Easy mussels in a spicy tomato broth is surprisingly simple to make! It’s an elegant meal, perfect for holiday entertaining or a romantic meal at home. Takes less than thirty minutes to make too. Don’t forget crusty bread for sopping up the spicy, garlicky sauce!Read More
This one dish vegetarian Greek rice casserole is so easy to make! Just bake rice with chickpeas, spinach, sauteed garlic and onions, tons of fresh herbs and lemon! Top it off with feta cheese and bake until the rice is tender and crispy on the bottom of the pan! Easy to make with shelf stable ingredients so it makes the perfect pantry meal.Read More
A tub of hummus, a seasonal veggie and pasta is all you need to make this spicy hummus with roasted eggplant! Tastes like baba ganoush in pasta form!
Hum. MUS. What is it good for? Absolutely everything
But really, it is. And I think this hummus pasta proves it.
Do you have pasta in your house? Of course. What about hummus? Duh, always. Some kind of seasonal veggie that likes to hang out in a hot oven and get all sweet and tender and caramelized? Darn it, you should! Because that’s really all you need to create this crazy delish and crazy easy dinner.
This pasta was the result of one of those days you come home, realize you didn’t plan anything for dinner and just can’t seem to drag yourself to the grocery store. Although my unreasonable fear of throwing away food has made me a pro at meal planning, sometimes I think my best creations come from days like this.
To make the sauce, I used Sabra's supremely spicy hummus. It creates a creamy, spicy and flavorful sauce that perfectly coats the pasta. Roasted eggplant takes on this buttery, melt in your mouth consistency. When the two combine, it kind of tastes like baba ganoush pasta! Not a bad thing as all my fellow baba ganoush lovers can surely attest.
What’s cool about this dish is that you can easily switch it up with different flavors of hummus and vegetables. Here’s some ideas:
Lemon hummus + roasted asparagus + peas + goat cheese
Jalapeno hummus + halved cherry tomatoes + roasted zucchini rounds
Horseradish hummus + smoked salmon + tomatoes + capers
Roasted garlic hummus + roasted zucchini + sun dried tomatoes
Olive hummus + spinach + oven roasted tomatoes
Possibilities = endless
Spicy Hummus Pasta with Roasted Eggplant
- 1 medium eggplant, chopped
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium zucchini, grated on the large holes of a cheese grater
- 12 ounces whole grain spaghetti
- 1 10-ounce tub of spicy hummus
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 1 scallion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss eggplant with olive oil and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast 25-30 minutes until tender and lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Reserve 1/3 cup salty cooking water. Drain and set aside.
- While pasta is cooking, heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add shredded zucchini and saute until tender and lightly golden, about 7 minutes.
- Toss pasta with hummus, thinning with reserved cooking water. Toss in zucchini and eggplant. Serve garnished with cilantro, scallion and basil.
More hummus friendly recipes:
Heat up the grill to make this halloumi salad with grilled tomato-scallion salsa and lemony pesto dressing!
Hope you guys had a lovely weekend and that if you're in my neck of the woods, that you found some respite from the 100 degree weather! I spent Friday night in Greenville celebrating one of my dear friend's 31st birthday. She had her second baby a couple months ago, so we enjoyed a laid back night at her house with low country boil, wine, and of course, birthday cake.
The next day a few of us hit up the downtown farmers market and snagged brunch at Nose Dive (avocado toast for me, obviously) before heading back to Columbia and spending the rest of the afternoon vegging out on the couch with The Mindy Project.
Being around my friends kids really made me think a lot about how children eat. Her oldest, Grayson, is three and he's a total trip. Like all three-year-olds, and well, humans in general, he likes sugary foods. We caught him sneaking his fingers into the birthday cake to get little bites of frosting, which totally cracked me up. And at the farmers market, there was a minor "I want a popsicle and I want it NOW" related tantrum.
But also, there was no guilt involved in his choices. He didn't feel guilty for eating frosting off the cake and end up eating half of it before promising to "start his diet next week." Actually, after having his few bites of frosting, I don't think he ended up even eating cake with us afterwards, satiated by dinner and his finger-fulls of frosting. And at brunch, he wasn't overstuffing himself on food simply because it was a splurge meal. He stopped when he was full, leaving half his meal on the plate rather than pushing past the point to stuffed.
