While the great American barbecue can be great fun, it typically wouldn’t win any prizes for healthful eating. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Swap out some of those simple carbs for more fiber, flavor, and nutrition, by going Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean diet is not complicated. It favors fish over meat; flavor over sugar. Fresh vegetables and herbs shine in this cuisine. The richness of aromatic herbs like rosemary, combined with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, yield flavors that seem sun-drenched. Need more convincing? The American Geriatrics Society announced recently that a version of the Mediterranean Diet known as the MIND diet is a prescription for a reduced risk of memory problems among older adults.
Mixed Grill Kebabs
Throughout Greece and the Middle East, grilled meat and vegetables are roasted over hot coals on skewers. These simple foods, simply prepared, are bursting with the favors of the region. Nothing says Mediterranean like rosemary, for example. Rosemary is among a bouquet garni of herbs that possess potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. But never mind all that. In this classic recipe, rosemary serves to complement the garlic and lemon, and tie together the fresh flavors with a woodsy, citrusy edge.
- 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp. chopped, flat-leaf parsley
- 2 Tbsp. chopped, fresh rosemary
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 lb. boneless pork chops, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 lb chicken skinless/boneless breasts/boneless thighs, cut into about 1-1/2-inch pieces
- 3 small zucchini, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 3 small yellow squash
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 lb. tiny new potatoes, various colors
- 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into wedges
- 8 medium crimini/baby bella mushrooms
- 12 cherry tomatoes
Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove and add potatoes. Cook 15 minutes, drain, and cool. In a measuring cup, whisk together oil, garlic, lemon zest, juice and mustard. Stir in chopped herbs, salt, and black pepper. Place meats in a large freezer storage bag. Pour 5-6 Tbsp. of the marinade and refrigerate. Add vegetables (including cooled potatoes) to a second bag, and pour over remaining marinade. Refrigerate marinated meats and vegetables for about one hour.
Remove food items from bags, and thread onto skewers in random order. Grill over a medium-high flame on a gas grill, or over hot, prepared coals; about 4 minutes per side. Use an instant-read thermometer. Meat should read 155° F internally. Remove pieces from skewers and serve over a bed of cooked long grain/wild rice.
Fresh greens are a staple of the Mediterranean dietary pattern, as are fresh herbs. Both deliver superb nutrition; fiber, vitamins, minerals and potent phytochemicals that won’t show up on any government-mandated nutrition labels. Nevertheless, these compounds—such as lutein in dark green leafy vegetables, lycopene in watermelon, or nitrates in arugula—can be highly beneficial in the body.
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, plus zest
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus zest (about two small lemons)
- 1/4 cup shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. organic honey
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 6 cups baby arugula, rinsed thoroughly
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1/4 red or sweet onion, sliced into thin wedges
- 2-3 cups seedless watermelon chunks, about 1-inch square
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 12 ounces feta cheese, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
In a quart measuring cup, whisk first 8 ingredients (through mustard). Mustard will enable the dressing to emulsify, so oil will not separate. Put arugula, spinach, feta, onion and watermelon in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with the dressing, followed by mint leaves, toss and serve chilled.