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A Provencale Dinner with Friends

by Lou Seibert Pappas

Entertain with an easy and elegant make-ahead dinner with flavors from the Mediterranean. For a refreshing starter, strips of melon draped with smoked salmon make a pretty first course. A spinach salad is dressed with pine nuts. The boneless and succulent leg of lamb is easy to carve. Roasted vegetables and a hearty whole-wheat bread get a dollop of pesto.

An Oregon or California Pinot Noir or an Australian Shiraz would make a delightful sipper. Consider such good value choices as a 1994 Rosemount Estate Shiraz, a 1994 Estancia Monterey Pinot Noir, or a 1993 Benziger California Pinot Noir. Snow peaches and a puree of raspberries complete the festive menu.

Rosemary Whole-Wheat Rounds
makes 2 loaves

1-1/2 packages active dry yeast
2-1/2 cups warm water
2 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (approximately)
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Sprinkle the yeast into 1/2 cup warm water (approximately 105 F) and let stand until proofed, about 10 minutes. In a large mixing bowl place the whole-wheat flour and 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour, and salt. Add the remaining water, honey, and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and mix well using a heavy duty electric mixer or beat with a wooden spoon by hand. Mix in proofed yeast and 1 tablespoon of the rosemary. Stir in remaining flour, adding enough to make a soft dough. Knead with the dough hook for 10 minutes or turn out on a lightly floured board and knead by hand. Place in a bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours.

Punch down the risen dough and turn out on a lightly floured board. Divide in half and shape into 2 round loaves, kneading out the air bubbles. Place each dough round in a lightly greased 9-inch round baking dish. With a finger poke about 6 to 8 holes around the outer edge of the top surface. Fill with remaining rosemary and oil, dividing evenly. Cover and let rise until doubled. Brush with olive oil. Preheat the oven to 375F. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when thumped. Let cool 10 minutes, turn out on a rack and cool completely.

Melon and Smoked Salmon

Arrange on each plate 2 or 3 thin slices of melon and overlap a strip of smoked salmon on top. Accompany with a wedge of lime.

Dried Tomato Garlic Pesto
makes about 1 cup
It is so easy to oven-dry your own tomatoes when Romas are at their peak. Place a rack in a shallow 10 by 15-inch baking pan and cover it with a piece of cheesecloth. Halve tomatoes and place cut side up on the cloth. Bake in a 225F oven until tomatoes are shriveled and dried but still flexible like dried apricots. It takes about 8 to 12 hours, depending on their size. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze.

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup dried tomatoes (flexible and moist style)
1/3 cup packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley sprigs
2 tablespoons chopped garlic chives or green onion tops
1/3 cup chopped basil
2 tablespoons pine nuts or pistachios
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place the garlic, tomatoes, parsley, garlic chives, basil, and nuts. Process until finely minced. Add the cheese and process until mixed in. Transfer to a small bowl, cover, and chill.

Spinach and Pine Nut Salad with Balsamic-Olive Oil Vinaigrette
makes 8 servings

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 bunches spinach, trimmed and leaves torn
2 cups red and green seedless grapes (optional)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Mix together in a bowl the mustard and vinegar and stir in the wine, oil, salt, and pepper. When ready to serve, toss with the spinach and top with the grapes and nuts.

Rolled Leg of Lamb With Roasted Garlic
makes 8 servings

1 head garlic
3 pound boneless leg of lamb, rolled and tied
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Peel and sliver 2 or 3 garlic cloves and insert the slivers in the folds of the meat. Season the meat with salt and pepper and place it on a roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer. Slice the papery wrapper from the top of the garlic head and drizzle it with oil. Wrap in foil. Roast the meat and garlic in the oven allowing about 45 minutes for the garlic and 50 to 55 minutes for the meat, or until the meat thermometer registers 145F for rare meat or 160 F. for medium meat. Let the meat stand a few minutes. Slice and serve each plate with a few cloves of garlic to squeeze over.

Roasted Vegetables with Pesto
Makes 4 servings

12 small red-skinned new potatoes
2 small Japanese eggplant
2 medium zucchini
2 red onions
1/4 pound mushrooms (about 1-1/2 inches in diameter)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sun-Dried Tomato or Basil Pesto

Preheat the oven to 475 F. Slice the potatoes 1/2-inch thick. Cut the eggplant and zucchini on the diagonal in 1/2-inch-thick slices. Peel and slice the onions, thickly, and separate into rings. Cut the mushrooms in half. Toss the vegetables in a mixture of the oil and vinegar and let stand a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking pan and bake for 20 minutes, turning the vegetables once or twice. Test for doneness, the potatoes will take a few minutes longer. Serve with one or more pestos to spoon over.

Note: Red and gold peppers may also be used.

Basil Pesto
makes about 3/4 cup

1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup Italian parsley
3 tablespoons pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a blender or food processor, place the basil, parsley, nuts, and garlic. Whirl until finely minced. Add the cheese and oil, and process until blended. Transfer to a small bowl, cover, and chill.

Snow Peaches with Raspberry Sauce
Makes 6 servings

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cassis syrup or Framboise liqueur
6 white peaches or nectarines

Puree the raspberries in a food processor or blender and push through a sieve to remove the seeds. Stir in sugar and cassis syrup. Peel and slice the peaches or nectarines and place in dessert bowls. Pour over the berry puree.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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