September 16, 2016
Vol. VIII No. 19
Freezer-Friendly Mediterranean Meals
Instead of ordering takeout the next time you want a quick dinner, save time, money, and enjoy a home-cooked meal straight from your freezer! With the right strategies, a meal made entirely from frozen ingredients and pantry staples can be perfectly healthy and delicious. 

You may be surprised to know that freezers (and refrigerators) run more efficiently when they are full. With more cold items taking up space, there is less room for warm air to permeate when you open the door, and the freezer requires less energy to operate. All the more reason to stock up on peak produce now, and freeze it for the winter months ahead.

Instead of letting fresh herbs wilt in your fridge, for example, use this freezer trick: lightly pack them (minced) into ice cube trays, top the trays off with water, and put them in the freezer. Once you have completely frozen cubes, put them in a freezer bag to take up less space. A little bit of planning ahead will pay off when you enjoy summer-fresh herbs in the winter.

Make sure you label everything you put in the freezer with the date and the name of the food item. You don't want to end up with a freezer full of food of uncertain origin and age, that you can't identify. Once you've labeled your foods, click on the button below and use our guide to determine how long they will stay flavorful in the freezer: 

Here are three ideas for freezer-friendly Mediterranean meals.

Shrimp pasta with a fresh green salad. Pasta pairs perfectly with staples from the freezer. Start by thawing frozen shrimp in a strainer under a drizzle of cool running water for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring water to boil for the pasta and prepare a simple green salad. Sauté olive oil, garlic, and herbs together for a simple sauce, add the shrimp to cook, toss with pasta, and you're set. 

Tip: Frozen shrimp at the supermarket is may be fresher than the "fresh" shrimp at the seafood counter, which is often thawed from frozen anyway. 
Falafel pitas and asparagus soup. Homemade falafels (chickpea fritters), like meatballs, freeze well pre-cooked. Freeze them on sheet pans to start, then put them in bags to take up less space once they are frozen. When you are ready to use them, thaw and pan-fry in olive oil. Serve them in whole wheat pitas, with fresh vegetables. For a more substantial meal, add soup. Both the pitas and the soup can be thawed from the freezer, of course!

Tip: Freeze soups and sauces in plastic freezer bags to save room. Fill the bag with room temperature soup, flatten, seal, and label. 
Baked salmon, whole grains, and roasted vegetables. If you're lucky, your grocery store will carry a variety of bagged frozen vegetables, including pre-roasted versions. Try roasted butternut squash, for example, or simply freeze your own. Frozen fruits and vegetables can taste better than what is available fresh or canned, because they are usually flash-frozen soon after harvest. They are often more affordable too.  Serve with salmon and a whole grain of your choosing, both of which store well in the freezer.

Tip: Due to their heart-healthy fats, fish like salmon doesn't stay flavorful as long as lean fish, such as cod. Use fatty fish within 2-3 months after you freeze it.

When your freezer is mindfully filled with ingredients you can use, it can be a source of inspiration. For even more freezer-friendly meal ideas, check out the recipes below.

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

Green lentils tend to maintain a firm texture relative to other lentils, so they are ideal for soups and salads. Try doubling this soup recipe and freeze half for a future meal.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the American Pulse Association

Keep a bag of frozen peas on hand to make this simple weeknight supper. It only takes about 15 minutes. Substitute other frozen vegetables, like spinach, broccoli florets, or carrots, to vary the flavor.

An Oldways recipe and photo. 

Making your own croutons is much easier than you would think, and much tastier than what you can find in the store. Freeze less-than-fresh bread and thaw it once you accumulate six cups worth to make this recipe. 

An Oldways recipe and photo.

Coming Soon:

If you love cheese and want to learn more about it, pledge to join the Oldways Cheese Coalition's Taste Cheese Live Event and invite your friends to do the same:

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.