Time to get serious about the Mediterranean diet

By / Food / May 8th, 2017 / 10

First the good news: I had a beautiful baby boy — 44 years ago. Now the bad news: I’m still trying to lose the weight.

This is the year I’m going to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight. I’ve been toying with the Mediterranean diet for a while and I think it’s time to get serious. The Mediterranean diet is all about veggies, fruit, poultry and fish, whole grains, beans and heart-healthy fats such as olive and canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocado. I’m down with that, although I do plan to spend a few calories a week on a glass or two of wine.

As for that adorable baby boy, the one who wrecked my figure 44 years ago — he’s a scientist at Cleveland Clinic, working on a breast cancer vaccine. I’m a proud, slightly chubby, mom.

tuna niçoise

serves 4

If you are feeling particularly ambitious, substitute grilled fresh tuna for the canned variety. If you can’t find haricots verts, use slender green beans. To hard-boil eggs, place eggs in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as water comes to a boil, remove pan from heat, cover and let eggs rest 17 minutes. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking process and peel hard-boiled eggs under cool running water.

1 package fresh haricots verts, trimmed
8 small red potatoes
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
2 minced shallots
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 bag mixed salad greens
2 cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained and divided into four servings
20 Kalamata or Niçoise olives

In a large saucepan, bring about 8 cups water to a boil; add haricots verts and cook until just tender and bright green, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer beans to a colander, rinse under cold water and set aside in a large bowl or transfer to a skillet and sauté beans in olive oil for a minute or 2 for more depth of flavour.

Meanwhile, cover potatoes with water, bring to a boil, add a tsp of salt and cook, uncovered, until fork-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

In a medium bowl, whisk shallots, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in olive oil, adding additional olive oil if needed.

Cut potatoes into quarters. Add to bowl with beans. Add salad greens and dressing. Toss well. Divide salad among 4 dinner plates. Top with tuna, egg and olives. Serve immediately.

Match: Excellent with a Provence rosé.

spinach salad with beets, goat cheese and candied walnuts

Beets sometimes get a bad rap and they shouldn’t. Roasted to bring out their sweet flavour, they are delicious. Look for smaller beets, in any colour, for this recipe. I like Chioggia beets, an Italian variety with candy-cane stripes, most often found at farmers’ markets. Add grilled chicken to this salad for a satisfying meal.

4 small beets, cleaned and stems removed
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
1 bag baby spinach
4 slices goat cheese
1/2 cup candied walnuts (recipe follows)
Citrus Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Cover a baking pan with parchment paper.

Cut beets in half, or if larger, in quarters. In a small bowl, toss beets with olive oil and salt. Transfer to baking sheet. Roast in oven until beets are softened and browned in places, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Cool. Peel, if desired. Pat dry.

Arrange baby spinach on 4 plates. Top with beets, goat cheese and candied walnuts (you might not use all of the walnuts; they are delicious eaten out of hand.) Spoon Citrus Vinaigrette over each salad.

Match: Uncork a Chardonnay.

candied walnuts

1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Spread nuts on a baking sheet. Toast in oven, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cook sugar over low heat until melted and a light caramel colour, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add walnuts; stir to coat. Be careful, melted sugar is very hot!

Place parchment paper on baking sheet and carefully transfer candied walnuts to baking sheet. Allow to cool completely before eating.

citrus vinaigrette

Play with this recipe — use more lemon juice and less orange, add a pinch of sugar or a dollop of honey, whisk in Dijon mustard, make it your own.

1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp finely grated orange zest
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients.

house salad with mason jar dressing

The dressing will keep 5 days in the fridge, so use your imagination to create a different salad every day. You can chop the romaine with a knife if you’re eating it the same day. Otherwise tear it into pieces so the edges won’t brown. Topping the salad with crisp bacon bits is my way of getting my bacon fix without over-indulging.

1 bag romaine hearts, chopped
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
12 bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
Sliced red onion, to taste
Crisp bacon, for garnish
Mason Jar Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

In a large salad bowl, gently toss all ingredients with dressing. Garnish with red onion slices and bacon.

Match: Open a Sauvignon Blanc.

mason jar vinaigrette

Frankly, I’ll be glad when the Mason jar craze is over, but I’ll always have one jar on hand to make this easy dressing.

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp minced shallot
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dried basil or oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake jar until dressing is combined.


Quench Food Editor, Nancy Johnson, minced, sliced, chopped, sautéed and sipped her way through George Brown College’s culinary program with a focus on food writing and wine. Nancy cooks by the code her Italian grandmother taught her: For the best results, always use the freshest, best ingredients. She writes for Ohio-based Wine Buzz Magazine and recently published a short story in Woman’s World Magazine. She is always on a diet.

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