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Entertaining Tips

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Going Global

Whip up an entire menu. Or simply introduce a new dish or two. Either way, cooking dishes from Middle Eastern, Indian and Mediterranean cultures can bring fun and variety to your table with surprisingly little fuss.

You don't need special training, you don't need special tools and you don't need to run all over town tracking down obscure ingredients. You can make global dishes with the techniques and equipment you already use, and with foods you'll easily find at your neighborhood Publix.

Middle Eastern. Like our country itself, our food preferences are already a melting pot. It's not the first cultural melting pot, though. That title goes to the Middle East, which spans some 5,000 miles from Northwestern Africa to the Arabian Sea, and its cuisine reflects the influences of ancient empires and farming cultures, nomadic traditions and the finds of early spice traders. Although there are many distinct regional variations, all share common preferences for lamb, rice, beans, nuts and dried fruits, as well as combinations of fruity, spicy and savory flavors.

One favorite of the Middle Eastern table is an appetizer platter called meze, which comes from a word meaning "to savor in little bites." This array often features a puree of roasted eggplant (baba ghanoush), which makes a refreshing start to any meal.

Indian. India is a short distance from the Middle East, both in terms of geography and cooking style. This flavorful cuisine has a bent for strong and sometimes hot curry sauces. (The curry powder that flavors the sauces is a blend of as many as 20 spices, herbs and seeds.) It’s not all hot and spicy, however, particularly the meats and breads that are cooked in large clay tandoor ovens. The bread, or naan, is a soft, chewy flatbread that can be made just as easily on a baking stone in any oven.

Mediterranean. The Mediterranean is full of dishes and foods especially adaptable to American cooking. The countries along the northern Mediterranean -- Greece, Italy, France and Spain -- are particularly known for olive oil, which we have embraced as a dietary darling because of its heart-healthy properties. Like olives, other fruits and vegetables native to the Mediterranean are now being cultivated in the United States. Two that pair for an exciting Italian salad are fennel, which has a mild anise flavor and a texture like celery, and sweet blood oranges, which are native to Sicily and Spain and are now grown in California and Texas.

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