April 23, 2021

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Cooking is a hobby

The Mediterranean diet recipes to help you eat healthy

The results are in.

The Mediterranean diet is the best overall diet for the fourth year in a row, according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking.

The Mediterranean diet has been proven to have some correlation with decreased risk of disease as it promotes healthy eating, a wide variety of heart-healthy menu options, and is one of the easiest diets to adhere to in the longterm. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, spices, healthy fats, red meat, poultry and fish are key players found in the diet.

Here are a few Mediterranean dishes from America’s Test Kitchen to consider adding to your home cooking menus — even if you’re not on the diet.

Pasta e Fagioli with Orange and Fennel

Though the precise ingredients for Italy’s famed pasta e fagioli vary from region to region, too many recipes have one thing in common: They turn out bland and mushy and take hours to prepare.

For our recipe, we wanted to create a satisfying soup boasting great flavor and proper texture that didn’t take all afternoon to make.

We started by cooking some pancetta (bacon worked well, too) in a Dutch oven to create a savory base, then cooked our vegetables in the rendered fat. We established an Italian flavor profile with the help of some fennel seeds, orange zest, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and plenty of garlic. Minced anchovy fillets contributed a complex, meaty character void of any fishy aftertaste.

Turning to canned diced tomatoes (instead of fresh) and sweet, creamy canned cannellini beans (instead of dried) cut hours out of prep time, and using the tomatoes to deglaze our aromatic base intensified the flavor of the soup. A Parmesan rind was an easy way to introduce a subtle umami quality.

Cutting our chicken broth with water provided richness without overwhelming the other flavors.

For our pasta, we looked to small shapes like ditalini, tubettini, or, our top choice, orzo to complement rather than crowd out the other ingredients.

Finally, parsley lent the necessary bright note to finish our soup. The Parmesan rind can be replaced with a 2-inch chunk of cheese.

You can substitute ditalini or tubettini for the orzo (the cooking times may vary slightly).

Serves 8 to 10

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

3 ounces pancetta, chopped fine

1 onion, chopped fine

1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and chopped fine

1 celery rib, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 Parmesan cheese rind, plus grated Parmesan for serving

2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed

cups chicken broth

cups water

Salt and pepper

1 cup orzo

¼ cup minced fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in onion, fennel, and celery and cook until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, anchovies, oregano, orange zest, fennel seeds, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2. Stir in tomatoes and their juice, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in Parmesan rind and beans, bring to simmer, and cook until flavors meld, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in broth, water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Stir in pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Off heat, discard Parmesan rind. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with extra oil and sprinkling with grated Parmesan.

Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a Tunisian dish featuring eggs poached in a spiced tomato, onion, and pepper sauce. The key to great shakshuka is balancing the piquancy, acidity, richness, and sweetness of its ingredients.

Choosing the right pepper to star in this dish made all the difference. We compared the results when using fresh red bell peppers, roasted red bell peppers, and piquillo peppers, which are sweet roasted chiles.

The fresh red bell peppers tasted flat and lackluster. We liked the roasted red bell peppers just fine, but the piquillo peppers were our favorite, boasting spicy-sweet and vibrant flavors. These small red peppers from Spain, sold in jars or cans, have a subtle hint of smokiness from being roasted over a wood fire. We added yellow bell peppers to the mix for a clean, fresh flavor and a contrast to the deep red sauce.

We finished our shakshuka with a sprinkling of bright cilantro and salty, creamy feta cheese. Jarred roasted red peppers can be substituted for the piquillo peppers.

You will need a 12-inch nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid for this recipe.

Serve with pitas or crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Shakshuka
Carl Tremblay/America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, chopped fine

2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch pieces

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons tomato paste

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

teaspoon cayenne pepper

cups jarred piquillo peppers, chopped coarse

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

¼ cup water

2 bay leaves

cup chopped fresh cilantro

4 large eggs

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (½ cup)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and bell peppers and cook until softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, 1½ teaspoons salt, cumin, turmeric, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste begins to darken, about 3 minutes.

2. Stir in piquillo peppers, tomatoes and their juice, water, and bay leaves. Bring to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Off heat, discard bay leaves and stir in ¼ cup cilantro. Transfer 2 cups sauce to blender and process until smooth, about 60 seconds. Return puree to skillet and bring sauce to simmer over medium-low heat.

