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|Why We Love Mediterranean Food |
|Few cuisines can claim an official shout out from the United Nations. French and Mexican cuisines, for example, are on a U.N. list of cultural treasures worth preserving. So, too, is one of our favorites, the Mediterranean diet.
|Photo by Hans Hillewaert via Wikimedia Commons|Last November, a UNESCO panel put the Mediterranean diet on its list of "intangible" world treasures. Greece's agriculture minister was giddy, declaring the Mediterranean diet "has acquired the status of a philosophy and a way of life." We won't argue. What is clear is that olive oil plays a starring role in Mediterranean cooking. Bill Briwa, a chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America's Greystone campus in California, calls olive oil the cuisine's "primary cooking fat."
"It really anchors the Mediterranean diet," Briwa says.
Aside from olive oil, Mediterranean cuisine is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole
The cuisine's popularity stems from its great taste. But there's a bonus: Scientific research since the mid-20th century repeatedly has suggested that eating a Mediterranean diet can be good for your heart, your brain, and your overall well being. One recent study, for example, suggests following a Mediterranean diet and other good habits may extend your life by up to 15 years - particularly if you're a woman.
Sadly, even the Mediterraneans don't always follow their namesake diet.
Italian, Spanish and Greek young people are ignoring the
traditional Mediterranean diet in favor of fast food and soda. The result, according to experts and scientific data: They're putting on the kilos, and becoming overweight and obese. That's why the U.N. needs to preserve the diet!
The good flavors that permeate Mediterranean cuisine, meanwhile, make it stand out from other, more contemporary eating regimens intended to promote weight loss and health. People are more likely to stick with a diet that tastes good versus one that's bland or unappealing.
McManus is a Mediterranean diet proponent, and she points to a reason for the cuisine's appeal: "Healthy, delicious olive oil helps food taste great."
We'll second that. Moreover, we can give Mediterranean cuisine a new twist on this side of the Atlantic by using great tasting olive oil from California.
| Our Favorite Mediterranean Recipes |
|Recipes Courtesy of Paula Wolfert|
Credit: The Food of Morocco (Ecco, 2011), by Paula Wolfert
Reprinted with permission from the publisher
Reprinted with permission from the publisher
| Q&A With Our Featured Culinary Professional |
|Paula Wolfert's cookbooks have influenced the finest restaurants and home kitchens alike in this country. The famed culinary anthropologist's food writing, which goes back four
|Photo by Ed Anderson (www.edandersonphoto.com)|
decades, helped introduce readers here to dishes like foie gras, preserved lemons, and truffles.
Wolfert, 73, has published eight cookbooks, including Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco, The Cooking of Southwest France, and five books on Mediterranean cuisine, including the much praised Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. She's won the Julia Child Award, the James Beard Award, and the M. F. K. Fisher Award, among other accolades. This month Wolfert released an updated version of her first Moroccan cookbook, The Food of Morocco (Ecco, 2011).
While Paula Wolfert is famous, she's truly down-to-earth. She responds promptly to emailed questions about cooking, or what southern French dish a middle schooler should prepare for her French class. She even manages to oversee a very active Facebook page devoted to Moroccan cooking. There, she regularly fields queries and comments from more than 2,000 fans.
You once didn't know how to cook. Was there a key event that spurred your interest in food?
In the mid-fifties, young women in my group went to college not to get a degree in law or medicine, but what we humorously called an MRS. degree - in other words, to get married and get out of the house.
I met my future husband, and my mother suggested I might take some cooking lessons to be "useful." She paid for me to attend classes at Dione Lucas's Cordon Bleu cooking school, the best in New York at the time, and immediately I found my calling. I ended up leaving my studies in 20th century literature and went to work full time with Mrs. Lucas in return for free classes.
What is your first food memory?
|"I develop recipes by traveling, eating, experimenting and constantly asking myself: 'Do I want to eat this again?'" |
Photo © Ed Anderson
I lived with my grandparents during part of World War II. They had a victory garden like everyone else. Only eggplants were the main crop, and we ate loads of them in dozens of ways!
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Brooklyn, but grew up all around the East Coast, including Miami, New York's Westchester County, and New York City.
What did your parents do, and did they like to cook?
My father owned a hotel and my mother was on a diet her entire life. She was stunning and took good care of herself. I remember we ate a lot of herring, Romaine lettuce, melon and cottage cheese.
What dishes do you like to cook at home?
I cook at home every day. I'm very interested in cooking techniques. I like long, slow cooking, because it allows the development of deep, satisfying taste. I also like steaming vegetables then maybe sautéing them for a bit of caramelization
How do you gather your recipes, and how do you decide whether a dish you've eaten is "a keeper?"
|Photo © Ed Anderson|
I develop recipes by traveling, eating, experimenting and constantly asking myself: "Do I want to eat this again?" The ultimate test: whether a dish is worth making again.
How many times do you spend testing and changing a recipe you've collected until you're satisfied that it's suitable for a cookbook?
At least three times. The first time I try it it's perfect. The second time, after changing it to see if I can improve upon it, it's dead on arrival. By the third go-round, and after some refinements, it's shined up and ready to type up.
How do you like to use California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil in your cooking?
I use the Arbequena olive oil for dressing all my salads, frying, marinating, simmering, stewing and finishing.
Stay Healthy in 2011 with California Olive Ranch!
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