We all start off as intuitive eaters. As children, we eat what we enjoy while paying mind to hunger and fullness signals. There's even evidence that children will choose food that supports their health when left alone. And most importantly, children eat with joy. The smile on Grayson's face as he sucked the frosting off his fingers was priceless.
But through the years, the intuitive eater is chipped away by dieting messages, well meaning parents and a food industry that pushes us to eat more and more. One of our goals in Joyful Eating, Nourished Life is to reconnect you with that childlike joy in eating. To be able to eat the foods you love and not feel bad about it. To be able to make decisions on what to eat based on what you enjoy and how it makes you feel. To stop eating when satiated, not stuffed to the point of sickness. To be able to stick your fingers in frosting and only feel guilty for messing up the decoration :)
Our first group starting June 20th is technically full, but we decided to open up 20 extra spots because we love you and so you can take advantage of our special price for the first group! Head to the website for more details and be sure to sign up soon since it'll be closed for new signups after Wednesday.
Now, on to todays recipe. In the summer, which lasts from April-October here in Columbia, I'm determined to make as much use of my grill as possible. So even salads get the grill treatment!
Have you ever tried halloumi cheese? It's also called squeaky cheese. When you bite into it, you'll know why - it makes a squeaky noise on your teeth! Halloumi is a Greek brined cheese with a high melting point, so it's great to use for grilling and frying, like in one of my favorite Greek dishes, saganaki.
The scallions and tomatoes get the grill treatment too, where they take on a smokier, more intense flavor. And no salad is complete without carbs. If you've been making yours sans carbs, that's probably a big reason why you're hangry by 3 pm. Trust me on this one. For this salad, I used sorghum, but feel free to use anything you have on hand - brown rice, barley, farro or couscous would all be tasty! To give it a flavor boost, I tossed the sorghum with a little homemade pesto I had stored in the freezer. I was a random blend I made to use my dill, parsley, mint and basil before going out of town a few weeks ago. Feel free to substitute storebought or make your own.
Halloumi Salad with Grilled Tomato Scallion Salsa
- 8 roma tomatoes
- 4 large scallions
- 10 ounces halloumi cheese
- 2 cups cooked whole grain (sorghum, couscous, farro or brown rice work great)
- 1/2 cup pesto, following recipe or store bought
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 8 cups arugula
- 4 cups any herb (basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, chives, mint, etc)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- If making pesto, blend herbs, garlic and olive oil in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat grill on medium-high heat. When hot, place tomatoes and scallions on the grill. Grill the scallions about 1 minute per side until grill marks form. Grill tomatoes about 1-2 minutes on all four sides until lightly charred. Remove scallions and tomatoes from grill and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, chop tomatoes into large chunks and slice scallions. Toss together and season with salt and pepper.
- Cut the halloumi in half lengthwise. Place on the grill and cook 1-2 minutes per side until grill marks form. Remove from heat, set aside to cool, then cut into 1 inch cubes.
- Mix pesto with juice of 1 lemon. Toss 1/4 cup of the mixture with the cooked whole grain.
- Divide arugula between 4 plates. Top with scoop of whole grains, halloumi, tomato-scallion salsa and dollops of pesto for dressing.
More vegetarian recipes for the grill:
Enjoy omega 3 rich walnuts in this Mediterranean spinach, feta and walnut phyllo pie!
“I received free samples of California walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Walnut Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.”
California knows how to party...at least when it comes to food!
All my favorite foods come from California. If the movie 2012 came to life and California suck back under the sea, I would be quite distraught (and hungry). What would I do without my favorite Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam cheese? How could I celebrate without a bottle of Sonoma County pinot noir? And avocados?? NOOOOO! Not the avocados!
I would also have to mourn the loss of one of my favorite pantry staples, walnuts. Did you know 99% of the US supply of walnuts comes from California? I actually didn't until preparing for this post!
