Fresh Fridays 
May 2, 2014 
  Vol. VI, No. 9     

Imagine that you and a companion are sitting at this table, looking out at this spectacular vista of the Mediterranean, enjoying a glass of wine, anticipating a classic Mediterranean dinner to celebrate Mediterranean Month.  What might your dinner be? 

Certain dishes are emblematic of Mediterranean cuisine, so today's Fresh Friday takes a tour around the Mediterranean sea with the authors of classic Mediterranean cookbooks, to help you imagine your quintessential Mediterranean dinner. 

Because studies on the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet had their origins in Crete, we begin with classic Mediterranean dishes from two of Greece's best known cookbook authors, Aglaia Kremezi and Diane Kochilas.   

From Aglaia's Table, celebrating Greeks' love of greens and "pies with greens," we've chosen a crust-less pie with scallion, greens and herbs, called Hortopsomo. Aglaia advises that it can be "served as a main course, with rice pilaf or any grain dish. It is an ideal finger food, cut into bite-size pieces."

Despite the overall popularity of greens, a classic Greek salad does not include lettuce or greens. Try Diane's recipe from The Greek Vegetarian: Diporto's Greek Villager's Salad.  Diane notes that "the Villager's salad is the classic Greek salad -- ripe tomatoes, sliced onion, crunchy peppers and cucumbers, kalamata olives, feta and extra virgin olive oil. Diporto is a small taverna, open for lunch only on the perimeter of the Athens Cenetral Market." 

In plant-based cuisines, whole grains and vegetables pair up in many dishes, and meat is used in small amounts as a flavor accent. Eggplant is a staple of Turkish cooking, and so is rice pilaf. Claudia Roden's recipe from Mediterranean Cookery for Turkish Pilaf brings them together. Claudia writes that "many classic Turkish dishes are associated with the Ottoman Sultans....This pilaf, Sultan Reshat's favourite, is on the record in the archives of the palace of Topkapi."   

Staying in the Eastern Mediterranean, a classic from Lebanon is souvlakia or kebab with grilled vegetables. Nancy Harmon Jenkins lived in Lebanon in the early 1970s, and in her book, The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, she writes that in those days, Lebanon was "perfect picnic country," and "lamb on skewers was a favorite picnic food, easy to prepare, easy to transport, easy to set up and cook on the spot."   

A heavy emphasis on vegetables is a hallmark of Mediterranean cooking. According to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, "okra is very popoular in Jerusalem, where it is normally cooked with tomato, onion and garlic, often served with fresh cilantro." You'll love their recipe from the award-winning cookbook, Jerusalem, for charred okra with tomato, garlic and preserved lemon

Lively use of spices -- for flavor and for their health benefits -- is another basic in Mediterranean cooking. Moving into North Africa, we look to Paula Wolfert for guidance. In her classic, ground-breaking book, Couscous and other Good Food from MoroccoPaula's recipe for Omar's Couscous is "a combination of some of the best ideas in many couscous recipes, plus a Tunisian touch -- a peppery harissa sauce."   

Crossing from Morocco to Spain at Gibraltar we arrive at the region of Andalusia in Spain. A classic dish from Andalucia is Gazpacho, a cold tomato soup. Claudia Roden's Mediterranean Cookery features a simple recipe for this dish, as well as a Valencian Paella, a traditional Spanish rice dish prepared in a large, shallow pan with a wide and flexible variety of ingredients, bringing together grains, vegetables, spices and another Med stalwart, seafood.   

Richard Olney's classic book, The French Menu Cookbookprovides inspiration with Cold Ratatouille, the first course of a summer luncheon a la Provençale. Olney writes that "ratatouille, although often served hot as an accompaniment to pork and veal dishes, gains through being savored cold as an hors d'oeuvre."  

And finally, Italy. Though pasta is found in all Mediterranean cuisines, the people of Italy eat more pasta per capita than people from any other country. And, not surprisingly, the pasta dishes of each region of Italy are very different, featuring ingredients native to each region. To celebrate Mediterranean Month, try one pasta dish from the north (Liguria) and one pasta dish from the south (Puglia). Clifford Wright's Quick Pesto Genovese in Italian Pure and Simple, features the freshness of basil in the pesto sauce. Nancy Harmon Jenkins spent a lot of time in the region of Puglia, researching her book, The Flavors of Puglia, and has a simple recipe for Orecchiette alla Barese, "a favorite in the Italian south, where orecchiette (the little ear pasta) are homemade" and the pasta is classsically cooked "with a sauce of broccoli rabe or rapini, bitter-sweet greens."  

Looking for other fun activities this May that embrace all things Mediterranean? Head on over to the Oldways blog to see how we are ringing in International Mediterranean Diet Month and how you too can take part in the fun (and maybe even win some prizes)!


And no matter how you join in the celebration - at a local restaurant, at home or online - be sure you enjoy some delicious and healthy Mediterranean food today and throughout the entire month of May!


All that's left to say is buon appetito, bon appetit, Kalí óreksi!, be'te-avon, afiyet olsun!, Bil hana, ˇBuen apetito! Check out the specific recipes below to put some of the basic principles of the Mediterranean Diet into practice.


Click on a photo or recipe title below to link to the full recipe:  

In this Issue
Stuffed Vine Leaves
Puttanesca Sauce
Salmon with Walnut Salsa

Man drawing cartoon people on glass.
What plans do you have in store to celebrate Mediterranean Diet Month?  Visit the Oldways Forum to share your favorite Mediterranean inspired recipes, stories of celebration, and ideas you have to join in the fun!

Oldways Bookstore.
Claudia Roden's Mediterranean Cookery is a classic in its own right.  Turn to this cookbook for traditional Mediterranean recipes.

The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins is an updated version of her first Med Diet Cookbook, written just after the creation and introduction of the Oldways Mediterranean Diet Pyramid in 1993. 

Clifford Wright's book, A Mediterranean Feast, was the James Beard Cookbook of the Year fifteen years ago.  Mediterranean Month is the perfect time to learn the sweeping story of the birth of the venerated and diverse cuisines of the Mediterranean.     
Dolma is the general name given to the family of stuffed vegetable dishes in the Eastern Mediterranean.  Grape or cabbage leaves wrapped around vegetables or meat can be called either sarma or the more general, dolma.  This Mediterranean classic dating back to the days of Alexander the Great can be served either hot or cold.   
Content and photo courtesy of Al Wadi al Akhdar 
A classic Puttanesca sauce is a great way to turn an everyday pasta dinner into a Mediterranean experience.  Originally created in the mid-twentieth century, the dish has its roots in Naples, Italy.  Pitted Kalamata olives are the perfect briny complement to this tomato based sauce.  The olives are smoky and fruity and add wonderful flavor to this Mediterranean classic. 
Photo courtesy of FoodMatch   
Walnuts are a traditional component in the Mediterranean diet and a key ingredient in the landmark "Prevention with the Mediterranean Diet" (PREDIMED) study: a multicenter, randomized, primary prevention trial of cardiovascular disease - supported by the Spanish Health Ministry. This Crispy Salmon with Walnut Salsa Verde recipe is a flavorful combination of Mediterranean favorites: fish and walnuts. The combined heart-healthy omega-3s in the salmon and walnuts make this dish a nutritious treat.
Photo: California Walnut 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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