The Mediterranean way of eating’lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, grains and fish, with a little wine on the side’is a diet I’d choose through sheer love of the options alone, but it’s also very good for you. Research published in the British Medical Journal in September 2008 concluded it really is one of the world’s healthiest diets. The study found eating this way helps make the body less susceptible to major chronic diseases, including cancer. That has a lot to do with the powerhouse omega-3s found in this diet. And it doesn’t feel like a hardship to cut back on rich sauces and butter when you have beautiful relishes and delicious olive oil to enjoy.
The Mediterranean diet is not just about what you eat, but how you eat: It’s a way of living that encourages people to take more time to relax over meals. Studies say that’s good for us, too. Scientists suggest that gathering around the table to eat and giving yourself time to digest a meal before rushing off to the next thing are as important as the actual ingredients. And eating a platter of varied, delicious, fresh and healthy foods with family or friends lends itself perfectly to lingering over your meal.
Try these easy Mediterranean-inspired platters the next time you’re planning an alfresco gathering. Some of the ingredients you may have on hand, and others will offer a chance to add new life to your spice rack or pantry. The result is platters full of colours, contrasting textures and tastes that work together beautifully.
Cooking the Mediterranean way
‘ Use herbs, garlic and nuts generously, not just as a garnish.
‘ Use yogurt instead of cream in soups and on meats.
‘ Try grains such as couscous, polenta and bulghur instead of potatoes or white rice.
‘ Crush avocados, not butter, onto sourdough bread.
‘ Choose local, seasonal foods over processed.
‘ Get protein in the form of eggs and cheese.
‘ If you had a heavy lunch, stick to soup in the evening: a minestrone, pumpkin soup or gazpacho.
‘ Eat fish and seafood at least twice a week.
‘ Garnish meals with roasted cherry tomatoes, and relishes such as olive tapenade.
‘ Finish the meal with fresh fruit or a little cheese.
5 healthy Mediterranean platters
‘ Italian Riviera Platter
Oven-warm frittata, a few slices of prosciutto and a mozzarella and tomato salad turn antipasto into a feast.
‘ Middle East Platter
Make your own pita crisps to scoop up still-warm, creamy baba ghanouj (eggplant dip). Sumac is a wonderfully sour Middle Eastern spice that adds a lemony tang.
‘ Niçoise Platter
When in doubt, opt for a niçoise salad, or a version thereof, for lunch or dinner. It appeals to almost everyone because it brilliantly combines a little bit of everything.
‘ Spanish Platter
Garlicky shrimp, fruity roasted peppers and fat green olives turn your dinner table into a tapas bar.
‘ Greek Island Platter
Greek food is utterly delicious, but whenever I eat it at a restaurant I end up finishing everything on the table and waddling home clutching my stomach. This way I get to taste everything and stay within the limits of human consumption.
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