Making a Mediterranean Menu

It’s easy to experiment with the Mediterranean diet. Keep to the basics of fruits, vegetables, some fish and beans and limit portions of meat and poultry. Flavorful additions like garlic, onions and herbs, all featured in Mediterranean cooking, boast even more cancer-fighting compounds. Try some, or all, of our starter menu below.


Appetizer: Orzo Pasta with Cannellini Beans

4 cups water
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 cup orzo whole-wheat pasta
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
1 Tbsp. packed fresh thyme leaves

In large pot, bring water and rosemary to boil. Boil 1 minute, then remove rosemary with slotted spoon. Add orzo and cook for 10-12 minutes. Drain well. If desired, remove rosemary leaves from stem and mix with pasta. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat oil. Sauté onion and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add bell peppers. Sauté for 3 more minutes. Add spinach and sauté until wilted, 1 minute. Add beans and stir until hot. Stir in orzo and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with thyme and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 244 calories, 5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 40 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein, 7 g dietary fiber, 110 mg sodium.

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Entrée:  Mediterranean Baked Fish

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 can (14 oz.) unsalted diced tomatoes, drained (reserve juice)
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white grape juice, dry white wine may be substituted
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tsp. orange peel, freshly grated
1 tsp. ground fennel (optional)
1/4 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tilapia fillets, approximately 1 lb. total

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
Combine remaining ingredients – tomatoes through Italian seasoning including reserved tomato juice. Sseason to taste with salt and pepper. Stir gently and simmer uncovered 30 minutes.

In 7 x 11 baking dish, lay fish fillets and cover evenly with the sauce.

Bake until fish flakes easily, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 220 calories, 6 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 17 g carbohydrate, 24 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 250 mg sodium.

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Salad: Pear Salad with Mint and Figs

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. honey
1/8 tsp. salt
1 small shallot, minced
1 small head Boston lettuce, washed and torn
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 ripe Bosc pear,quartered
8 dried figs, cut into 4 slices each
Freshly ground black pepper

In small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey and salt. Stir in shallot and set aside. To prepare salad, arrange lettuce on serving platter. Sprinkle mint over lettuce. Cut each pear quarter into 4 slices and arrange over mint. Sprinkle with dried figs. Stir dressing and pour over salad. Toss to coat. Serve garnished with freshly ground black pepper.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 197 calories, 7 g total fat (less than 1 g saturated fat), 33 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 78 mg sodium.

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Dessert: Lemon Tea Cake with Thyme and Pine Nuts

1 tsp. canola oil
1 large lemon
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup fat-free milk
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. fresh thyme or lemon thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat 9x5 loaf pan with canola oil and set aside. Grate zest from lemon and set aside. Cut lemon in half. Into cup, squeeze juice, discarding seeds. Set aside. In medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder and salt. In large bowl, cream canola oil with sugar using electric mixer on medium speed. Add eggs one at a time. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour mixture with milk, ending with flour and mixing until combined. Gently fold nuts in batter. Spoon batter into loaf pan. Bake 1 hour or until tester comes out clean when inserted into middle of loaf. Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat remaining fresh lemon juice with honey and thyme until hot. Carefully remove loaf from pan, placing on platter. Pierce top of loaf all over with thin skewer. Brush honey lemon glaze on top until completely absorbed. Continue to cool on wire rack.

Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 220 calories, 10 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 29 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber, 101 mg sodium.

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