One thing I love about walnuts is that they're one of those foods you can judge by it's cover. It's appearance gives you a hint to it's health benefits. Think heart healthy strawberries, which kinda look like little hearts. And avocados, with their wrinkly skin, helps prevent wrinkly skin! Then there's walnuts, which kind of look like brains, and are my favorite nut for cognitive health.
Walnuts are the richest nut source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids with 2.5 grams in just one snack sized ounce. We've talked about omega 3s and brain health before, a type of fat that's powerfully anti-inflammatory and helps improve blood flow in the brain. That's one of the reasons walnuts seem to play a role in maintaining cognitive health. Walnuts are no one trick pony - there's also been research suggesting a diet rich in walnuts protects against certain types of cancer, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, promotes satiety, and may help prevent diabetes. Oh, and they're delicious too!
When I saw the newest campaign for walnuts, I knew I wanted to make something inspired by my travels. Despite being very much a California food, walnuts are a huge part of many different cultures cuisines. My first thought was a take on baklava, which I enjoyed in every shape and form when we visited Turkey a few years ago. But, my tastes were leaning more savory that day, so I decided to work walnuts into the spinach and feta phyllo pies I ate almost as often as baklava when in Turkey. Walnuts add a yummy crunch and break up the salty feta and herb infused filling. Plus, it packs about 4 grams more protein and 2 grams of fiber in each serving in for a more balanced and filling vegetarian main.
One thing I'll warn you, this is a pretty time consuming dish so save it for a showstopper on a special occasion. Phyllo dough is a bit finicky, so make sure you cover it with a just barely damp towel to prevent it from drying out while you're working with it. Traditional phyllo pie recipes call for brushing the dough with a whole lot of butter, which is tasty, but I find using a smaller amount of olive oil yields a similar flakiness.
Here's a few more recipes from the blog using walnuts:
Spinach, Feta and Walnut Phyllo Pie
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 2 lbs frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
- 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
- 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 egg
- To assemble:
- 1 lb phyllo dough, defrosted
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup walnuts, very finely chopped
- Heat olive oil in a large sided skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Add smoked paprika and chili flakes and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add spinach, scallions and dill and cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Scoop spinach mixture into a large bowl. Let cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Add walnuts, feta and an egg and stir to combine.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees when ready to bake. Spray pie pan lightly with olive oil. Open phyllo dough and cover stack with a damp paper towel when not working with it so it doesn't dry out. Pour olive oil in a small bowl. Take one sheet of phyllo and brush very lightly with olive oil. Top with another sheet and again brush lightly with oil. Repeat until you have a stack of 4 oil brushed phyllo dough sheets.
- Scoop spinach mixture in a line along the short end of the phyllo dough stack (about 2/3 cup total). Tightly roll the phyllo to form a "snake." Press the phyllo dough around the outside rim of the pie plate. Repeat with remaining dough and spinach mixture, creating a coil in the pie pan, stopping when the pan is full.
- Mix egg and milk together in a small bowl. Brush over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts. Place in the oven and bake 35 minutes until golden.
- Depending on how big your pie pan is, you may have leftover phyllo and spinach. If so, Wrap into another snake or triangles and bake on a separate baking sheet.
Greek braised cod with tomatoes and kalamata olives is a simple and easy weeknight meal! Cod is a sustainable source, and cooks to perfect tenderness in a Greek inspired tomato sauce. Serve over polenta with garlicky sauteed kale!Read More
This romesco chicken with kale mashed potatoes looks complicated, but only takes 45 minutes to make! This thick and tangy sauce is sure to become a new favorite!
Popping in with a quick recipe post while Scott and I are exploring the northeast before my little brother’s wedding weekend in Boston. The hubs and I just spent the past few days road tripping through New Hampshire and Maine to Acadia National Park. I plan to share a recap next week or the week after, but until then, follow along with my adventures on Instagram!
This recipe for romesco chicken was adapted from a recipe by Rachael Ray. Is it just me or do her 30 minute meals take more like an hour and a half? I feel like there is some major false advertising in the Rachael Ray empire.
