Category Archives: Mediterranean Diet

12 simple ways to incorporate a Mediterranean diet into your life

Mediterranean food

May is Mediterranean diet month, and fittingly the Mediterranean diet has been hitting the headlines again. This time a study presented at a scientific conference in Brussels found that a Mediterranean diet significantly decreased the levels of a protein known as C-reactive protein, which is one of the main inflammatory markers linked with the ageing process. Another positive benefit was that the rate of bone loss in people with osteoporosis was also reduced.

This new study adds to a large body of research on the Mediterranean diet which has already found that it can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, reduce body weight and increase life expectancy. In terms of a healthy diet, it’s right up their with the traditional Japanese diet as one of the healthiest (and tastiest) diets on the planet.

But how do you go about incorporating the best elements of a Mediterranean diet into your own life? From our own years of experience, here are 12 important tips:

  • Eat lots of vegetables every day. No matter where you go in the Mediterranean region, vegetables abound! And don’t think that vegetables are limited to just lunches and dinners. Start your day with a veggie-filled breakfast such as a mushroom, zucchini & basil frittata, or sliced tomato on toast with a little finely grated Parmesan or crumbled feta, or bruschetta topped with sautéed mushrooms. For lunch, enjoy a vegetable-based soup, or a veggie-packed sandwich or wrap, or a main course salad served with some crusty bread. For dinner, don’t think of vegetables as a side dish. Chop them up and add them to Mediterranean-style stews, casseroles, pasta sauces and risottos. And don’t forget to have a crisp salad on the side.
  • Use extra virgin olive oil as one of your main cooking fats. Extra virgin olive oil is made from the first cold-pressing of the olives, and has a rich fruity flavor. It’s also great for the heart because it’s a rich source of monounsaturated fat that lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Contrary to what some people think, it has a fairly high smoking point of between 365ºF-400ºF (185ºC-205ºC) so it’s suitable for most cooking purposes (except very high temperature cooking such as stir-frying). In fact, people from the Mediterranean region have been cooking with extra virgin olive oil for thousands of years. It can be used in all types of Mediterranean dishes including pastas, risottos, pestos, salad dressings, sauces, marinades, or drizzled on crusty bread.
  • Eat tomatoes regularly. Tomatoes are rich in a health-giving antioxidant called lycopene. Your body assimilates lycopene the best when tomatoes are heated or served with oil like extra virgin olive oil. So enjoy tomatoes in salads dressed with olive oil vinaigrette, or made into pasta sauces, stews or soups.
  • Add some garlic to your meals. This flavorful and pungent vegetable is full of health-promoting compounds including vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium. But one of the most important health-giving compounds found in garlic is allicin, a phytochemical compound which is formed when garlic is cut or crushed. Garlic has been shown to imporve cholesterol levels, boost immune function, and help protect from certain types of cancer. Garlic can be used in a myriad of Mediterranean dishes including pastas, stews, pizzas and salad dressings. It can also be rubbed raw onto toasted crusty olive oil drizzled bread to create bruschetta (Italian toasts).
  • Incorporate beans and lentils regularly into your meals. For centuries, beans and lentils have been one of the staple sources of protein throughout the Mediterranean region. They also happen to be a rich source of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals including zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. These minerals are important for maintaining healthy muscle tone, combating fatigue and increasing energy. There are so many delicious Mediterranean ways to enjoy beans and lentils. Turn them into dips such as hummus; falafel (chickpea patties); add them to hearty soups like Minestrone or Tuscan white bean and garlic soup; make them into a highly appetizing salad like French herbed lentil salad; or enjoy them in bakes, stews and pasta sauces.
  • Enjoy cheese and yogurt regularly, but in moderation. Milk spoiled easily in the hot Mediterranean climate, so the best way to preserve it was by turning it into cheese and yogurt. This cheese and yogurt was traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to meals, which meant it was generally consumed in small amounts. Luckily, Mediterranean cheeses such as Parmesan and feta and very rich in flavor, so a little goes a long way!
  • Enjoy pasta — without the guilt. One of the biggest misconceptions about pasta is that it’s unhealthy and fattening. But have you ever wondered how Italians can eat pasta regularly yet still stay slim? Firstly, it turns out that pasta isn’t bad for your blood sugar levels at all. In fact, pasta is made from a special type of wheat called durum wheat. Durum wheat has a dense compact structure and is slowly converted to blood sugar, so it doesn’t have the insulin-spiking effect that many people think (that’s why it has a low glycemic index ranking). And when pasta is eaten with other foods that digest slowly — such as fish and poultry, fibrous vegetables and healthy fats such as olive oil — this also helps balance blood sugars. But what about pasta’s reputation for causing weight gain? The main reason is because we don’t eat pasta like Italians do. For example, a cup and a half of cooked pasta contains a little under 300 calories. But once you add a meaty or creamy sauce and top it with lots of cheese — which is the way most Westerners eat pasta—the meal can bloat out to 1000 or more calories. Then people mistakenly blame the pasta for making them fat!
  • Snack mainly on nuts and fruit. Fresh fruit and nuts are the most common snack traditionally eaten throughout the Mediterranean region. Fruit, in its whole form, is a rich source of fiber and many important vitamins, mineral and antioxidants. Nuts are also rich in fiber as well as good fats that help satiate the appetite.
  • Use a variety of different herbs to add flavor to foods instead of lots of salt. Instead of drowning your meals in salt for flavor, try adding more herbs (fresh or dried) such as those popular in the Mediterranean region: basil, oregano, flat-leaf parsley, thyme and sage. These herbs also happen to have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Eat oily fish at least twice a week. Fish is a staple food throughout the Mediterranean, and enjoying at least two fish meals a week (particularly in place of meat-based meals) is very heart-healthy. This is especially the case if you choose fattier types of fish such as salmon, anchovies, tuna, mackerel and sardines which contain high amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This special type of fat has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, sudden heart attack, and the risk of stroke.
  • Enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner, or weekend lunch. People from the Mediterranean have long known that a glass of wine not only washes down a meal exceptionally well, it helps to relax and relieve stress. And when enjoyed in moderation, wine has a number of health benefits. It helps boost levels of good HDL cholesterol, and red wine contains a special type of phytochemical called resveratrol that can help  prevent damage to blood vessels and reduce inflammation.
  • Be a mindful eater. Instead of wolfing down food while you’re watching TV or doing some other distracting activity, eat most of your meals at the table and luxuriate over them — just as people from Mediterranean cultures have been doing for thousands of years. Slow and mindful eating not only means you savor every bite of your food, it also gives your stomach time to signal to your brain that you’re full.

