November 13, 2015
Vol. VII No. 23
In This Issue
Keeping Warm with the Med Diet

As the temperature drops and the days get shorter, we crave comfort foods that keep us feeling warm and satisfied for the winter ahead. It's time to cook up fresh, hardy cold-weather vegetables like winter squash and sweet potatoes, and break out the frozen, canned, and pickled forms of out-of-season favorites. For healthy, cold-weather comfort food ideas, look no further than the Mediterranean diet. Unlike in summer, spending a few hours over the stove or in the kitchen with the oven on these days is a much-needed way to warm up. Below, we provide a broad overview of some winter vegetables, and examples of how to prepare them, Mediterranean style.  

Potatoes and Other Tubers
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes (despite their name), and many other tubers came to the Mediterranean from the New World, and quickly integrated into the cuisine. They paired perfectly with olive oil in dishes such as patatas bravas, Spanish chilli potatoes, and gnocchi, Italian potato dumplings. Jerusalem artichokes have a delicate, sweet flavor perfect for soups or casseroles. 

Brassicas - the Cabbage Family
Many brassicas, also known as crucifers or the cabbage family, thrive in the winter months. Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and collard greens all fall into this category. They sometimes get a bad rap for their strong flavors and smells, but that all depends on how they are cooked. They stand up to bold Mediterranean ingredients like anchovies, spices, cheese, and olives, and don't require much cooking time. Cabbage rolls, stuffed with grains and meat, are popular across many cultures in the Mediterranean. In northern Italy, kale is often paired with white beans and served with polenta, and brassicas such as broccoli rabe are added to pasta dishes all over the country. 

Root Vegetables
Root vegetables are very versatile. Most are delicious simply roasted in the oven or puréed into soup. Beets, carrots, and celery root are also wonderful in salads. Greek cooks use both the beet's root and its leaves to make their version of beet salad, pantzaria salata. In the Middle East, root vegetables are often paired with mint for a refreshing bite.

Winter Squash
As delicate zucchini and summer squash disappear from the produce aisles in the grocery store, they are replaced by thick-skinned winter squash like pumpkin and butternut squash. Don't be intimidated by their size; winter squash are an asset for filling meals and heart-warming flavors. Pumpkin is very popular in Spain, where it is baked in the oven with potatoes, garlic, and spices, and also used to thicken soups. Puréed winter squash also adds a rich, filling flavor to Italian risotto. 

There are plenty of winter vegetables to look forward to in the months ahead, and cooking with them is a great way to satisfy your comfort food cravings. Try making large batches of Mediterranean soups and stews and freezing them for later. Warm up with more dishes below. 

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipe. 

Bucatini is a thick, spaghetti-like pasta with a hole in the center, perfect for trapping all of the comforting flavors of the vegetable-based sauce in this dish. A whole wheat ziti would also work well.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the National Fisheries Institute

It's difficult to believe that this smooth and creamy potato soup is dairy-free. A panko variation of migas, a sautéed breadcrumb condiment popular in Spain, adds a bit of flavor and texture.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the U.S. Potato Board.

Paired with winter vegetable all-stars - parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas - portobello mushrooms add a meaty, warming quality. Using jarred mushrooms and peppers simplifies the recipe without sacrificing Mediterranean flavors. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of FOODMatch.

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)        





Let the old ways be your guide to good health and well-being.       



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by Laura Russell
The rising popularity of brassicas is not only due to their health benefits, but also the realization that they can taste delicious when properly prepared. Celebrating natural flavors rather than masking them, Brassicas arms cooks with appetizing new ways to eat more vegetables.

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