This dish took about 45 minutes, which is close enough for me, and it tastes and looks much more complicated. The quick romesco sauce adds such a unique flavor. Romesco is a Spanish tomato and pepper sauce thickened with breadcrumbs. It’s also really tasty with roasted asparagus, potatoes or tossed with whole grain pasta. This dish is pretty saucy, so you could always use half the romesco for the chicken and freeze/refrigerate the rest for later. Having yummy sauces on hand is such an easy way to dress up meals. Speaking of which, did you check out this post I wrote for Luvo on my favorite freezer sauces? Might have to add this romesco to the mix!
Romesco Chicken with Kale Mashed Potatoes
Kale Mashed Potatoes:
- 1 ½ lb Yukon gold or other waxy potato, halved or quartered if large
- 1 bunch kale, chopped
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
Chicken & Romesco:
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ¼ lb chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 ½ cups whole grain panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup blanched slivered almonds
- 1 jar roasted red peppers, drained
- 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- ½-1 cup chicken broth
- Chopped fresh parsley, to serve
- Cover potatoes with a few inches of water in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil 7 minutes until starting to get tender. Add kale to the water and continue to boil until potatoes are tender and kale is wilted. Drain, then pour potatoes and kale back into the hot pot over the stove. Add broth, yogurt, salt and freshly cracked black pepper and mash. Set aside until ready to eat.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sided skillet on medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with smoked paprika, salt and black pepper. Add to hot pan and cook, flipping every so often, until browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Carefully wipe pan clean with a paper towel. Add 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and set on medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add panko and almonds, stir, and cook until toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape panko mixture into a food processor. Add roasted red peppers, tomatoes and sherry vinegar. Blend until pureed. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add sauce back into skillet and set over medium heat. Add chicken and broth to thin to desired consistency (it should still be thick).
- Scoop mashed potatoes in a large serving bowl. Using a spoon, make a large well in the center. Pour romesco chicken into the center. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Preserved lemons add a bright, citrus flavor to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. Save money by making them at home!
Yellow is the happiest color. There’s a reason the smiley face, the best cartoon characters, and the sun are all yellow. Okay, maybe that last one has more to do with wavelength frequency, but you get my point. Science has even confirmed it.
Plus, it's my favorite color :)
For appearance alone, I'd call lemons a good mood food. If I was on top of my interior decorating game, I'd always have a big bowl of lemons in an olive wood bowl on the counter. Lemons brighten your food and your mood!
In the case of lemons, the outside gives us a clue to what's on the inside, because lemons are packed with mood boosting nutrients. Vitamin C is most associated with lemons and other citrus fruit. Important for immune function and healthy skin, researchers are starting to untangle important functions vitamin C has in the brain. One study found people felt less stressed when subjected to a stressor after receiving vitamin C supplements. Also, animal studies found vitamin C lowers levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Lemons are also a rich source of a group of flavonoids that can cross the blood-brain barrier, where they reduce inflammation, repair damage and promote the formation of new connections between neurons. One of those flavonoids, hesperetin, binds to opioid receptors in the brain, the same receptors affected by drugs like heroin, which is responsible for the feelings of euphoria.
Of course, lemon juice is a great way to add a hit of acid and fresh flavor to dishes, but I love to use the zest too - that's where most of the phytonutrients hang out! With preserved lemons, you get the benefits of the whole fruit. Brining lemons in salt removes the bitter flavor so they taste less tart and more citrusy.
You can buy preserved lemons at most well stocked grocery stores or order online, but it's so much more fun and cheaper to make your own! Plus, these jars look so pretty on your counter and just as happy inducing as that olive wood bowl full of lemons!
Preserved lemons are most commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, but once you've tasted them, you'll want to throw them in everything! Here's some of my favorite uses:
- My avocado and ricotta tartines with preserved lemon. It's fancy avocado toast!
- Preserved lemons were made for tagines like this chicken, olive and lemon tagine.
- Throw a couple tablespoons of chopped preserved lemon into my edamame nori rolls.
- Add thin slices of preserved lemon to a Middle Eastern grain salad, like my roasted eggplant, chickpea and wheatberry salad.
- Make chermoula roasted eggplant with bulgur salad, one of my favorite recipes on this little blog of mine.
