Recipes for good health: 4 fresh Mediterranean dishes

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!)Me in Carthage, Tunisia overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (and getting a sunburn!)

Young olive trees at a nursery outside of TunisYoung 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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