I don’t like restrictions–period. So when I hear the word diet, I feel frustrated by all the things I won’t be able to eat. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the Mediterranean Diet isn’t what we traditionally think of when we say “diet”, but is a lifestyle that should be enjoyed with both pleasure and health in mind. Can someone give me an Amen?!
Enter Amy Riolo, author of The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook who made the word “diet” sound very inviting by focusing on the importance of enjoying meals with others, and maintaining physical activity.
Amy immersed herself in the Mediterranean culture for years and summed her observations with these three factors:
- Food is treated as medicine.
- Moderation is the key.
- An active physical and social lifestyle is mandatory.
I can happily live by that creed.
Amy Riolo was a guest speaker at a Melissa’s Produce luncheon. She is an award-winning author, chef, television personality, educator, cuisine and culture expert. In conversation with her, she spoke eloquently about her experiences in Egypt, Italy & UAE. Her love of sharing culture, history, and nutrition through global cuisine was infectious, and this passion and mission is clear in her latest cookbook.
Amy organizes her recipes from her latest book on the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.
Each recipe is accompanied by “Mediterranean Tradition” – fun history facts, culture, lore, tips and nutritional value of the dish and its ingredients. We enjoyed several selections at our event.
From her “Plant-based Foods” chapter we sampled: North African Fruit Cocktail, Quinoa, Arugula & Fig Salad, Green Beans, Potatoes & Cherry Tomatoes with Pesto and Spaghetti Squash “Pasta” with Zucchini, Basil & Cherry Tomatoes.
From the “Fish & Seafood” chapter we tasted the Citrus Marinated Salmon with Fennel Cream and from the “Meat & Sweets” chapter was a light and satisfying Raspberry Citrus Clafoutis. It was the perfect ending to our Mediterranean Feast.
Today’s recipe has a French spin on tabbouleh by replacing the bulgur wheat with quinoa, the ancient grain that supplies all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. This pleasurable salad is a wonderful vegetarian main dish or side dish for fish.
Note: If fresh figs are not in season, substitute pears, apples, oranges, or the fruit of your choice. Another variation on this salad is substituting the juice of 1 orange for the lemon, and 2 cups (454 g) fresh berries and 11 ounces (312 g) baby spinach for the figs and arugula. It is a delightful and refreshing salad any way you combine it.
- 1 cup (185 g) dry quinoa, rinsed
- ½ cup (118 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon unrefined sea salt or salt
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 pint (228 g) fresh figs, quartered
- 11 ounces (312 g) baby arugula
- Bring 2 cups (475 ml) of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the quinoa, stir, reduce heat to low, and cover. Allow to simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the stove and allow to cool completely.
- Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper together to form vinaigrette.
- Place the quinoa in a large bowl and lightly fluff with a fork. Combine with the vinaigrette. Gently stir in figs. Place the arugula on a platter. Pour the quinoa mixture over the arugula and serve.
The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook has 100 easy to follow recipes from 25 countries – as well as current information on Mediterranean health and nutritional research. Her goal is to inspire more shared memories at the table, as well as happiness and health to everyone who reads it.
Quote of the Day:
“Treat food, family, and friends as if they are the most important part of your life.” – Amy Riolo
…and then, she paused for thought.