| Mix it Up
There are countless ways to bring the fresh flavors and beautiful foods of the Mediterranean Diet to your own table. Eat lots of vegetables, cook seafood twice a week, use healthy fats such as those found in olive oil, olives, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and avocados, and for dessert, enjoy fresh fruit. But, beyond these culinary foundations, take time to experiment and play with your food, too. Innovation keeps things interesting in the kitchen, and with new Mediterranean products showing up on grocery shelves and in dairy cases every month, this is a great time to try different combinations.
Need to put dinner on the table in a hurry? Shop for refrigerated, fully cooked falafel balls, made from chickpeas, fava beans, onions, and Mediterranean herbs and spices. The best will be gluten-free, with very few ingredients. While it's easy to heat them, and stuff into a pita half with lettuce and tahini for a quick meal, they also serve as tasty, healthy stand-ins for traditional meatballs. They're good sources of fiber and protein, and hold up well to simmering in sauces. And they keep well in the freezer, too.
Take a minute to check out what's happening with hummus at your local supermarket. Innovations and flavor choices abound. If you've made the smart switch from mayonnaise to hummus for sandwiches and dips, think about other ways to use this delicious protein powerhouse. Spread it inside pita wedges as a tasty accompaniment for soups and stews, toss it with hot, cooked pasta and top with cracked black pepper. Or, spread a thin layer of hummus on fish fillets, roll them in herb-seasoned bread crumbs, and bake. And, to come up with something really new, try the recipe below for hummus raviolis. They're not only great fun to make, but they're sure to disappear in seconds.
Bring some new attitude to your vegetable cooking, too, by roasting peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, eggplant, onions, squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, and cherry tomatoes at high oven temperatures (about 425°F) on baking sheets, for 10 to 30 minutes, until soft and brown around the edges. You may find that kids who don't like steamed vegetables will enjoy the toothier textures and sweeter flavor that come from roasting.
Here are three new ideas to try:
Falafel Spaghetti Marinara Serves 4
Here's an easy way to make a vegetarian meal without giving up the
8 ounces spaghetti
8 roasted garlic falafel balls
12 ounces spaghetti sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. Meanwhile, heat the spaghetti sauce in a large saucepan. Heat the falafel balls according to the package directions and add them to the sauce. Pour the sauce with the falafel balls over the drained pasta and toss. Sprinkle with the basil and grated cheese and serve.
Calories: 380, Fat: 7g, Sodium: 455mg, Carbohydrate: 65g, Protein: 16g
Recipe courtesy of Falafel Republic.
Hummus Ravioli with
Red Pepper Coulis
Make your own "ravioli" without rolling out any dough! Look for zaatar, a pungent spice mixture popular throughout the Middle East, in Mediterranean grocery stores.
Red Pepper Coulis (optional)
4 medium red bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 wonton wrappers
4 tablespoons hummus (any flavor)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zaatar to taste (optional)
Sea salt to taste
First, make the coulis. Roast the whole peppers over an open flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until blackened all over. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Peel and discard the skins, seeds, and cores. Chop and add to a food processor along with the olive oil and vinegar. Puree and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the wontons on top of the paper and put about 1 teaspoon of hummus in the center of each square. Fill a bowl with ¼ cup of water. Wet your finger with water and trace two edges (a right angle) of each wonton square. Fold each wonton in half and seal, pressing both sides firmly together. In a nonstick skillet warm the olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté the raviolis on both sides for several minutes, until crisp. Cool on a rack. Sprinkle with zaatar and sea salt on both sides. Serve with the coulis, for dipping.
Calories: 195, Fat: 9g, Sodium: 348mg, Carbohydrate: 24g, Protein: 5g
Recipe courtesy of Sabra.
Quick and Healthy Fries
Does your family love French fries? Make these baked oven-fries and treat everyone to the Mediterranean technique of roasting rather than frying. These are sure to become a favorite in your house.
Olive oil cooking spray
1 1/2 lbs. Russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon coarse ground or cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F and spray a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. Place whole potatoes (do not poke) into a microwave-safe dish. Cover the dish and microwave on HIGH for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the strength of the microwave. Use oven mitts to remove the dish from the microwave; carefully remove the cover from the dish, avoiding steam build-up, and let cool. Cut each potato into 8 wedges. Place the wedges in a large bowl and toss with olive oil. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Spray with olive oil cooking spray, turn, and spray again. Bake for 10 minutes more, or until the fries are golden brown. Spray once more. Mash together the rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl with the back of a spoon; sprinkle over the cooked potatoes and toss well to coat.
Nutrition Analysis (with skins):
Calories: 230, Fat: 8g, Sodium: 500mg, Carbohydrate: 33g, Protein: 9g
Recipe courtesy of US Potato Board.