Mediterranean cooking brings together three popular food trends -- quick and easy cooking, all-natural ingredients and health awareness.
Mediterranean cuisine refers to the culinary creations of Italy, Spain, southern France, Turkey, Israel and the North African countries that border the sea.
Nuts, grains, spices, herbs, flavorings, olive oil and seafood are typically used in Mediterranean dishes. And because meat is scarce in the Mediterranean basin, this cuisine characteristically depends on an abundant variety of vegetables, including meat-textured vegetables.
Mediterranean cooking is healthy because it is high in complex carbohydrates and soluble and insoluble fiber. Mediterranean food is also low in saturated fat and contains moderate amounts of animal protein.
The following recipes for Basque Bisque and Mediterranean Minestrone are simple, healthy dishes designed to bring a taste of the Mediterranean into the home. The recipes are provided by the Frozen Vegetable Council:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup frozen chopped onions
1 10-ounce package cut sweet peppers, thawed and drained, chopped into small pieces
3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into thirds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh chives, coriander or basil, chopped
In a large, heavy casserole, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, stir in the onion and let it soften for about three or four minutes. Add the sweet peppers and continue cooking for another two minutes.
Puree two cups of the corn in a food processor fitted with a steel chopping blade and scrape the puree into the casserole. Stir in the chicken or vegetable stock and half-and-half, and let the mixture simmer for two to three minutes.
Stir in the remaining corn, shrimp, salt, pepper and chives, and gently simmer until the shrimp are just cooked through. Do not overcook the shrimp. Taste for seasonings, then ladle the soup into bowls. Makes four servings.
Mighty Minestrone in Minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small green cabbage (about 1/2 pound), shredded
1 cup frozen onions
1 9-ounce package frozen Italian green beans
1 10-ounce package butter or lima beans
1 10-ounce package sliced carrots
1 16-ounce can peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 16-ounce can cannellini, undrained and pureed or mashed until smooth
2 cups water
2 teaspoons dried basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large casserole, heat the oil until hot. Stir in the cabbage and onions, and saute them over medium-high heat until the cabbage is wilted, about eight to ten minutes.
Add the green beans, butter beans and carrots. Pour in the tomatoes and chop them with a wooden spoon. Add the cannellini, water, basil, salt and pepper. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste to adjust the seasoning. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Makes four servings.