- Add diced preserved lemon to cucumber yogurt sauce and serve with roasted salmon.
- Preserved lemons are a great flavor booster in grain bowls.
- As a garnish on my simple white bean soup.
Would love to hear how you end up using them in the comments below!
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes
- 10 small, unwaxed lemons
- 3/4 cup sea salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 black peppercorns
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Sterilize 1 large quart mason jar (I used two smaller mason jars) by placing them in a 225 degree oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven using tongs and set aside until ready to use.
- Squeeze the juice from 5 of the lemons, discard the peels and set the juice aside. In the other 5 lemons, cut a deep cross in the top of each lemon about 3/4's of the way down, so they still stay joint at the base. Pack a teaspoon of salt in the middle of each lemon and place in the mason jar, layering with the salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, cinnamon and rosemary. Pour the lemon juice over the top of the lemons. Fill the jar the rest of the way with water. Place the lid on and seal.
- Give the jar a shake and place in a cool, dark place, shaking every few days to distribute the salt.
- After a month, the lemons will be ready. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Eggs are my secret to a quick, easy and delicious meal. Greek Greens frittata can be on the dinner table in less than thirty minutes!
Back in February, when the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee dropped their recommendation to limit cholesterol, I was pretty excited. A long time egg lover (sunny side up and over, thank you!), I hate that eggs were demonized for so long. If you live in Columbia, you may have heard me yell out a Vicky Gunvalson-style "woo hoo!" when the news broke...or maybe that was your next door neighbor whose been subjecting himself to rubbery egg white omelets for years.
There's a small percentage of people considered "hyperresponders" to dietary cholesterol, usually someone with diabetes, an early history of heart disease or familial hypercholesterolemia. They should continue to limit eggs to just a few times a week. Otherwise, eggs are not only safe, but incredibly nutritious, yolk and all.
In fact, eggs are (you guessed it!) a Good Mood Food, and not just because that sunny yellow yolk makes you smile. Although it does that too :) Eggs, especially the yolks, are packed with nutrients that support brain health.
VITAMIN B12 // A deficiency in B12 can cause depression, anxiety, and lethargy, which in some cases can be severe. This vitamin plays many roles in the maintenance of the central nervous system, including the creation of neurotransmitters, DNA expression, and metabolism of fatty acids (remember, your brain is mostly fat). One whole egg contains 25% daily needs of B12.
VITAMIN D // Does more than build strong bones. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and most recently, depression. Vitamin D is needed to build neurotransmitters, for nerve growth, and seems to also reduce inflammation in the brain. Multiple studies have shown a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive issues and depression. Vitamin D, which is activated by the sun, has been proposed as the root cause of seasonal affective disorder, or the winter blues. It's too early to know if vitamin D is an effective treatment, but one small study found supplementing vitamin D in women with severe depression reduced symptoms.
CHOLINE // Contained in the yolk is a nutrient called choline, which forms acetylcholine, the backbone of neurotransmitters. Most research has focused on deficiencies in serotonin as a root cause of depression - the most common antidepressants work on serotonin - but recent research indicates acetylcholine may play a role, especially for those who don't respond to traditional depression medications. Choline deficiency has also been linked to anxiety. Egg yolks happen to be an excellent source of choline, the most excellent source in fact!
OMEGA 3S // Likely the most studied nutrient for brain health, depression and anxiety and it's not just in fatty fish! Because pastured eggs significantly more omega 3 fats, it's a good reason to pay the few extra dollars.
Clearly, I'm a fan of the mood boosting benefits of eggs. But perhaps just as important - eggs are THE BEST for whipping up a quick, easy and family friendly dinner. Think omelet and a salad, veggie and potato scramble, veggie fried rice with a scrambled egg...heck, I'll throw an egg on some whole grain toast and cal it a day if I'm really pressed for time! But usually, it's a frittata that becomes my weeknight meal. We probably making one every week, either for a make ahead breakfast or dinner! This Greek inspired frittata was particularly tasty, especially when topped with a quick spicy tomato sauce. Feel free to use any greens you like, another good mood food, by the way, but we'll save that for another day!
