I've cooked my way through all 264 recipes
in The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook!

December 18, 2010

Middle Eastern Savory Tarts (p. 188) with Catalan Seafood and Pasta Paella (p. 213) and Nicholas's Favorite Braised Pears in Red Wine (p. 447)

We had our friends Mike and Jenna over for dinner last night so I wanted to make a few different recipes  -- savory tarts as a starter, a seafood paella for the main course, and braised pears for dessert. Luckily, some things could be made in advance (like the pears) and I didn't actually start the paella until our friends arrived because Jenna had offered to help me cook.

I started the Middle Eastern Savory Tarts early in the day (I just had a half day at work) because the dough/pastry part of it needed to rise. For the dough, I used the same one that I had used to make Middle Eastern Pizza back in October. It's got a little extra flavor to it because it's made with yogurt and olive oil.

Once we were about an hour from our guests arriving, I started pre-heating the oven and assembling the tarts. The stuffing for these tarts is mostly spinach that has been cooked down until tender.

The spinach is combined with chopped onion, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, allspice, and pepper. The recipe also uses either feta or pine nuts, but not both. I really wanted both, so I split the spinach mixture in two and put feta in half and pine nuts in the other half.

The dough needs to be rolled out and cut into circles -- I used a drinking glass to cut the pieces out. Put a little bit of the stuffing into the center of the circle and close the dough up around it like a little purse. I had a lot of trouble with this step -- the amount of olive oil in the stuffing made the dough not want to stick and they kept re-opening on the baking dish. I eventually stopped worrying about it and baked them anyway, until they were golden brown.

These were pretty amazing. I liked both flavors equally, and we scarfed down a ton of them. I would totally make these again for a party, they're perfect finger food. And I just re-heated some for my lunch and they were still delicious.

I waited to start the Catalan Seafood and Pasta Paella until Jenna and Mike arrived so that Jenna and I could cook together. Jenna lightly fried shrimp and flounder pieces after dipping them in flour and I cooked the mussels in a little bit of white wine until they opened up.

We cooked onions and garlic as well as our dry spaghetti pieces until the veggies were soft, and then poured in a little more white wine, chopped tomatoes (that were peeled and seeded), and a bay leaf.

Once the tomatoes had created a thick sauce we poured in simmering veggie stock (Fresh Market doesn't carry fish stock, for some reason) and cooked until the liquid had been absorbed by the pasta. We stirred back in all the seafood and put the dish into a very hot oven for about five minutes to crisp it up a little bit before serving.

This was delicious, and also makes a ton of food. We each had seconds and still have a lots leftover. I loved the texture of the skinny pasta with the seafood, and the lightly fried shrimp was amazing. We just ate this with some toasty french bread, and it was perfect.

For dessert, I made Nicholas's Favorite Braised Pears in Red Wine, Nicholas being author Nancy Harmon Jenkins' son. The recipe calls for 6 pears, but since there were just four of us for dinner I paired it down a little (hah! paired down the pears! right?!)

I peeled the pears and placed them in a deep oven proof dish.

Then I put in lemon zest and slices of lemon and poured in a boiling mixture of red wine, water, and sugar.

This cooks in the oven for about 90 minutes, until the pears are very soft.

The red wine needed to be reduced to a syrup, so I put it back on the stovetop with some more sugar and boiled it down until it became a syrup and then spooned it back over the pears.

These were tasty -- we had them with a little vanilla ice cream and the flavor of the wine with the pear was really lovely.

All in all, this was a great meal, and we had a fabulous night with our buds.

yogurt (for the dough) -- $1.89
onion -- $.65
spinach -- $3.99
Total Cost of Middle Eastern Savory Tarts: $6.53
($.54 per serving of two tarts)

onions -- $1.52
tomatoes -- $4.19
pasta -- $2.33 (a quarter of the box is left)
shrimp -- $7.01
flounder -- $7.79
veggie broth -- $3.50
mussels -- $2.23
Total Cost of Catalan Seafood and Pasta Paella: $28.57
($3.57 per serving)

pears -- $3.97
red wine -- $8.49 (about half a bottle left)
lemon -- $.79
Total Cost of Nicholas's Favorite Braised Pears in Red Wine: $13.25
($3.31 per serving)

A filling and delicious three course meal for $7.42 per person!

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Thanks for dropping by! Love, Katrina.