WHAT'S COOKING WITH KURT
Head for the slopes one last time! It's been a terrific winter for skiers and as we turn towards spring, we'll all be outside enjoying warmer weather - busy with Little League and other sports or digging in the garden. And when you want to be outside, not inside cooking, there's no better time than now to pick up your to-go meal from Pasta & Co. This spring, we're exploring the sunny cuisines of the Mediterranean coast. From Spain, southern France and Italy, to Greece, Lebanon and Morocco, bright, bold flavors and the fresh tastes of seasonal vegetables, meats, legumes, garlic, olive oil, and fresh herbs star in the cuisine of this part of the world. Our Culinary Council selected favorites from many Mediterranean-inspired dishes. After several rounds of tastings and tweakings, we're pleased to present the best of the best for your springtime dining pleasure and special holiday meals. With our commitment to make every dish we serve at Pasta & Co fresh and flavorful, simple and pure, you're assured of great Mediterranean-style eating whether for weeknights or special occasions. Come taste what we've prepared to make your springtime meals exciting and delicious!.
COASTAL MEDITERRANEAN FLAVORS
Sail eastward from the Straits of Gibraltar through the azure Mediterranean Sea to Istanbul and you'll encounter cuisines ranked among the world's finest. From Spain and Provençal France to southern Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Morocco, eating well using local, seasonal foodstuffs is considered the pinnacle of good taste. A strong tradition centered on the extended family anchors the culinary culture of every country in this part of the world crossing over national and regional differences.
Agriculture and fishing are the foundation of all coastal Mediterranean cuisines. With a hot, dry climate and rugged terrain, farmers in the countries ringing the 2,400 mile-long inland sea cultivate rice, olives for olive oil, garlic, citrus fruits, nuts, spices, herbs, and grapes for wine-making, while raising sheep and pigs on small, family-owned farms. Meat and bean stews are popular, as are rice dishes such as Spain's paellas, grain-based dishes such as couscous, bread, lamb, soups, and vegetable dishes.
Historic conquests and invasions by neighboring nations, foods introduced from the New World, as well as Greek Orthodox and Catholic Church feasts and high holidays, have also shaped and refined Mediterranean cuisines. The Moors (who introduced irrigation), the Catholics in Spain, the Greeks and Romans (who first cultivated wheat), plus invading Arabs (who perfected making confections, sherbets and sweet pastries) each left their mark on indigenous Mediterranean cuisines. The result is a versatile cornucopia of flavorful dishes we're thrilled to adapt and share with you.
NEW DELI ITEMS WITH MEDITERRANEAN FLAIR
If your menus need an overhaul for spring as much as your wardrobe, we're here with delicious inspirations. Our new deli dishes are bursting with light and lively Mediterranean flavors. You can choose a complete three-course menu, or take home a main dish and add your own salad and sides. We've got dishes just right for spring holiday meals, too, from Easter (3/23) to Passover (4/19), Mother's (5/11) and Father's Days (6/15), and Memorial Day weekend (5/25).
When April showers fall, our soups will warm you from head to toe. Dip into TOMATO FENNEL SOUP, a straightforward medley of diced tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, and fresh fennel simmered in flavorful chicken stock. Or savor CHICKEN FENNEL SOUP, a returning Pasta & Co favorite that combines chunky chicken pieces in a broth with chopped leeks, fennel bulb and green pepper, plus capers, orange zest, and fennel seed.
Our new main course dishes showcase a range of tantalizing Mediterranean flavors and spices. LAMB STEW WITH SPRING VEGETABLES is a guest worthy entrée featuring chunky, boneless lamb simmered with parsnips, peas, carrots, onions, garlic, and potatoes. Or savor the sweet-spicy taste of ANDALUSIAN PORK TENDERLOIN, where meaty slices of pork are seasoned with a lively blend of allspice, cumin, paprika, orange zest, orange juice, white wine, and raisins.
How many ways can you enjoy chicken? We've got two terrific choices. CATALAN CHICKEN is inspired by the hearty fare served in Spain's mountainous Catalonia region below southwestern France. For this satisfying dish, white breast meat is sliced and marinated in a zesty cumin sauce producing a sweet seductive finish with a subtle cumin kick. For CHICKEN FLORENTINE SALAD, shredded chicken is marinated in a light dressing flavored with garlic, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard, then mixed with orzo pasta and kalamata olives making it ideal for a light dinner or lunch.
We've given our new spring appetizers and side dishes a dash of Mediterranean flair as well. Bright orange CAULIFLOWER WITH RED PEPPER VINAIGRETTE will add color to any table with its zesty dressing blended from red pepper flakes and paprika, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic. In the appetizer department, round RISOTTO CROQUETTES WITH SMOKED FLAGSHIP will appeal to all ages. With their toasty breadcrumb coating, these morsels are served warm with a melted cheese filling that's irresistible.
