Make It A Mediterranean Memorial Day Weekend

The long Memorial Day weekend marks the close of National Mediterranean Diet Month – a good reminder to start off the summer by eating healthier and following a Mediterranean lifestyle.

Pasta with Eggplant and Capers

Long time readers know that I am a big advocate of the Mediterranean Diet and that I credit it with helping me to keep my genetically high cholesterol somewhat under control. Of course it helps that traditional Mediterranean fare is abundant with the foods I like best; fresh fruits and vegetables, rich flavorful cheeses, filling whole grains, and highly flavored herbs and spices. Yes, my palate has come a long way from my Puritan New England roots (no more boiled dinners but I still love baked beans, blueberries, anything molasses and of course, Moxie – but that’s a post for another day). Today I embrace Mediterranean staples like greens, olive oil, garbanzo beans and eggplant.  There are all kinds of easy ways to add Mediterranean type foods to the weekend festivities:

  • Make kebabs with lamb (or tofu), artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes and zucchini
  • Grill thick slices of eggplant brushed with olive oil
  • Make a 3 Bean Salad
  • Serve Gazpacho
  • Add a Tabbouleh salad instead of pasta salad
  • Grill fresh fish instead of burgers
  • Grill bell peppers, asparagus, summer squash and other vegetables
  • Serve thin slices of Potato and Red Pepper Frittata (recipe follows)
  • Make this unusual, yet umami-satisfying eggplant dish (see photo above and recipe below)

The Mediterranean way of eating is proven to improve overall health and promote longevity. It seems there is a new study everyday that shows the benefits of eating the Mediterranean way. Studies that show a decrease in heart disease, less asthma in children, reduced Type II diabetes and more. You can find lots of great Mediterranean Diet info from Oldways in Boston. Visit their website here.

Eggplant is one of my favorites. Fresh eggplant is starting to show up in my local grocery store, and it looks like a good crop. I purchased the best store-bought eggplant I’ve ever had the other day – heavy for its size with smooth, blemish-free deep purple skin and almost no seeds. It was perfect for one of my favorite Mediterranean dishes – see the photo above.

Pasta with Eggplant and Capers

1 lb. eggplant

1 large leek

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup small black olives

1 Tbsp capers

1/4 cup pine nuts or pistachios (sometimes I use walnuts)

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

3/4 lb cooked ziti or rigatoni or other pasta

Freshly grated asiago cheese

Cube the eggplant and set it in a colander. Toss it with a little salt and let drain for 15 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the white and light green parts of the leek. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute leek until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add eggplant. Saute until soft, 5-15 minutes. Add olives, capers, nuts, and red pepper flakes. Heat through. Toss with drained pasta. Top each serving with grated cheese.

 

This is a recipe we use when I teach my Cooking the Mediterranean Way class. It’s always a big hit.

Potato and Red Pepper Frittata

1 lb. thin skinned yellow potatoes

6 egg

2 Tbsp chopped fresh  mint

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 red bell peppers, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in their skins until just tender. Drain and cool slightly. Cut into thick slices. Whisk together eggs and mint. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, peppers, and potatoes to frying pan and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Pour egg mixture over vegetables. When frittata is lightly set, place pan under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Cut into thin wedges.

 

You can find my post on how the Mediterranean Diet helped lower my cholesterol here. Check out our cookbooks page too. All of my cookbooks are written with the Mediterranean Diet in mind – because that’s how I eat!

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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