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How to set a sustainable table Mediterranean style

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How to set a sustainable table Mediterranean style

Enjoy the healthy bounty of an earthy Mediterranean feast knowing that it's good for you and good for the earth, too. Flavorful farm-fresh ingredients, natural decor with rustic charm, specialty shop treats and minimal paperware and packaging can turn dinner into a sustainable celebration with Mediterranean style.

Here's how:

Go native - Think peasant-style: bare wood table, homegrown or local ingredients, hearty simple fare, earthy wines, fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers. Crusty breads from local artisanal bakers, and for an extra treat - creamy cheeses, hand-crafted mustards, olives and olive oil from the delicatessen or specialty shop.

Invite - Go paperless with invitation Web sites like Evite and Paperless Post. You can create an event on Facebook or design your own invite to email to guests.

Wine and dine - Break the bottle habit. By choosing a premium wine cask such as the new Octavin Home Wine Bar three-liter package instead of four carbon-inefficient heavy glass bottles, you'll reduce packaging by at least 85 percent and carbon emissions by 55 percent, without any waste or sacrificing wine quality.  Now even premium wines come in new eco-friendly bag-in-box packaging because it's the right thing to do. Finally, artisan wines are available a glass at a time and they won't break the bank. For more information, go to www.octavinhomewinebar.com.

Strategize - Heirloom tomatoes and just-picked basil? For a fresh-from-farm-to-table meal, do some legwork. Visit your local farmers market and farm stands for what's in season.  Join a CSA (community supported agriculture farms that provide subscribers with direct fresh produce) and have your own boxes of field-ripened produce delivered.

Click - With key ingredients as search terms, click online for recipes. Epicurious, SouthernLiving.com and Cooks.com are sites with healthy lifestyle recipes. Try the recipes included below.

Decorate - Supplement your supply of utensils and service ware with a fun trawl through antique shops, flea markets, thrift shops and rummage sales. You'll be creatively reusing vintage items and you can brag to your friends about your finds. Look for earth-colored ceramic platters and crockery, checkered or coarsely-woven cloth napkins and heavy-handled flatware.  Keep the items afterward for future use or donate them back.

Play - For an endless stream of mood-setting music, try the free custom radio site Pandora. Create a station to suit the occasion by artist or genre;  get contemporary continental tunes flowing. Do a test run.

For a dish that is extremely versatile and works well with meaty wild mushrooms or cultivated ones, try the recipe below. Serve on bruschetta for dinner or use the mushrooms as a pizza topping. It pairs well with Monthaven 2008 Chardonnay (Recipe courtesy of Martha Rose Shulman, Mediterranean Harvest).

10178_B3_rgb.gifSauteed Mushrooms
Serves: two as a main course, four as a first course or side dish, or 12 as a topping for bruschetta

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound cultivated or wild mushrooms (shiitake, chanterelles or oyster mushrooms, or a combination) trimmed and quartered if small, thickly sliced if large
2 tablespoons Monthaven Chardonnay
Freshly ground black pepper
Gremolata (see recipe below)

Heat a large, heavy non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of the olive oil, and when it's hot, add the mushrooms. Sear the mushrooms, stirring with a wooden spoon or tossing in the pan, until they are lightly browned and begin to exude their juices. Add salt to taste. Add the wine and continue to cook, stirring or tossing the mushrooms in the pan, until the wine has just about evaporated and the mushrooms are glazed, five to 10 minutes. Add the remaining oil, pepper to taste and the gremolata. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one more minute. Taste and adjust salt. Serve hot.

This classic Mediterranean seasoning - a mixture of minced garlic, parsley and lemon zest - is wonderful with pasta, with roasted and grilled vegetables, and especially with pan-cooked mushrooms.

1 to 2 garlic cloves (to taste), finely minced
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Toss together all ingredients. Add to dishes shortly before serving.

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