Greek Greens Frittata
Feel free to use any greens you like. Spinach, chard and arugula would all work well. To save time, skip the tomato sauce and use jarred, souped up with a little crushed red pepper flakes.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
- 8 eggs, beaten
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
- Salt and pepper
- 2 ounces goat or feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 cups canned pureed tomatoes
- In a medium, oven-proof skillet, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add garlic and kale and saute, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 7-10 minutes depending on thickness. While kale is cooking, whisk oregano, salt and pepper into the eggs.
- After kale is wilted, add olives and stir. Pour eggs into the skillet, reduce heat to medium and cook without touching until mostly set. To cook the top, place briefly under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes.
- While frittata is cooking, make the tomato sauce. In a small pot, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook 30 seconds until fragrant. Pour in pureed tomatoes. Simmer 5-10 minutes to let the flavors meld. Season with salt and pepper.
More egg dishes:
By now, you hopefully know the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. But what does the real Mediterranean diet look like? Learn all about it in today's post, as well as a recipe for giant beans stewed with tomatoes, spinach and olives.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Diets just ain’t my thang.
As the saying goes, rules are meant to be broken.If you decide to follow a diet with strict guidelines, more than likely, you’ll do a better job finding the loopholes than following the actual diet. On your fat free diet, you pass on French fries, only to binge on fat free cookies and jelly beans. You decide to take the Atkins approach, until your portions of meat start to look like Fred Flintstones. Okay, so it wasn’t the carbs, but rather the gluten. Pretty soon, you're spending your life savings to fuel your addiction to gluten-free pretzels and gluten-free cookies, all made with refined gluten-free flour of course.
Instead, I like to think about patterns of eating vs diets. One of the patterns of eating that has a lot of science to back it is the Mediterranean diet. It received quite a bit of press recently when a large study reinforced its heart healthy benefits over other mainstream diets. Earlier studies on the traditional Mediterranean diet have shown benefits for heart disease, cancer, diabete prevention and longevity.
Most importantly, the food is delicious!
Please know the real Mediterranean diet is not the same thing as our Americanized, or the Olive Garden version, as I like to call it. The Mediterranean diet encompasses the traditional diets of countries located on the Mediterranean coast. Not just Italy and Greece but Spain, France, North Africa, Turkey, and Israel among others. Their native dishes vary, but the one thing they have in common is a minimally processed diet with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, fish, olive oil, nuts & seeds. Herbs and spices are frequently used for flavoring. Dairy is typically consumed from cheese and yogurt, and in smaller amounts. Sweets, red meats, and processed foods are rarely eaten, at the most a couple times a week.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t just about food – there is also an emphasis on the pleasure of eating and savoring meals with family and friends. Can you see why I’m such a fan?
Giant Beans with Spinach, Tomatoes and Olives
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side dish
I found giant lima beans at Whole Foods in the bulk section. In the past, I've had a difficult time finding them. You could substitute regular lima beans or even cannelini beans, but the cooking times will change. Adapted from The New York Times.
1/2 lb (a rounded cup) dried giant lima beans or gigantes beans
1 onion, peeled and halved
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 bay leaf
1 16-ounce bag frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 leek, white and light green part only, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
Optional: Soak beans in enough water to cover overnight. If you do not soak the beans, add 30-60 minutes cooking time to the beans.
Combine the beans, onion, garlic, and bay leaf in a pot and cover with salted water by about two inches. Bring beans to a simmer and cook until al dente, about 2 hours for gigante beans or giant limas, 1 1/2 hours for cannellini beans. Using tongs, remove the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Drain the beans, collecting the bean broth in a bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add the leek, scallions, and a pinch of salt, and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in spinach, parsley, dill, half the tomato puree, 1 cup bean broth, 1 tablespoon olive oil and half of the olives. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the tomato-spinach mixture in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spread the remaining tomato puree over the top, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle on the remaining olives. Cover with a lid or aluminum oil and place in the oven. Bake for an hour, uncover, then bake for about an hour more until beans are creamy, but intact, casserole is bubbly but not soupy. If it looks dried out, you can add more bean broth.
Let casserole sit for 15 minutes to cool before serving.