For salads, we're highlighting three new favorites starting with CANNELINI SALAD WITH FENNEL AND ROASTED RED PEPPERS. This classic pairs plump white beans, a staple in Mediterranean kitchens, with diced red onion, fennel bulb, mint, and parsley tossed with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar. If you love the flavors of paella but want something lighter, take home our colorful SPANISH SHRIMP AND RICE SALAD. Combining the ingredients of a traditional paella, golden yellow rice is infused with saffron, then tossed with peas, chopped red peppers, artichoke hearts, and sweet baby shrimp in a light vinaigrette dressing. ITALIAN COUSCOUS AND GRILLED VEGETABLES rounds out our spring salads, a simple pairing of nutty-tasting couscous tossed with Portobello mushrooms, zucchini, and roasted red peppers in a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.
BEST OF THE NORTHWEST WINE PROGRAM
-Our exclusive selection of outstanding wines from the Pacific Northwest's best small production wineries has several varietals to pair with Mediterranean-style dishes. First introduced at Bennett's Pure Food Bistro, our sibling company on Mercer Island, the 100% Northwest Wine List guides you on a discovery of new releases from Oregon, Washington and Idaho's small wineries. Spring recommendations include crisp white blends, light, fruit-rich sangioveses, and subtle pinot noirs. Our knowledgeable staff will guide you to the wine that pairs best with your Mediterranean selections.
STOCKING A MEDITERRANEAN PANTRY
No cook anywhere in the Mediterranean would be without a prized olive oil in his or her kitchen. Our choice for this honor is MERULA EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. Produced from organic olives harvested and processed on the Perales de Valdueza estate in Merida, Spain, the oil is a fragrant blend of four olive varieties. Pasta is the next must You can't get much more authentic than REAL TORINO PASTA imported from Italy in colorful, whimsical shapes such as flowers, farfalini, and Mother-in-Laws Tongues made from organic, durum flour. For impromptu entertaining or a wholesome snack, stock up on richly flavored CARAMELIZED SPANISH WALNUTS. Made in small batches by Matiz España, and flavored simply with natural sugar, these nuts are wonderful for nibbling, or tossing into salads, desserts or paired with cheese. We also discovered Matiz Españaxs traditional ALMOND TORTA, a barely sweet Spanish crisp bread made with olive oil and a hint of anise. Made entirely by hand, the tortas have a distinctive hand-patted shape. Stash TARALLINI CRACKERS in your pantry and you'll be ready for any occasion. Traditional, ring-shaped breadsticks or pretzels from the Apulia region of Italy, this crunchy variety is made with simple traditional ingredients: premium quality wheat flour, white wine, and olive oil.
No pantry is complete without a sweet spread. Our Mediterranean winner is MT. VIKOS APRICOT ALMOND SPREAD, a delectable mixture of sun-dried apricots and chopped almonds sweetened with concentrated fruit juices and honey that makes a divine dessert topping or spread for buttered toast.
To add a Mediterranean look to your casual serving dishes, we selected Le Soul's SQUARE POTTERY SERVING BOWL embellished with a hand-painted, decorative blue paisley design encircling yellow daisies. Handcrafted in Tunisia, the low fire pottery will add a seasonal grace note to any table. For a novel serving dish, check out our METAL BOAT with OAR SPREADERS. It's a fun and fancy container for your favorite dips, spreads, and tapenades.
Kurt's KITCHEN WISDOM
Couscous is one of those remarkably easy dishes to make and enjoy. Cooked in minutes, it's versatile and wholesome, adapting to a variety of flavors. This recipe uses Italian couscous, which like Moroccan and Middle Eastern couscous, is made with semolina flour and water, but has irregular-shaped, lightly toasted grains. Our favorite way to prepare this pasta is this easy side dish that's an excellent companion to meats and vegetables.
Serves 6 to 8
Preheat the oven to 350xF.
Pour the stock and 5 cups water into a large pot, and bring to a boil. Stir the salt and couscous into the boiling stock. Cook until the couscous is very tender, about 20 minutes. There will be extra liquid in the pot. Do not drain.
While the couscous is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If using pancetta instead of butter, place it in the skillet over medium heat and cook until the fat has rendered. Stir in the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with all but 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Stir the onion mixture into the couscous, and cool to room temperature. Fold in 1/2 cup cheese until evenly blended.
Spoon the couscous into a shallow, ovenproof dish and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Top with the remaining cheese and 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve warm.