(BPT) - Mediterranean cuisine wins high marks from health professionals, culinary experts and common folk alike. Dieticians love it for its emphasis on fresh, wholesome ingredients like whole grains and fresh vegetables. Chefs adore its variety, versatility and simplicity. The rest of us just love the way Mediterranean cuisine tastes good while still being better for us.
A Mediterranean-inspired diet has been hailed as the best in the world and the easiest to follow. This summer, incorporating Mediterranean influences in your summer fare couldn't be simpler - or more rewarding! Here are seven easy, inspired ways to infuse summer dishes with Mediterranean flare:
* Incorporate Greek yogurt.Perhaps one of the most distinctively Mediterranean flavors is the creamy tang of Greek yogurt. Meanwhile, mayonnaise is a staple in many summer dishes, from salads like coleslaw, to sandwiches and burgers. An easy way to infuse Mediterranean flavor in a variety of summerdishes is to replace regular mayonnaise with Blue Plate Light Mayonnaise with Greek Yogurt. Made with Greek yogurt, this mayo adds a pop of flavor and a gram of protein per serving, while delivering half the fat and calories of regular mayonnaise. If you've ever tried to mix mayo and Greek yogurt, you know achieving the perfect flavor balance can be a challenge. Blue Plate's option does it for you.
* Go a little bit (or a lot) nuts.Nuts are a common lean protein and healthy fat you'll find throughout the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean. In Italy, pine nuts add flavor and crunch to a variety of dishes. Almonds are popular in Spain and pistachios reign in Greece. Explore new ways of adding these nourishing and flavorful nuts to favorite summer dishes. For example, nuts are a great salad topper and far more healthful than croutons, which are often deep-fried.
* Pick up the olive oil bottle. Olive oil is the cooking medium of choice for Mediterranean fare. Replace saturated fats like butter or vegetable oil and trans fats like margarine with olive oil. It contains monounsaturated fatty acids, which are a healthier dietary fat. What's more, olive oil gives a wonderful, light flavor that's a hallmark of Mediterranean food.
* Go lean with your proteins.Rich in fresh vegetables and whole grains, the cuisines of Mediterranean countries also feature lean proteins. Replace fattier proteins like beef and processed cheeses with leaner options. For example, try topping a turkey burger with crumbled feta cheese. Whip up a lentil-based salad (don't forget the olive oil drizzle) for a light, high-protein meal you can feel good about.
* Emphasize herbs.Fresh-from-the-garden herbs contribute heavily to the wonderful flavors in Mediterranean cuisine. From basil and bay leaves to mint, sage and thyme, many of these herbs also are associated with specific health benefits. For example, dill is a staple in Greek cooking and it's high in minerals as well as flavor. Instead of topping a beef burger with plain mayo or mustard and dill pickle slices from a jar, try sweet or spicy pickles. Create a lighter condiment by adding some fresh chopped dill to Blue Plate Light Mayonnaise with Greek Yogurt for a fresh and balanced flavor.
* Savor more seafood.The warm, blue waters of the Mediterranean yield a bounty of fresh seafood. Incorporate light, grilled seafood options, like shrimp skewers, in your summer meals. Enhance the natural healthfulness nutrition and flavor of seafood with Mediterranean-inspired herbs and treatments. For example, Shrimp Tzatziki employs fresh dill, lemon and ground caraway, along with extra virgin olive oil and a blend of mayonnaise and Greek yogurt.
* Eat your veggies.Fresh produce abounds in Mediterranean cuisines, providing many health benefits. You can give favorite vegetables a fresh flare by incorporating Mediterranean-inspired flavors to your preparations. Try this Charred Broccoli Salad,courtesy of Mediterranean guru and James Beard winner Chef Alon Shaya, for a flavorful twist on this nourishing green veggie:
Charred Broccoli Salad
For Step 1:
4 bunches of broccoli, approximately 8 cups cut florets
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Up to 2 teaspoons yellow curry powder to taste
For Step 2:
1 cup sliced almonds, skin on
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
6 teaspoons olive oil
Up to 4 teaspoons Yellow curry powder to taste
1 cup dried cherries or raisins
Preheat oven to broil. In a mixing bowl, toss the broccoli florets with olive oil, kosher salt, and yellow curry powder from Step 1.
Place on baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven and roast for approximately 15 minutes or until cooked through and lightly charred. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
Place the sliced almonds, minced ginger, garlic, and olive oil from Step 2 into an 8- to 10-inch saute pan. Turn flame to medium low and let cook slowly while stirring frequently for 10 minutes or until the almonds are golden brown. Look for a gentle sizzle of the ingredients in the oil to ensure your pan does not get too hot. Once almonds are golden, add the curry powder and cook for an additional minute. Remove from the heat and pour over the cooked broccoli.
Stir in the Blue Plate Light Mayonnaise with Greek Yogurt and dried cherries or raisins. Enjoy this salad warm or chilled.
For more recipes, visit www.BluePlateGreek.com.