The easy and enjoyable way to lose weight and gain health in 2016

Mediterranean and Asian foods

For many of us, early January is an interesting time of year. Our bad habits of the previous year are reflected upon, and in our droves we make heart-felt resolutions for the year ahead. For people living in Western countries one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. That’s not really surprising, because a high-calorie Western-style diet combined with a typical sedentary Western lifestyle can certainly pack on the pounds over the years.

In our efforts to lose weight, many of us opt to go on some kind of diet. And there’s definitely no shortage of diets promising to give you a “leaner, more attractive body.” Some examples include low-carb, low-fat, raw food and blood type — to name just a few.

Actually, each one of these diets will enable you to lose weight in the short-term — quite simply because they restrict your food choices so you end up consuming less calories.

But in the long-term these diets, because of their restrictiveness, become difficult to stick to. Indeed, by the time April rolls around the majority of people who started one of these diets in January are either already off the diet, or seriously contemplating doing so.

The Difficulty of Dieting

The difficulty of sticking to a diet was demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, by researchers at Tufts Medical Center, involved 160 overweight and obese men and women who were randomly assigned to one of four diets — Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers and the Zone.

It was found that all the diets worked to help people lose weight initially, but after 12 months only 25 percent of people were still closely following their assigned diet.

“I was surprised that so many people had so much difficulty sticking to the diets,” said lead researcher Dr. Michael Dansinger. “Many people lost weight, say 20 pounds or more, and they wanted to stick to their plan, but gradually over time found it more and more difficult.”

This study shows why, year after year, diet resolutions are made, and diet resolutions are broken. Quite simply, diets are just too hard to stick to.

Finding a Weight Loss Method that Works

So, for a diet to be successful in the long-term it mustn’t only reduce your intake of calories, it must also be easy to stick to so you won’t give up.

But is there actually a diet out there that will reduce your calorie intake without leaving you feeling deprived?

Most certainly!

