Parmesan or Romano cheese, coarsely grated
1½ qt. chunky tomato sauce, heated
Caramelize onions over medium-low heat in oil until golden. Set aside and chop 1 cup caramelized onions. Heat water with salt to boiling. Gradually add cornmeal, stirring constantly. Cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, or until mixture thickens, stirring often to prevent sticking. Add herbs, chopped caramelized onion and cheese; continue cooking 5 minutes or until very thick. Turn mixture onto two oiled baking sheets and spread into two 10” squares. Cover and chill.
Cut each polenta block into 9 equal shares, and each square into two triangles. For each entrée serving, heat 3 triangles in a 450°F oven for 15 minutes or until hot and crusty. Arrange triangles on plate over ½ cup heated tomato sauce, with 1/3 cup caramelized onions on top. For each side-dish serving, use 1/3 cup sauce, 2 triangles and about ¼ cup onions.
Photo: National Onion Association
Grilled Tuna, Burrata and Pesto Ciabatta
Yield: 12 sandwiches
12 La Brea Bakery Bistro Ciabatta Rolls
3¾ lb. fresh tuna loin, cut into ¾” thick steaks (5 oz. per sandwich)
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing tuna
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup packed basil leaves, stems removed
¾ cup packed parsley leaves, stems removed
¾ lb. tiny tomatoes, halved
1 large red onion, sliced thinly
6 oz. baby arugula
½ cup lemon juice
to taste, salt
to taste, black pepper
Preheat grill. Blanch basil and parsley for one minute. Put ¾ cup olive oil and garlic cloves into a powerful blender and pulse to puree garlic. Add basil, parsley, salt and pepper to blender and continue to puree mixture fully.
Season tuna with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil. Grill tuna for 2 minutes per side and set aside to cool. Break tuna into chunks by hand and toss with lemon juice.
Split rolls lengthwise and lightly grill the open faces before assembling the sandwiches. Spread layer of pesto on bottoms of rolls. Break up pieces of burrata. Divide tuna, cheese and tomatoes evenly among the rolls.
Drizzle pesto over tomatoes, cheese and tuna and scatter the sliced onion on top. Add arugula and the top roll half; serve.
Photo: La Brea Bakery
Mango Caprese Salad
Yield: 8 appetizer or salad servings
3 large ripe mangos (9-count*), peeled, pitted and sliced thinly
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
to taste, sea salt and freshly ground pepper
12 large leaves fresh basil, snipped
Alternate 4 slices of mango and 3 slices of mozzarella for each serving. Drizzle with lemon juice and oil; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil.
*A 9-count mango weighs about 18 oz. and yields approximately 11 oz. useable fruit.
Photo: National Mango Board
Grape Leaves Stuffed with Lentils and Dried Fruits
Yield: 28 pieces. Adapted by a recipe from Chef Chet Holden.
½ cup dry USA lentils, rinsed
2/3 cup bulgur
2 cups boiling water
1/3 cup minced dried apricots
½ cup dried currants
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh summer savory, or 1 tsp. dried
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 cups chopped onion
8-oz. jar whole grape leaves, rinsed and blotted dry (about 28 leaves)
14½ oz. can vegetable or chicken broth
for garnish, lemon slices
for dipping, plain yogurt or sour cream
Combine lentils and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils well and place them in a large mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, pour boiling water over bulgur and soak until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well.
Add bulgur to lentils along with apricots, currants, mint, savory, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a heavy pan. Add pine nuts and cook, stirring until nuts are golden. Add nuts to the lentil mixture, reserving the oil in the pan. Add onions to hot oil and cook them for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add onions to the lentil mixture, stirring well. Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim any hard stems from grape leaves. Place a generous Tbsp. of filling close to the stem end of each leaf. Fold the leaf base over the stuffing, fold both long leaf edges in over the stuffing to keep it from spilling out, and finish rolling up the leaf. Pack stuffed leaves, seam-side down, in an ungreased 13” x 9” baking dish. Pour stock into dish. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm, or cover and chill for several hours. If you wish, garnish with lemon slices and serve with plain yogurt or sour cream for dipping.
Photo: USA Dried Pea & Lentil Council