Mediterranean food a healthier way of eating

By ALICE ORTIZ
Staff Writer
AMORY – Charlotte Baker, registered dietitian at Gilmore Memorial Regional Medical Center, held a Mediterranean Diet seminar on Feb. 26. She gave out pamphlets with lots of Mediterranean-style recipes.
Eating the Mediterranean way is really not a diet, but a lifestyle approach to healthy eating. The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid says to base every meal every day on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices. Items to eat at least two times a week are fish and seafood, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt can be eaten in small portions daily to weekly. Meats and sweets can be eaten sparingly monthly.
Extra-virgin olive oil is the highest quality oil made from first pressing with no heat or chemicals (unrefined). It has a superior taste. Major uses for it are dips, salads, and drizzled over stews and fish. Virgin olive oil has a good taste, lacks the perfect taste of extra-virgin, but isn’t refined. It is used for frying, grilling and roasting.
Zesty Greek Couscous Salad
1 pkg. couscous
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 med. zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into strips
1/3 cup green onions, sliced
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Prepared couscous according to package directions, except omit adding any oil or butter,and add the 1/4 tsp. black pepper.
In a large bowl, combine prepared couscous, lemon juice, basil and green onions. Chill 4 hours or overnight.
Stir in cheese just before serving. Makes 7 servings of 1- 1/2 cups each.
Variations: frozen green peas, cooked and drained; 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes; 1/4 cup sliced black olives; substitute fresh parsley for basil.
Greek Salad with Orzo
and Black-eyed Peas
3/4 cup orzo
1 – 15 oz. can black-eyed peas,
drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, diced (1 cup)
2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 seedless cucumber, halved length-
wise, cored, and diced (1 cup)
1/2 cup pitted olives, slivered
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. finely chopped oregano
2 to 3 cups coarsely chopped
romaine, opt.
1/2 lb. feta, crumbled (1 cup), opt.
4 to 8 pepperoncini, opt.
Accompaniment: pita chips
Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well.
Toss black-eyed peas, tomato, and parsley with vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Marinate, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss together orzo, remaining tablespoon oil, cucumber, olives, onion, lemon juice, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Combine marinated peas with orzo mixture and toss lightly. May be served over romaine, if desired. May be chilled up to 6 hours. Garnish with feta and pepperoncini.
Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
For best results, it’s important to use a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet; thin pans could cause burning. Also, pack the sheet full of tomatoes; if it’s not full, expect the tomatoes to cook more quickly.
3 Tbsp. plus 1 cup extra-virgin olive
oil
4 1/2 to 5 lbs. medium-large ripe
beefsteak tomatoes, about 12,
stemmed, but not cored.
Kosher salt
Granulated sugar
Scant 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 to 4 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a a12 x 7-inch rimmed baking sheet or two 9 x 12-inch rimmed baking sheets with foil.(Don’t use unrimmed sheets or the oil and juices will spill out; instead, use several shallow gratin dishes.) If you have parchment, put a sheet on top of the foil. Coat the pan or pans with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Cut the tomatoes in half through the equator (not through the stem). Arrange the halves, cut side up, on the baking sheet, turning to coat their bottoms with some of the oil. Sprinkle a pinch each of salt and sugar over each half, and drizzle each with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Arrange the garlic over the halves and top with a generous sprinkling of thyme. Pour the remaining 1 cup olive oil over and around the tomato halves.
Roast in the center of the oven until the tomatoes are concentrated, dark reddish brown (with deep browning around the edges and in places on the pan) and quite collapsed (at least half their original height; they will collapse more as they cool), about 3 hours for very ripe, fleshy tomatoes, about 4 hours for tomatoes that are less ripe or that have a high water content. (Check on the tomatoes frequently after the first 1 1/2 hours. If they’re browning too quickly, reduce the oven temperature.)
Let cool for at least 10-15 minutes and then serve warm or at room temperature. Be sure to reserve the tomato oil (keep refrigerated for up to a week) to use on its own or in a vinaigrette.
To store the tomatoes, refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to a couple of months. They’ll continue to release juice during storage.
Hummus without Tahini
1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cumin
In a food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Serve immediately with pita bread, pita chips, or veggies. Store in an airtight container for up to three days.
Avocado and Rotini Salad
1 lb. rotini, cooked and cooled
1/4 cup carrots, peeled, sliced thin
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/4 cup medium mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup each red and yellow bell
peppers, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, thinly
sliced
1/4 cup prepared Italian dressing
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 avocado, seeded, peeled and
cubed
In a large salad bowl, combine rotini, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers, and basil leaves.
In medium bowl, combine Italian dressing and balsamic vinegar. Toss salad ingredients with 1/4 cup dressing mixture. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours to allow flavors to blend. Just before serving, toss avocados and remaining dressing with pasta salad.

 

Chris Wilson