An Eastern Mediterranean Feast

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This colorful feast is a great gathering-up of both the flavorful cuisines and welcoming cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean. Linger and chat over an elegant appetizer, then let the conversation deepen over roasted or grilled lamb. Serve tea and peel fresh oranges to share. Throw down a backgammon challenge. And when you think you can’t eat another bite, pistachio cream puffs will change your mind.

The Menu

#1 Quail Breasts Tarator with Pomegranate Gremolata, single recipe but double the quail

#2 Merino Racks with Baba Sauce and Fennel Salad

#3 Pistachio Cream Puffs

Prepare the day before:

  • Mix up the eggplant marinade (called baba sauce “Part 1” in the recipe), baste and grill the eggplant. Once it cools, make the baba sauce (“Part 2”).
  • The marinade for the Merino racks can be mixed up ahead of time.
  • Make the tarator sauce ahead – it’s even better the next day!
  • The pomegranate gremolata can also be prepared ahead of time.
  • The pistachio powder topping and cream filling can both be made ahead.

Before the party starts:

  • Marinate the quail breasts and soak the bamboo skewers.
  • Make the cream puffs far enough in advance to cool (but they are best made the same day)
  • Once the cream puffs cool, they can be filled and finished, and kept in the fridge
  • The fennel salad for the Merino racks can be made in advance.
  • Thread the quail beasts onto skewers and hold them in the fridge.
  • Marinate the Merino racks at room temperature for an hour

Party time:

  • Will all the components prepped ahead, the quail breast appetizer will come together quickly.
  • Grill or roast the Merino racks shortly before you serve them.
  • Take the cream puffs out of the fridge when you serve dinner, so that they have time to come to room temperature

Shopping List

40 Small Bamboo Skewers

20 Boneless Quail Breasts
2 Merino Lamb Racks

4 Eggs
Heavy Cream (1-1/3 cup)
Crème Fraiche (2/3 cup)
Unsalted Butter, 2 sticks + a bit

Pomegranate Seeds (1/2 cup)
1 bunch flat leaf Parsley
Rosemary, 2 sprigs (or use dried)
1 bunch fresh Mint
1 large Eggplant
1 large Fennel bulb
1 Orange
2 Lemons
2 Shallots
1 head Garlic
Black Garlic (2 cloves, or sub regular garlic)

Pistachio Cream (1/2 cup)
Shelled Pistachios (1/4 cup)
Slivered Almonds (1/4 cup)
Shelled Hazelnuts (1/4 cup)
Sugar (2 Tbsp)
Cornstarch (2 Tbsp)
Firm White Sandwich Bread, 1 slice
All Purpose Flour (1-1/4 cups)
Honey (2 tsp)
Colatura Fish Sauce (1 tsp)
Pomegranate Molasses (1 Tbsp)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Neutral-Flavored High Heat Oil for Frying
Aleppo Pepper, 1 pinch
Smoked Olive Oil, optional
Alder smoked Salt
Salt & Pepper

Wine Pairings:

Sweet and slightly rich quail and bright pomegranate will both pair well with a red Burgundy or a Zinfandel, both of which can carry right into the main course. In addition to these two, the slight tannic taste of the eggplant in the baba sauce would also pair well with a Syrah or a Malbec. And all of these reds are lovely with lamb.

Dessert would be a great time to break out the bottle of Banyuls you save for conversations with good friends that last long into the night.

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