The Good Life, Mediterranean Style
Ellie Krieger MS, RD
Ellie is not only a registered dietitian, she is a Food Network chef, New York Times bestselling author and a James Beard Award winner. AND she is also a Culinary Advisor to the Whole Grains Council. As an RD, Ellie has such a unique culinary perspective. Her nutrition background, mixed with her kitchen wisdom, produces recipes that pair amazing ﬂavors with healthy ingredients to inspire anyone to get cooking! You can learn more about Ellie by visiting her website or following her on Facebook and Twitter.
“La dolce vita” (the good life) is much more than a movie title or catchy phrase. As I learned on a recent family vacation to Italy, it is a satisfying approach to living that’s about slowing down and savoring all that life oﬀers.
On my Italian excursion it struck me that much of the healthfulness of the Mediterranean diet can be attributed to this “dolce vita” philosophy. Eating well is more than what you eat— it is also how you eat and your attitude toward food. Here are three ways Italians approach food that can help up enjoy a little more of “la dolce vita” here and be healthier for it:
Make Good Food a Priority
Quality and taste are held to a high standard wherever you go in Italy. Good food is considered important and short cuts that compromise quality are shunned. Even at an airport kiosk I had a fresh arugula salad and a just-grilled panini with simple but excellent ingredients. If we all put a tiny bit more eﬀort into preparing quality, minimally processed food here, we’d all be a lot better oﬀ.
Sit Down Together and Savor
In Italy it is clear that mealtime is not only about food, it is a time for families and friends to connect around the table. You really don’t see people eating at their computer or skipping lunch like we do here. People value the community of mealtime and take time out to stop and enjoy a meal together.
Focus on Local Ingredients
There is a tremendous pride in locally produced food and a sense of tradition and craft about how food is produced and prepared. On a tour of Parmigiano Reggiano production I was amazed at the level of passion, care and adherence to tradition involved. (That is a photo of me in the room where the cheese is aged.)
I also noticed how common it is to take advantage of local produce. When we were there artichokes and peas were in peak season. You could buy artichokes at the market for 10 for 1 Euro ($1.40)! Artichokes and peas were served everywhere, every-which-way and I have never found them more delicious. (The photo below is a dish of artichokes we were served at a lovely trattoria in Bologna.)
Happily, artichokes were in season when I returned home as well, and I have been relishing cooking them and sitting down with my family and friends to enjoy them, in true Mediterranean, “la dolce vita” style.
STEAMED ARTICHOKES WITH ALMOND SAFFRON DIP
1 tablespoon boiling water
¼ cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, ﬁnely chopped
1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
¼ cup ﬂat leaf parsley leaves
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Arrange the artichokes in a steamer basket set over at least 3 cups of water and steam, covered, until the leaves can be easily removed, about 40 minutes. Let cool. About halfway through cooking check the water level and add more if necessary.
In a small bowl, stir together saﬀron and the tablespoon of boiling water. Toast the almonds in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the almonds and add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pan. Add onion and cook until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. In a food processor, grind the almonds until ﬁnely chopped. Add the saﬀron mixture, onion mixture, yogurt and parsley and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the artichokes.
Makes 4 servings — Serving size 1 artichoke and ¼ cup sauce
Calories 200; Total Fat 10 g; (Sat Fat 1.5 g, Mono Fat 7 g, Poly Fat 2 g) ; Protein 9 g; Carb 22 g; Fiber 8 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 170 mg
Excellent source of: Fiber, Vitamin C, Folate, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Manganese
Good source of: Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Phosphorus, Potassium