The varied diets of the Mediterranean and Asia share many common elements, including the fact that they’re high in flavor and fill-ability yet only moderate in calories. This is because the staple foods traditionally eaten in these regions — vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and fish — have a low to moderate caloric density. And these foods more than counter-balance the higher calorie foods that are traditionally eaten in these regions such as nuts, oils and cheese.

As a big bonus, eating this way not only helps you manage your weight while enjoying delicious food, a large volume of scientific research shows that following traditional Mediterranean and Asian eating practices can reduce the risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes, cancers of the breast, prostate and colon, and can increase your chances of living longer.

This makes a MediterrAsian way of eating (which combines the best features of traditional Mediterranean and Asian diets) the ideal deprivation-free way to stay healthy and in shape.

The many wonderful and healthful foods of the Mediterranean

Mediterranean meals

Study after study keeps showing how healthful a Mediterranean diet is for our bodies. The latest is a study that lasted more than 10 years which found that following a Mediterranean-style diet could cut the risk of heart disease by nearly half.

What we love about a Mediterranean way of eating is that it’s not only very healthful, it’s also incredibly appetizing. And many traditional dishes common throughout the Mediterranean region also happen to be quick and easy to make.

Here’s a list of the Mediterranean dishes we eat most regularly. If you incorporate some of these dishes into your own cooking routine on a regular basis, we guarantee your body and your taste buds will thank you for it!

New US dietary guidelines report aligns with a MediterrAsian way of eating

MediterrAsian Foods

Change is in the wind with the official US dietary guidelines, and I must say I’m surprised and very pleased with what I’m seeing.

In the past I haven’t always agreed with some of these guidelines — such as not differentiating between good fats and bad fats, and putting too little emphasis on fish and plant foods such as nuts, seeds and beans (which are staple foods in Mediterranean and Asian cultures). And the recommendations always seem way too rigid — with a heavy focus on individual nutrients instead of whole dietary patterns. But things are about to change — in a big way.

Every five years US dietary guidelines are updated to reflect the current science on food and eating. For the new 2015 guidelines, an advisory committee of 14 outside nutrition experts (including scientists from Harvard, Yale and Cornell universities) have published a 570-page report outlining what the weight of scientific evidence shows is the best way to eat for good health. This report helps shape the official US dietary guidelines, which will be released later this year. (And because many countries emulate US dietary guidelines, this is important on a global scale as well.)

There’s a lot I like about this report, and it’s almost eerie (in a good way) how closely the recommendations align with how Trudy and I have been eating for over a decade and half.

Here are some of the highlights of the report for me:

Combining healthy dietary patterns is the best way to go

We believe that the best way to eat for good health and a long life is to combine the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean and Asia (where people live longer and healthier lives than anywhere else on earth). This food isn’t only great for our health, it tastes great too — and eating this way most certainly doesn’t involve eliminating whole food groups. The dietary guidelines committee report has a very similar recommendation:

“…strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns. Rather, individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy dietary patterns, and these strategies should be tailored to meet the individual’s health needs, dietary preferences and cultural traditions.”

More plant foods, less red meat

The report also made it clear what the overall body of evidence shows to be a healthy dietary pattern. They conclude that it’s made up mostly of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes (beans, peas and legumes) and fish, is moderate in alcohol, and is low in red meat and sugar.

This dietary pattern describes traditional Mediterranean and Asian dietary patterns to a tee, and the committee even specifically mentions the Mediterranean diet several times as a good example of an ideal dietary pattern.

Good for the body and the environment

The advisory committee also took the bold step of asserting that the government should consider the environment when determining what people should eat. And they believe one of the best ways to do that is to follow the healthy dietary pattern described above, which is rich in fruits and vegetables but low in red meat.

At least half your grains should be whole

I’ve talked before on this site about how at least half the grains Trudy and I eat are whole grains. But just like people from Mediterranean and Asian cultures have been doing for generations, we also eat white rice, pasta, and Asian noodles. And the committee also believes that refined grains can be part of a healthy diet by recommending that at least half the grains you eat should be whole — which leaves room for some refined grains like regular pasta and rice.

Yes, refined grains have less nutrients than whole grains (but they’re certainly not devoid of nutrients) and they’re a great vehicle for nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fish and healthy fats. And when you combine refined grains with these slowly-digesting foods it also means that your blood sugars stay nice and balanced, without spikes in insulin.

Good fats are in, bad fats are still out

There’s been a lot of talk lately about saturated fat “being back.” A lot of this has to do with a highly-publicized meta-analysis published last year that apparently found no link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease.

