Without having to try, I am in love with the Mediterranean Diet.
It's more than a "diet", it is a lifestyle. The Mediterranean Diet, which has been a way of life for people who live around the Mediterranean Sea, consists of many components: consumption of plant-based foods, the use of olive oil instead of butter, incorporating herbs more often than salt, eating less red meat and more fish and poultry, and (my personal favorite) drinking red wine.
The way this lifestyle works to create heart healthy people is not just about the food. Daily exercise is a necessary feature.
Fresh parsley is added to the crushed tomatoes and other ingredients.
Most people who live in these areas exercise as a part of their life, not as a chore or a task. They don't join gyms. They take long walks for pleasure, walk to work, or walk as a part of their work. They garden or farm.
Also, the way they eat their meals is important. People from these regions more often than not eat meals with family and friends. They spend time with family and friends around the dinner table. Therefore, the Mediterranean Diet encompasses a mental aspect as well as the physical.
Being happy and stress free is just as important to heart health as is what you put into your body.
Mediterranean Angel Hair Pasta Recipe
Time: 40 minutes
1 glass of red wine (whatever kind you like the best)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half
2 tablespoons capers
1 cup artichoke hearts
1 cup chicken stock
cup heavy cream (optional)
cup fresh parsley, chopped
pound angel hair pasta (try the whole grain pasta)
your family or a group of your favorite friends
In a large stock pot bring water to boil. In a large sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil is hot (not smoking) add the cherry tomatoes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the garlic and bell peppers. Let these saute for about ten minutes. Once the tomatoes become soft, crush them with a potato masher. Add the kalamata olives, capers, artichoke hearts, and chicken stock. Simmer for fifteen minutes. Take a cup of sauce out and place into a separate bowl. Mix the cream in with this little bit of sauce. Add this mixture back into the sauce. Add the fresh parsley. Once the water is boiling, add the angel hair pasta and cook according to the package instructions. You want to cook the pasta al dente because it will cook a bit more in with the sauce. Place a few tablespoons full of the pasta water into the sauce. Drain the water from the pasta and mix in the other two tablespoons of olive oil in with the pasta. Place the pasta into the sauce and cook for about three minutes more. Turn off the heat and serve to the people you love. Sit with everyone and enjoy the meal together with stories and laughter.
I have always loved dishes from the Mediterranean: tabbouleh, hummus, grape leaves, olives, ratatouille, tzatziki, cous cous, and so much more. They are always flavorful, light and delicious.
Growing up in Los Angeles, I was able to sample a lot of this food in different restaurants. I frequented a Greek deli when I was in high school. This is where I was introduced to most of the foods I mentioned above.
I also loved this little Lebanese cafe in the San Fernando Valley, called Sassoon. I don't know if it is still there. I wouldn't be surprised if it is. They served the most delicious Mediterranean food. Here in Vegas, there is a chain of Greek restaurants called The Mad Greek. We stop there every time we travel to California because it is the best thing to eat on the way.
I always get the Greek salad or the falaffel platter. Oh, just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
No matter where you live, making meals along the lines of a Mediterranean Diet is simple and can be accomplished from anywhere. All you need are some fresh ingredients (mainly vegetables and herbs) and a little bit of time. The other great thing is that most of the dishes in a Mediterranean Diet are extremely inexpensive.
I have to admit that the recipe I am offering here is not exactly along the lines of the ideal Mediterranean Diet because I use heavy cream.
As I have mentioned before in previous articles, I am not perfect. I am learning that more and more the older I get. You could quite easily eliminate the heavy cream and keep this dish completely heart healthy. It would still taste delicious.
Sometimes, I have a hard time getting rid of the butter and cream. I love butter and cream. However, I feel like it is okay to use moderately if you have a balance. This dish is mostly vegetables; so, a splash of cream can't be too harmful, right? Besides, I drank an extra glass of red wine to balance it out. You should do the same.