Optimal Living: The Amazing Plant Power of Mediterranean Cuisine


If you do a search for “healthy diet” recommendations, one that will always come up is the Mediterranean Diet!! Named the Mediterranean Diet because it originally touted the benefits of the countries like France, Spain, Italy and Greece, where chronic diseases were lower because of the high consumption of powerful plant foods.  As the process of decolonization continues to grow, scientists are now also recognizing the countries on the south side of the Mediterranean like Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Egypt.  All of which are African countries whose populations also have lower rates of chronic diseases.  Well, what do you know!

“The Mediterranean diet is perhaps one of the most widely researched eating patterns in the world. Following a Mediterranean diet is linked with a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, a decreased risk of certain cancers (eg, colorectal, head and neck, respiratory, gastric, liver, and bladder), a slower progression of atherosclerosis, and many markers of healthy aging.” Today’s Dietitian

Whenever I thought of Mediterranean food, my mind went to things like falafels, olives, gyros and spanakopita, which of course are connected to Greece.  As I have looked a little more closely to the Mediterranean foods of Africa, I have been connected to familiar flavors that are integral  to this type of cuisine.  Some of the foods that are central to this region include cabbage, artichokes, dandelion greens, sweet potatoes, eggplant and collard greens.  They also use grains like barley, bulgur, couscous, millet, oats, wheat berries, polenta and rice.  Favorite fruits are dates, figs, melons, olives, pumpkin, pomegranates and strawberries.  While poultry, fish, seafood and dairy products are a part of the dietary, they are  eaten in small amounts.  And, while the countries on the North side of the Mediterranean include wine/alcohol, many of the countries on the south side in Africa are Muslim and forbid alcohol consumption.  Dependence on nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios and sesame seeds and beans like chick peas, fava beans, lentils and split peas is crucial for deliciously seasoned dishes.  Herbs and spices like anise, cumin, fennel, garlic, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme are favorites for their powerful flavors and phytochemical benefits.

I searched the internet and Pinterest looking for recipes on the south side of the Mediterranean Sea and found so much. Vegan Egyptian Blogger Nada, has some amazing recipes here https://www.onearabvegan.com. I’m sharing one of her curry recipes that sounds absolutely delicious and would be perfect with one of the wraps!!

Bonus Recipes!

1 cup dry bulgur wheat (parboiled wheat berries)
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup fresh lemon juice(could also use lime juice)
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup chopped green onions (could also use scallions)
½ teaspoon dried peppermint
2 medium tomatoes, diced
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Combine bulgur, boiling water and salt in a bowl. Cover and let stand 15-20 minutes or until bulgur is chewable. Add lemon juice, oil and mint and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate 2-3 hours. Just before serving, add the vegetables, mixing gently and adjusting to taste.
Serves 8

Tortillas/Wraps are easy to make and the homemade ones taste so much better. Whip up a batch of your own. Add pureed tomato, carrot or spinach to the dough. Store and serve when ready to eat. Fill with grilled veggies, fresh veggies, scrambled tofu, beans and rice, falafels, or your favorite veggie meat and enjoy a simply delicious meal.

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening ( I use earth balance)
3/4-1 cup warm water

Sift flower in bowl.  Add salt and baking powder.  Cut in shortening.  Add water and stir till mixture becomes a ball.  Knead for a few minutes….separate into about 8-10 balls.  Cover and let rest for 30 or so minutes….roll out into thin disks and cook on grill or iron skillet flipping once…..it’s like making roti bread…….Place inside a damp dishcloth or plastic wrap to keep moist and pliable. Try not to eat all at once. YUM!!!
Yield: 8-10.


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