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Mediterranean Diet Made Easy

Posted: 10/26/2006

Posted Oct 26, 2006

For years, experts have touted the health benefits of following a Mediterranean-style diet. Rich in healthy fats from olive oil or nuts, fresh vegetables, fruits, and low-fat poultry or fish, the diet continues to demonstrate health benefits in study after study.

Recently, Spanish researchers found the traditional Mediterranean diet outperformed a conventional low-fat diet to improve the cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels of older adults. The results, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, add to the growing body of evidence that the Mediterranean diet may substantially reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as potentially add years of life.

But is the Mediterranean style diet easy to follow? No problem. Take the taste test with the following recipes from our Post test kitchen. Bring the healthy culinary traditions of the Mediterranean to your table.

BAKED TOMATOES STUFFED WITH RICE PILAF

(Serves 6)

6 medium-sized fully ripened fresh tomatoes

1 box (6 oz.) long-grain and wild rice puaf mix ·

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut thin slice off top of each tomato; discard. With teaspoon or melon bailer, scoop pulp from center into small bowl, leaving shell intact. Lift out solid pieces and finely chop to make [fraction two-thirds] cup. Measure remaining liquid, seeds and pulp; add enough water to equal required amount listed on the pilaf mix package. Cook according to package directions, choosing the shortest cooking time. Stir in reserved chopped tomato pulp, Parmesan and 1 tablespoon oil. Spoon pilaf into tomato shells. Arrange stuffed tomatoes, sides touching, in small baking dish. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over tops. Bake in upper third of oven until tomatoes are just tender and skins look slightly browned, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan, If desired.

Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice Pilaf in a delicious and nutritious combination of flavors, hiylighting fresh tomatoes loaded in lycopene. one of nature's most powerful antioxidants.

CHICKEN WITH FRESH TOMATOES, PEPPERS, AND PASTA

(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ½ pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut in 1" pieces

2 Italian frying peppers or 1 small green pepper, cut in 1" pieces (about 1 ¾ cups)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon salt (optional)

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pound fully ripened fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

¼ cup sliced black olives

3½ cups bowtie pasta (about 8 ounces)

In large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add chicken; cook, stirring often, until browned, about 5 minutes: remove to a plate. Add peppers, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt (optional) and pepper; cook and stir until peppers are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and olives; cook and stir until tomatoes soften and mixture is hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in reserved chicken; heat only until hot. Meanwhile, in large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and transfer to serving bowl. Stir chicken-tomato mixture into pasta. Serve with grated Parmesan, if desired.

An Italian-inspired recipe, Chicken with Fresh Tomatoes. Peppers and Pasta is easy to prepare and makes an ideal and health-promoting entrée.

SOLE WITH FRESH TOMATOES AND OLIVES

(Serves 4)

4 fillets of sole, about 2 pounds

½ cup milk

1 cup dried Panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)

Salt (optional) and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

4 medium firm, ripe, Florida tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon (or 2 teaspoons dried)

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

8 pitted green olives, sliced

Juice and zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to warm.

Dip fish fillets into milk and then breadcrumbs. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

In large sauté pan, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Place fillets in pan and cook about 5 minutes on each side, or until flaky. Transfer fish to platter and place in warm oven.

In same skillet, add wine; scrape up any bits in pan. Add tomatoes, hot pepper flake, tarragon, parsley, olives, juice and zest of orange and cook over medium high heat. Reduce liquid until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Spoon sauce over fish; garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

TOMATO SANDWICHES

(Serves 6-8)

6-8 large firm, ripe red tomatoes

½ cup low-fat mayonnaise or light whipped cream cheese

1 large onion, thinly sliced

6-8 small arugula leaves, washed & patted dry

2 large eggs, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup breadcrumbs, unflavored, toasted

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

Slice each tomato into ½"-thick slices from widest portion of tomato, making sure to avoid core.

Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise on half the tomato slices. Top each with onion slice, arugula leaf, and second slice of tomato.

Dip each sandwich into beaten egg mixture and then breadcrumbs. Gently shake off excess crumbs. Set sandwiches aside.

In large heavy sauté pan, warm butter and olive oil over medium heat. Slip each sandwich into pan and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove and serve immediately.

GREEK-STYLE CAULIFLOWER, TOMATOES, AND ZUCCHINI

(Serve 6-8)

1 large head of cauliflower

1 medium-size zucchini, sliced into thin rounds

1 medium-size red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 ½ cups dry white wine

¾ cup white vinegar 1/3 cup olive oil

Water

2 bay leaves

6 peppercorns

1 ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)

2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried

3 large fresh tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Cut cauliflower into florets and put them into large nonreactive pot with zucchini and red onion. Add wine, vinegar, oil, and just enough water to cover. Add bay leaves, peppercorns, salt (optional), and herbs.

Bring liquid to boil; lower heat and simmer gently, partially covered, about 15 minutes until cauliflower is crisptender. Remove from heat; transfer vegetables and liquid to pottery bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, drain vegetables (the liquid can be used to cook another batch of vegetables) and transfer to serving bowl. Toss in tomatoes and parsley. Serve cold or at room temperature.

If you aren't serving all the vegetables at once (they'll keep 4 to 5 days, refrigerated), remove what you need from the marinade with a slotted spoon. Toss with proportionately less tomato and parsley, then serve.

Date: Oct 23, 2006

© 2006 The Saturday Evening Post. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved
 
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