This week’s Mediterranean menu has many of our favorite things, yet so many ways to make it your own.

So let’s start with our spread of Greek dishes that are ready to eat or simply reheat, and require little to no decision making. Mel’s braised octopus and bean salad, could be enjoyed on its own as a luxurious lunch, or in the company of some new Greek treats from Calamaki. Chef Kosta’s authentic Greek dishes are available at the Hollywood Farmers market on Sundays where he also sources many of his ingredients. He makes the sheets of filo dough for his spanakopita using local Tehachapi Grain Project’s sonora wheat flour. His avgolemono soup has a chicken broth base thickened with local Koda Farms rice, egg yolks and lemon. And his pastitsio, a layered baked pasta with ground beef and bechamel, is his mother’s recipe and one of my kids’ favorites.

And here come the building blocks- the meals in the making- with endless permutations. Mel’s making Greek style braised lamb shanks, fork tender meat on the bone in a Greek style braising liquid with onions, garlic, tomato and warm spices. All you need to do is reheat this impressive piece of meat and decide what to serve it with. I’m envisioning a show stopper… a large platter with a layer of couscous, topped with lamb shanks and crumbled feta. Or keep going and add some roasted cauliflower and carrots, scatter some chickpeas, drizzle some yogurt and garnish with some pickled golden raisins and fresh herbs. Of course, we’ve got all the components here for you…

Our chickpeas ala Canele, are delicious as is, and a great thing to have on hand to add to grain salads and such. But their subtly spiced cooking liquid is also a perfect base to build a substantial vegetarian stew with wilted greens and roasted kabocha squash from the produce box or Trader Joe’s Grecian eggplant in a can! Serve it over some couscous, which is delicious and a magnificent yellow when cooked in Schaner Farm’s fresh orange juice

If you want something ready for you to cook, we’re marinating organic, ground chicken in middle eastern spices, for you to form into patties, balls or around skewers for lickity quick lula kabobs. Or make your own lula with some grass fed ground beef

To sauce your lula, branzino filets, organic semi-boneless half chicken, salads or roasted vegetables, we have a batch of lemon-garlic-tahini dressing from our friends at Forage. And of course, there’s also Valbreso’s sheep’s milk feta to garnish almost anything on this week’s menu.

Bub and Grandma’s sesame loaves are back, which we love loaded with marinated kefir cheese, from Aris Natural Food in Inglewood. This strained yogurt cheese comes rolled in balls studded with either sun dried tomatoes or jalapenos and packed in olive oil. We also have more of their kefir-style strained plain yogurt which is great spread on a platter beneath a tangle of roasted vegetables, turned into a tzatziki, or used in a marinade.

And for your pantry, we’ve got jars of za’atar from Miry’s List and K&K Ranch’s golden raisins. Za’atar is an incredibly versatile middle eastern spice blend that can elevate almost anything on this week’s menu. Sprinkle it on plain yogurt, feta, hummus or eggs. Mix it with olive oil and spread it on bread. Use it to season roast carrots or cauliflower, or add it to baked rice dishes. This week, I’ll prepare the semi-boneless half chicken in a tenderizing yogurt-lemon marinade that a coating of za’atar can stick to while it roasts. (We’ll share recipes.) Plus 100% of the profits from the za'atar support Miry’s List, a local non profit devoted to resettling recently arrived refugee families. K&K’s golden raisins are the plumpest we’ve found. They make an obvious snack and an unexpected quick pickle, which we love with the za’atar chicken, braised lamb or couscous. 

For a sweet finale, we’ve got Aris’s fig yogurt and walnut baklava from Baklava Factory, a local baklava shop. And to wash it all down, we’ve restocked our favorite orange wine, the Weisser Mulatschek from Meinklang.