What wasn’t as well publicized was that the meta-analysis was found to contain multiple errors and omissions, and the authors had to make a number of corrections. Numerous leading scientists have said the study conclusions are seriously misleading and should be disregarded.

The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence — as the dietary guidelines report noted — shows that when saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fats from plant or fish oils, “bad” LDL cholesterol goes down and so does the risk of heart disease. That’s why the report recommended only around 10 percent of your daily calories be made up of saturated fat, and that plant and fish oils should make up the majority of the fat you eat (this, again, is very much in line with traditional Mediterranean and Asian dietary practices).

But that doesn’t mean that saturated fat doesn’t have a place in a healthy diet either — even olive oil contains a small amount of saturated fat. So the dose makes the poison, and the traditional eating practices of people from Mediterranean cultures really shows this. For example, cheese and yogurt, which contain fairly high amounts of saturated fat, have been eaten regularly by people from Mediterranean cultures for thousands of years. But this cheese and yogurt has typically been eaten as an accompaniment to meals, which meant it was generally consumed in small amounts.

Dietary cholesterol no longer a concern

We’ve been saying for years that the cholesterol you eat has very little effect on your blood cholesterol levels. Research has consistently shown this for quite some time. Saturated fat and trans fat, on the other hand, have consistently been shown to drive up bad cholesterol levels. So it’s good to see the report acknowledge this and finally let dietary cholesterol off the hook. Their recommendation is that “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Family shared meals are important

Family shared meals are a big part of traditional Mediterranean and Asian cultures, and the report also made a point of recommending increasing the frequency of family shared meals (instead of eating mindlessly in front of the TV or while doing some other distracting activity which can often lead to overconsumption of food).  Here’s what the report states:

“…studies suggest that when families share meals, they achieve better diet quality and improved nutrient intake, and to some extent are better able to maintain appropriate body weight.”

Conclusion

All in all there’s a lot to like about this report, and I’m certainly not the only one who thinks so. Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, said the report was courageous. Dr. David Katz, Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, called the report excellent. We definitely agree, and we also know from personal experience that this is a highly appetizing way to eat, which means it’s very easy to stick to for the rest of your life. We certainly couldn’t imagine eating any other way!

Lots More Good News About the Mediterranean Diet

Mediterranean food

The Mediterranean diet is often in the news, but over the last few weeks it’s been hitting the headlines even more than usual. So much so that it’s been hard keeping up! Here are the highlights:

  • A new study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology followed 900 participants’ diets over the course of nearly seven years and found that those who most closely followed a Mediterranean way of eating had a 50% lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease and a 42% lower risk of rapid kidney function decline.
  • A group of leading UK doctors, writing in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, said the Mediterranean diet is the best solution for tackling obesity. They also said there is overwhelming evidence that it reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal involving 5,801 participants at high risk for heart disease found that a Mediterranean diet helped reverse metabolic syndrome (the name for a group of risk factors that raises your risk for heart disease and other health problems, such as type II  diabetes and stroke).
  • New guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association recommend following a Mediterranean diet to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • New research from Harvard School of Public Health has found that a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and olive oil and low in red meat protects your DNA and could lead to a longer life. They found that among 4,676 women, the diet is associated with longer telomeres, the protective structures at the end of chromosomes. Shorter telomeres are associated with age-related chronic diseases and reduced life expectancy.

This research and expert opinion over the last few weeks can be added to more than half a century of scientific studies that show the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways you can eat. If you add the fact that this is also one of the most pleasurable ways you can eat, it makes a lot of sense to eat this way.

But the Mediterranean diet isn’t the only traditional way of eating linked to exceptional health and long lifespans. Traditional Asian diets, such as the Japanese diet, have been found to be just as health-promoting as a Mediterranean diet. And people from Japan live longer than anyone else on earth.

Mediterranean and Asian foods

So if you really want to follow the best diet for health and longevity, we believe the best solution is to eat plenty of traditional Mediterranean foods, but also plenty of traditional Asian foods. This MediterrAsian way of eating, as far as we’re concerned, is the healthiest diet on earth. And as I’ve talked about previously, a growing number of scientists, doctors and dietitians are coming to the same conclusion.

The best part is, this MediterrAsian way of eating offers so many more food choices than simply following a Mediterranean diet or Asian diet alone. In fact, it offers an almost endless variety of delicious foods.