4. Off heat, make 4 shallow indentations (about 2 inches wide) in surface of sauce using back of spoon. Crack 1 egg into each indentation and season eggs with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until egg whites are just set and yolks are still runny, 4 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle with feta and remaining cilantro and serve immediately.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad

The appeal of a chopped salad is that all the ingredients are cut to a uniform size and tossed together, permitting a taste of everything in each bite.

Virtually any ingredients may be used, yet most chopped salads are uninspired, laden with deli meats and cheeses and drowned in dressing.

With a world of options at our disposal, we steered our salad in a Mediterranean direction, starting with escarole. A member of the chicory family, this underutilized leafy green is loaded with vitamins and has a mild bitterness that pairs well with bold flavors.

Next we added chopped cucumbers and grape tomatoes, salting them to remove excess moisture, and red onion.

To make our salad hearty, instead of deli meat we incorporated nutty chickpeas.

Kalamata olives added richness, and walnuts brought crunch and healthy fats.

We tossed everything with a simple red wine vinaigrette to let the salad’s flavors shine through.

Finally, not wanting to completely eliminate cheese from our salad, we sprinkled on ½ cup of briny feta to round out the flavors.

Cherry tomatoes can be substituted for the grape tomatoes.

Cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives and onions are key ingredients for a healthy and delicious chopped salad. 

Cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives and onions are key ingredients for a healthy and delicious chopped salad.
stock.adobe.com

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces

10 ounces grape tomatoes, quartered

1 teaspoon table salt

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed

½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

½ small red onion, chopped fine

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 head escarole (1 pound), trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (½ cup)

½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

DIRECTIONS

1. Toss cucumber and tomatoes with salt and let drain in colander for 15 minutes.

2. Whisk vinegar and garlic together in large bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in oil. Add drained cucumber- tomato mixture, chickpeas, olives, onion, and parsley and toss to coat. Let sit for at least 5 minutes or up to 20 minutes.

3. Add escarole, feta, and walnuts and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Marinated Artichokes

Marinated Artichokes

Marinated Artichokes
Daniel J. van Ackere/America’s Test Kitchen

Marinated artichokes have so many uses that they should be considered a pantry staple; they’re perfect for everything from throwing on pizzas, to tossing into a salad or pasta, to eating on an antipasto platter.

But store-bought versions tend to be mushy and bland — and expensive.

We set out to make our own recipe for easy, inexpensive, and boldly flavorful marinated artichokes. To get the best tender-yet-meaty texture and sweet, nutty artichoke flavor, we started with fresh baby artichokes.

We simmered them gently in olive oil with strips of lemon zest, garlic, red pepper flakes, and thyme, then let them sit off the heat until they were perfectly fork-tender and infused with the aromatic flavors.

Then we stirred in fresh lemon juice and more zest, minced garlic, and mint before transferring the artichokes to a bowl and topping them with the infused oil for serving and storage.

Serves 6 to 8

INDGREDIENTS

2 lemons

cups extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds baby artichokes (2 to 4 ounces each)

8 garlic cloves, peeled, 6 cloves smashed, 2 cloves minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons minced fresh mint

DIRECTIONS

1. Using vegetable peeler, remove three 2-inch strips zest from 1 lemon. Grate ½ teaspoon zest from second lemon and set aside. Halve and juice lemons to yield ¼ cup juice, reserving spent lemon halves.

2. Combine oil and lemon zest strips in large saucepan. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut top quarter off each artichoke, snap off outer leaves, and trim away dark parts. Peel and trim stem, then cut artichoke in half lengthwise (quarter artichoke if large). Rub each artichoke half with spent lemon half and place in saucepan.

3. Add smashed garlic, pepper flakes, thyme sprigs, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to saucepan and bring to rapid simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally to submerge all artichokes, until artichokes can be pierced with fork but are still firm, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit until artichokes are fork-tender and fully cooked, about 20 minutes.

4. Gently stir in ½ teaspoon reserved grated lemon zest, ¼ cup reserved lemon juice, and minced garlic. Transfer artichokes and oil to serving bowl and let cool to room temperature. Season with salt to taste and sprinkle with mint. Serve. (Artichokes and oil can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.)