Happy March. Days are flying by and we’ll be back on the water in a blink. Yeah!
So, for health reasons, I’ve been following (more or less) the popular Mediterranean diet which limits the intake of sweets, red meat (which I eat very little of anyway), potatoes and white flour products; breads, pastries, pasta, etc. Instead the focus is on fish, fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs, whole grains, nuts and plant oils. This diet helps to control inflammation in the body, lowers the risk of heart disease and is good for weight loss (bathing suit season is on its way).
This fits perfectly with my love of olive oil. I always use it for sautéing and roasting of my vegetables, chicken and fish. If you’ve ever gone to a food show, you know there are hundreds of different oils to taste from all over the world, each having its own unique flavor. There are cooking oils and finishing oils. As indicated in its name, finishing oils are added to the food once it’s done cooking so as not to lose the flavor of the oil, which would happen if cooked in a high heat.
I could talk about my love for olive oils all day, but let’s get to using them with some of the recipes you can make for a Mediterranean diet.
Crispy Salmon with Farro and Pecan Gremolata (from RealSimple.com)
1⁄4 cup olive oil, divided
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, fronds reserved
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup farro
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1⁄4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 2 tsp. fresh juice (from 1 lemon)
1-1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
4 6-oz. skin-on salmon fillets, about 1-1⁄2 in. thick
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Add chopped fennel; cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add broth and farro and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook until farro is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, make gremolata: Mix parsley, pecans, lemon zest and juice, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle both sides of salmon with pepper and remaining 11⁄4 teaspoons salt. Cook, skin side down, until crispy and browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and cook to desired doneness, about 1 minute for medium. Chop fennel fronds. Serve salmon with farro and lemon wedges; top with gremolata and fennel fronds. Serves 4
Crispy Parmesan Baked Chicken Milanese & Veggies
For the Chicken:
1 large egg
2 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice of 1/2 a lemon)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (whole wheat or grain if possible)
1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or thighs)
For the Veggies:
1 pound mix of zucchini and yellow squash
1/2 cup good olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
salt to taste
1 pound of fresh green beans, cut into thirds
Fresh chopped parsley, if desired
Cooking oil spray
Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking oil spray, or a light coating of oil. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Dip chicken into egg mixture, cover and allow to marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.
In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the parmesan cheese. Dredge the egg coated chicken in the breadcrumb/parmesan mixture, lightly pressing to evenly coat. Place chicken onto the baking sheet and lightly spray with cooking oil spray. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and carefully flip each chicken breast. Mix together the olive oil, 2 teaspoons garlic and salt to taste. In a single layer, arrange the squash around one side of the chicken and the green beans on the other side. Pour half the olive oil mixture over the squash and the other half over the green beans. Toss to evenly coat. Return the pan to the oven to broil (or grill) on medium-high heat for a further 10 minutes, or until chicken is golden and crisp, and vegetables are cooked through. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley if desired and serve immediately. Serves 4
Olive Oil Popcorn
2-3 Tb. of good olive oil
1 cup of popcorn kernels
Salt to taste (you could use a flavored or sea salt)
2 Tb. (or to taste) of your favorite finishing oil**
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover the pot, and cook until popped, shaking the pot occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and drizzle the popcorn with your choice of olive oil while stirring. Season with salt and then give one final stir. Transfer to a serving bowl.
**Orange Oil, Lemon Oil, ‘Butter’ Oil, and for a savory taste, Milanese Gremolata – all can be purchased at a local Crushed Olive Store or through their website: thecrushedolive.com