A Taste of the Mediterranean

My husband and I  recently took a 10-day trip to Israel.  I saw and did so many amazing things, but one of my favorite things about the country was the food (obviously)!  You wouldn’t believe how beautiful the produce is there.  Unlike here in the U.S., nutrient-dense fruits and veggies are accessible and AFFORDABLE throughout the year in Israel.   The people there looked so healthy to me, walking more frequently (rather than driving) and eating highly nutritious, whole foods.

The Mediterranean diet, which is associated with decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, emphasizes lean and green eating and the use of high-quality fats  and whole grains.  In Israel we were served beautiful salads with almost every meal (even breakfast!).  As you can imagine, I was one happy girl (The red wine didn’t hurt either).

Here's an example of the beautiful, organic produce we saw in the open air market in Jerusalem.

Olives are a staple of the Mediterranean diet.

Now that I’m home, I’m really missing all the great Israeli food, so my husband and I were inspired to find recipes for a couple of Mediterranean staples, tabouli salad and hummus.  I’ve never made either of these dishes from scratch (but I am constantly buying them from Trader Joe’s), so I was a little nervous, but they both turned out delicious!

TABOULI INGREDIENTS (Makes 6 cups):

  • 1/2 cup medium grain bulgur
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 4 cups roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

PREPARATION INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Bring water to a boil, pour in bulgur, stir, cover, and turn off heat. Let stand 20  minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and bulgur is fluffy and tender.
  • Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  • In a large salad bowl, toss together parsley, mint, tomatoes and green onions. Add bulgur and pour the dressing over the salad, tossing to combine.  Serve and enjoy!   Hint: It helps to use a food processor to chop up the parsley and mint very finely.

Tabouli salad is so colorful, light and refreshing!

The great thing about tabouli is there are so many fun ways to switch it up.  You can add some onion, garbanzo beans or diced cucumbers.  Some recipes call for more bulgur and less of the veggies and herbs, but I like to keep this dish light and not super starchy.  If you’re gluten-free, you could exchange the bulgur for quinoa.  Tabouli is great as a side dish, or you can throw it in a pita with things like hummus, feta cheese, olives and grilled chicken.  I’m getting hungry just typing this!

My husband whipped up a delicious batch of homemade roasted garlic hummus to go along with our tabouli.  Check out the recipe he used.

My favorite hummus chef!

ROASTED GARLIC HUMMUS INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 lb dry garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 2 tablespoons tahina
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head of roasted garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste

PREPARATION INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Soak garbanzo beans overnight in water. Drain and rinse beans.  Cook beans on low in crock pot for 8-10 hours or until soft.  Drain beans, saving 1-2 cups of the broth. (To save yourself this step, just buy the canned garbanzo beans!)
  • To roast garlic, cut the top off of a head of garlic so that all of the cloves are exposed.  Place in oven safe dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Place in a 350F oven for 45-60 minutes.
  • Puree garbanzo beans in food processor or blender.  Add broth, about 1/2 cup or until consistency is smooth.
  • Add lemon juice, tahina, olive oil, and garlic to the puree and mix in well.
  • Add salt to taste.  Feel free to add more broth, tahina and olive oil until the hummus is just how you like it.  Serve and enjoy!

This little Mediterranean platter was a hit at last night's dinner party!

If you’re not a big garlic fan, you can feel free to skip it.  Hummus is also great with roasted red pepper, olives or a little feta cheese.  I garnished mine with whole garbanzo beans and sprinkled the top with cayenne pepper.

I hope you give these SIMPLE recipes a try.  Do you have any Mediterranean-inspired dishes in your recipe arsenal?  If so, please send them my way!

2 Comments

Filed under Recipes

2 responses to “A Taste of the Mediterranean

  1. sunnieM

    Oh man i could just jump in that vat of olives!

  2. Hannah

    Yay! Way to go Shea and way to go Joanna! Now that’s what I’m talkin about!!!

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