Buon appetito!

Growing Number of Scientists, Doctors, and Dietitians Embracing a MediterrAsian Diet

Trudy and I have long believed that a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the Asian diet, or what we call a MediterrAsian diet, is the optimal diet for health and longevity. And a growing number of scientists, doctors, and dietitians from around the world are coming to the same conclusion.

A few months ago I told you about how a group of scientists from the University of Kiel in Germany had published a research paper in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity about the benefits of a MediterrAsian way of eating. What they found, based on their own research plus an analysis of other studies, was that combining a Mediterranean diet with an Asian diet could have such a positive impact on your genes that it can make you more resistant to chronic disease, help preserve your health, and increase your lifespan.

The scientists were so impressed by their findings that they wholeheartedly recommended a lot more research on the benefits of a MediterrAsian diet: “We would like to encourage future studies in cultured cells, model organisms, laboratory rodents, and ultimately humans to unravel and evaluate potential health benefits of the MediterrAsian diet from a molecular to the system biology level.”

These researchers, led by Professor Gerald Rimbach, continue to spread the word about the benefits of a MediterrAsian diet, but they’re not the only experts who are excited about this way of eating. In Brazil, respected dietitian, Caroline Fernandes, is now recommending her clients follow a MediterrAsian way of eating, and the outcome has been highly positive: “In practice, we observed that patients do not feel they are on a diet, in the restrictive sense of the word, but a transition to a new lifestyle that involves flavors, foods and seasonings with a harmonious blend together,” she says.

MediterrAsian experts

And she is equally impressed with the large amount of scientific research showing the benefits of traditional Mediterranean and Asian eating practices: “Scientific evidence of the benefits of these diets are plentiful and include increased satiety, lower peak insulin and consequently better control of body weight, prevention of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol problems, reducing the incidence of various cancers, improves bowel function, and a clear relationship with increased longevity.”

Italian nutritional biologist Nadia Anna Fiorentino from San Raffaele University Hospital in Milan is also a proponent of combining traditional Mediterranean and Asian eating practices. She recently wrote on her blog about why she thinks a MediterrAsian way of eating is so health-giving: “The abundance of fruit, vegetables, olive oil, red wine, soy, green tea, and fish provides an excellent supply of bioactive molecules. Such molecules, working in a synergistic manner, are able to counteract the effect of free radicals and thus are able to prevent the development of chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus type 2 and neoplasms.”

Australian cardiologist Dr. David Colquhoun from the University of Queensland School of Medicine is also a strong supporter of a MediterrAsian way of eating. In fact, he even wrote about the benefits of a MediterrAsian way of eating in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the journal he wrote that the American Heart Association “has suggested that a Mediterranean-style diet may have advantages over the AHA diet. Indeed evidence suggests that a traditional Asian type diet has advantages over the traditional AHA diet. Perhaps a fusion of both types of cuisine termed Mediterrasian may be the optimal diet.”

Of course we couldn’t agree more. And the best part is, a MediterrAsian way of eating isn’t only the healthiest way to eat, it’s also the tastiest!

5 Reasons to Love Olives, Plus 20 Delicious Mediterranean Recipes with Olives

Olives

Just as olive oil is a very important part of the Mediterranean diet, whole olives are also an essential ingredient in the food culture of these regions. Here are five reasons to love olives, followed by lots of ideas for how to easily incorporate more olives into your cooking (including 20 recipes that use olives):

Health benefits. There’s a long list of reasons why olives are good for your health. They’re rich in vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps prevent damage to your cells from free radicals. Olives also contain special phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to cancer prevention. Also, the monounsaturated fat in olives helps reduce “bad” LDL cholestrorol levels and the risk of heart disease. And to top it off they’re also a good source of fiber and iron.

Versatility. Olives make a tasty appetizer or snack — especially when paired with cheese and/or bread. But that’s just the beginning. They can also be added to a wide range of delicious Mediterranean dishes including pastas, pizzas, risottos, soups, stews, salads, sandwiches, breads, dips, sauces, and spreads…the culinary options are almost endless!

Variety. Olives vary enormously in taste, texture, shape and size: Spanish manzanilla olives, Greek kalamata olives, green Sicilian olives, small French Niçoise olives — there are a multitude to choose from. Some have a strong earthy taste, others have a fruity flavor with a hint of bitterness, each type has its own distinct characteristics. And they come in a range of styles: whole or sliced, pitted or stuffed with pimento, anchovy or garlic, packed in brine or aromatic oil — giving you plenty of variety to try olives in different dishes.

