Trying New Foods: Discover The Joys Of Mediterranean Cooking

Incorporating Mediterranean cooking into your meal planning.

While Italian cooking is common in most homes, many cooks are intimidated by the thought of cooking other Mediterranean meals. For some, it sounds too exotic and too complicated. Like Italian cooking, nothing could be farther from the truth. Most Italian dishes are considered to be part of the Mediterranean style meals.

The joy of Mediterranean cooking lies in fresh ingredients and the ease of recipes. Cooks of the region shop daily at the markets to purchase the best and freshest vegetables possible. Many people are unfamiliar with some of the ingredients, yet they are available in most grocery stores.

Staples of the Mediterranean diet include olive oil, tomatoes, olives, nuts and seeds, bread, onions, garlic, and fresh herbs. Fish and shellfish are commonly used and red meat is rarely eaten. Cheeses, both hard and soft, are common ingredients in every meal.

Salads are served at most Mediterranean meals, along with fresh breads, a main dish and desserts. The salads are made either with fresh greens or with left over beans and grains. Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a common ingredient.

Below, I've given recipes for both a salad dish and a main dish. They are both very easy recipes for the beginner and are perfect for the first time eater of Mediterranean cooking. The ingredients for both recipes can be purchased at any super market.

Chick Pea Salad

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup finely minced onions

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

1/2 cup diced red pepper

1/2 cup raisins

3 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained. (Canned garbanzos can be used)

1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onions and thyme over low heat until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the red pepper and cook another 5 minutes, then add the raisins and chickpeas and simmer for approximately another 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl. Pour the vinegar over the hot mixture, do not stir. Let the salad set until room temperature and serve. This dish can be made the day ahead and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Allow to return to room temperature before serving.

Artichoke and Feta Cheese Pizza

1 10 inch store bought pizza crust (or make your own)

2/3 cups of marinated artichoke hearts

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup black olives, pitted and sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon oregano or Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove artichoke hearts from marinade and cut each into four pieces.

Place pizza crust on baking sheet and spread tomato sauce evenly over the top.

Top with artichoke hearts, garlic and black olives. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Drizzle the olive oil over all. Sprinkle oregano or Italian seasoning over the top.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until crust is evenly browned.

For dessert, serve fresh fruit or different types of hard cheese.

Mediterranean recipes abound on the web and many cookbooks are available dedicated to this style of cooking. Mediterranean cooking has something for everyone, from meat eaters to vegans.

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