Fresh Fridays 
March 22, 2013
Vol. V, No. 6            
A Mediterranean Spring. Outdoor table set with fresh greens, strawberries, olive oil and other produce.

The arrival of spring is a time for celebration! The diverse cultural groups of the Mediterranean region celebrate the awakening of nature, the start of a new agricultural cycle, and the religious observances related to rebirth and renewal in their own ways with their own culinary traditions.

In some traditional Christian communities of the Mediterranean region, the Lenten period preceding Easter means refraining from eating meat. Vegetarian dishes prepared with grains, vegetables, and oil appear on family tables throughout the six-week period. Some traditional Mediterranean Lenten dishes include okra or green beans in oil, stuffed eggplant, stuffed grape leaves, and falafel.


The appearance of chard in Mediterranean markets at this time of year makes this leafy green a popular ingredient for springtime recipes. The leaves are used for stuffing, in soups, and in stews, while the stems are cleaned, boiled, cut into small cubes, and prepared with tahini sauce.  


This spring try making some vegetarian meals for your family using ingredients that are seasonal and local to your area:

  • Try fiddleheads and parsnips in the Northeast.
  • Experiment with asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower down South.
  • Look for asparagus, morels, and rhubarb in the Midwest.
  • Pick up fava beans, fiddleheads, and rhubarb in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Enjoy avocados, artichokes, garlic scapes, and spring onions out West.
  • Cook with asparagus, garlic, and pea greens in the Southwest.

Eggs play an important role in many springtime celebrations traditionally observed in the Mediterranean, including Easter, the Persian holiday Nowruz, and Passover. Eggs appear both as decorative elements and as traditional, symbolic foods at this time of year.


Eggs match well with the creaminess of avocados, another wonderfully delicious and nutritious Mediterranean ingredient that is delightfully versatile for spring events and parties. Avocado season has begun in California and will continue through the fall.


Try these tips for serving avocados during your spring celebration:

  • Fold avocado into eggs, omelets, and other popular brunch dishes. Add them to vegetable, fruit, and whole-grain salads.
  • The best way to tell if an avocado is ready for use is to gently squeeze it in the palm of your hand. Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm, yet will yield to gentle pressure.
  • Nick and peel a ripe avocado to be sure you include the nutrient-rich dark green portion just under the skin.
Whether you are celebrating a cultural holiday or are simply happy that a new growing season heralds the return of your favorite produce, these recipes are sure to please.  
(Click on the titles or photos below to link to the recipes.)

Web links

grain of the month: quinoa
Quinoa makes a great addition to any meal. Because it is a complete protein and gluten free, it fits well into almost any type of diet. Quinoa can also be kosher for Passover!

Book cover for

Treat your family to delicious vegetarian meals. Not used to meatless meals? Start with just one dinner a week. Vegetarian dinners can be healthy, flavorful, and affordable. Find recipes in Elaine Louie's book

The Quintessential Quinoa Cookbook by Wendy Polisi.

Quinoa is the whole grain of the month in March. Try adding a quinoa dish from Wendy Polisi's The Quintessential Quinoa Cookbook to your next holiday table or family dinner.

Green beans in oil on a white plate.
This traditional, vegetarian Mediterranean dish is popular in Lebanon. Although commonly eaten in the spring, this dish can shine as part of a vegetarian meal anytime thanks to the availability of frozen beans and canned tomatoes throughout the year.   
Photo and recipe courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar 
This fresh variation on the classic "egg in a hole" recipe uses avocado in place of bread. As a fruit with poly- and monounsaturated fat, avocados provide a nutrient boost by enabling the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients in other foods at the same meal.

Photo and recipe courtesy of the California Avocado Commission  
Fresh Swiss chard is readily available in the Mediterranean during the springtime. This recipe makes great use of the stems, which might otherwise get thrown away when leaves are used for soups, stews, or are stuffed.

Photo and recipe courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar   
For a twist on deviled eggs, try this creation by chef Ivy Stark using avocados for extra flavor, creaminess, and nutrition. Avocados pack nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients with the greatest concentration in the dark green fruit closest to the peel.

Photo and recipe courtesy of the California Avocado Commission
Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.   

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        



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Med Diet USA.
Illustration of an orange fish and apples on grass in front of the Chicago skyline.

Unfamiliar with Nowruz? Find a
public celebration near you such as the annual Chicago Nowruz Parade at 11:30 a.m. at Federal Plaza on Saturday, March 30 or the Norooz celebration at the Persian Cultural Center in Richardson, TX at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 7.

12 great ways to use hummus