For years I've been eating the Mediterranean way, packing my diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, "good" oils like olive oil, whole grains, nuts and fish. In May I got to eat this way in an actual Mediterranean country-Tunisia!
I enjoyed the delicious local cuisine, which includes couscous, lamb, grilled seafood and lots of fresh veggies. Many of the dishes are prepared with olive oil- a staple in Mediterranean cooking. On my travels I learned about the process of turning olives into olive oil and sampled several different oils. They were light and pungent, and I bought a can of my favorite olive oil to enjoy when I got home. I've used it in some of these delicious Mediterranean recipes. Try them and taste Tunisia for yourself!
Roasted Eggplant & Feta Dip (see recipe below) - This roasted eggplant and feta dip gets a kick from a fresh chile pepper and cayenne pepper. Serve with toasted pita crisps or as a sandwich spread.
Tunisian Spiced Lamb Chops & Chard - A great complement for lamb, the bold dry rub in this recipe is a typical Tunisian combination of spices that includes cumin, caraway and crushed red pepper. Sautéed chard gets a twist with toasted pine nuts and sweet dates.
Tabbouleh with Grilled Vegetables - Grilled vegetables add a layer of rich, complex flavors to the popular Middle Eastern salad of bulgur and herbs. Serve with whole-wheat pita bread or use as a sandwich filling.
Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad - Packed with protein and fiber, this tuna and bean salad is ready in a flash. Serve with warm, crusty bread or pack it in a pita for a sandwich. For an extra kick, add a pinch of crushed red pepper or cayenne.
Roasted Eggplant & Feta Dip
This roasted eggplant and feta dip gets a kick from a fresh chile pepper and cayenne pepper. Out-of-season eggplant or eggplant that has been heavily watered often has an abundance of seeds, which make the vegetable bitter. Be sure to taste the dip before you serve it; if it's a touch bitter, you can remedy that with a little sugar. Serve with toasted pita crisps or as a sandwich spread.
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, preferably Greek
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small chile pepper, such as jalapeño, seeded and minced (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar (optional)
1. Position oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source; preheat broiler.
2. Line a baking pan with foil. Place eggplant in the pan and poke a few holes all over it to vent steam. Broil the eggplant, turning with tongs every 5 minutes, until the skin is charred and a knife inserted into the dense flesh near the stem goes in easily, 14 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle.
3. Put lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and scrape the flesh into the bowl, tossing with the lemon juice to help prevent discoloring. Add oil and stir with a fork until the oil is absorbed. (It should be a little chunky.) Stir in feta, onion, bell pepper, chile pepper (if using), basil, parsley, cayenne and salt. Taste and add sugar if needed.
Makes 12 servings, about 1/4 cup each.
Per serving: 75 calories; 6 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono); 6 mg cholesterol; 4 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber; 129 mg sodium; 121 mg potassium.
MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Me in Carthage, Tunisia overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (and getting a sunburn!)
Young olive trees at a nursery outside of Tunis
By Jennifer Brown
Jennifer is the production manager for EatingWell Media Group. A voracious reader, cook, baker and mother of 2 who is constantly striving for healthier choices, Jennifer enjoys traveling to new places and trying new things, with and without her family.
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