I had another lesson luncheon for my Extension Homemakers Club. This time the lesson was on the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.
There are a zillion studies - opinions - definitions of just what a Mediterranean Diet is, and as many opinions of what country's cuisines represent the diet.
It boils down to this: the Mediterranean Diet is plant based and generally low protein. It is vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains (usually NOT wheat), nuts, and seeds. It is minimally processed. Herbs and spices are stars in this show.
Proteins found in the diet are chicken (and eggs), seafood, sheep, and goat. Cheese is from sheep and goats. Yogurt is a staple ~ but we are talking the "Greek" style yogurt which is higher in protein and lower in sugar than what Americans consider as yogurt.
White sugar is not common. Honey is the sweetener of choice. Snacks are often dried fruits and nuts.
A huge different from an American diet is that in a Mediterranean diet proteins are part of a dish... NOT the main course. Two chicken breasts can feed an entire family. Cheese is sprinkled, not layered.
This type of cuisine comes from countries that rugged and hilly. Hot dry summers and cold damp winters. Lush pastures are rare; they more likely would be turned to orchards.
Now what country's cuisines represent this diet?
North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
Middle East: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria
Turkey and Greece
Not Italy. Think about the heavy sauces and white flour pastas, thick cheeses, and sugary desserts.
Studies show that people who follow a Mediterranean diet (as opposed to those who don't) have lower heart disease, less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and less cognitive impairment.
So of course I prepared a Mediterranean meal for lunch.
I started with a sample of common dried fruit as the appetizer (you can see the little cup to the left). I had a fig, a date, and a dried apricot.
Hummus and pita bread was a must! BTW folks, that flat dry cardboard like "pita" you get at a fast food place is not real pita. Once you taste a piece of real pita bread you won't ever eat that other stuff again. (I cheated on the hummus and bought it at my favorite local Mediterranean restaurant).
The salad came from my Extension service lesson.
For the entree I made a tangine chicken recipe. Tangine cooking is very typical North African cooking. The added fun for me was that I got to use the salt preserved lemons I made last month.
Here's the recipe I used:
And dessert was a simple dish of Greek yogurt (vanilla flavored) with peaches or tangerines on top, then drizzled with honey.