Convenience. Olives have a long shelf life and are ready to use straight from the jar or can, making them an indispensable pantry ingredient. You can buy high-quality canned and jarred olives from Greece, Italy and Spain in most supermarkets.

Economical. Olives are relatively cheap, and because of their robust flavor a little goes a long way. Just a handful of olives adds richness, texture and a distinct pungent flavor to Mediterranean-style meals. And just a small scattering of chopped olives in a salad or sandwich imparts lots of flavor.

Olives

How to Enjoy Olives:

Marinated. Combine mixed black and green olives with olive oil, fresh herbs, lemon juice and zest, garlic, and wine vinegar and marinate to allow the flavors to sink in to the olives. They make a tasty snack by themselves, and are the perfect accompaniment to drinks. And once you’ve eaten the olives, you can use the leftover infused oil in sauces, dressings, and marinades. Other flavors that go well with olives include crushed fennel, coriander and cumin seeds, dried oregano, bay leaves, dried chili flakes, and orange zest.

Recipe: Marinated Mediterranean olives with lemon, rosemary and garlic.

Salads. Olives are traditionally tossed in salads all over the Mediterranean. What would a Greek salad be without salty rich kalamata olives, or a classic Salade nicoise without small black Niçoise olives? A handful of olives – green, black, or stuffed, and whole, chopped or sliced – adds extra texture and flavor to all kinds of salads, including potato, pasta, bean, rice, couscous, bulgur and green salads.

Recipes: Greek salad, Salade Nicoise with divine Dijon dressing, Spanish potato, tuna and white bean salad, Grilled vegetable salad with feta, baby spinach and kalamata olives, Mediterranean bean salad.

Stews and sauces. The pungency of olives permeates a variety of delicious and nutritious dishes from around the Mediterranean, including rustic Spanish stews with tuna, potatoes and peppers, hearty Greek stews with beans with vegetables, exotic Moroccan chicken and fish tagines, rich French Provencal stews, and flavorful Italian pasta sauces (both cooked and uncooked).

Recipes: Pasta with fresh puttanesca sauce and green beans, Mediterranean stew, Moroccan chicken and olive tagine with almond couscous, Greek fava bean, eggplant and olive stew with feta, Self-saucing one pot pasta.

Sandwiches, breads and pizzas. Olives and bread work well together in a variety of traditional Mediterranean foods. The Italians have a passion for pairing bread with olives and use them on pizzas and foccacia, as a filling for panini, and as a topping for crostini and bruschetta. In Provence, they enjoy olives in a stuffed sandwich called pan bagnat, and with anchovies and caramelized onions on a southern French-style pizza known as pissaladiere. And pita bread filled with olives, fresh salad, and feta cheese makes a wonderful Greek-style sandwich.

Recipes: Antipasto pizza, Pissaladiere, Greek salad pita pockets, Pan Bagnat, Whole wheat foccacia.

Appetizers. Olives are a delicious and easy-to-prepare finger food that you can serve by themselves, or with other tasty morsels as part of an Italian antipasto, Middle eastern meze, or Spanish tapas. For a simple starter serve olives on a plate with some bread, cheese, and veggie crudités. Or replace the olives with tapenade, a delicious French olive, caper and anchovy spread that you can use as a dip, or smear onto sliced baguette. For a fun party appetizer, skewer pitted kalamata olives with cubed feta, cherry tomatoes, and pieces of yellow pepper, red onion, and cucumber and serve Greek salad on a stick.

Recipes: Antipasto platter, Fava beans with marinated artichoke hearts and olives, Marinated feta, kalamata olives and roasted red pepper, Tapenade.

French Bread Pizza with Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil & Balsamic-Garlic Drizzle

French bread pizza

This is one of the simplest pizzas you can possibly make. You don’t have to make pizza dough, you don’t have to make tomato sauce, and there’s no pizza stone required.

A halved baguette makes a perfect pizza crust. It gets light and crispy on the outside during cooking, while inside it retains much of its softness. There’s no need for a separate tomato sauce because the sliced fresh tomatoes — drizzled with a mix of balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and garlic — soften and lightly caramelize during cooking, forming their own “sauce”. The mozzarella cheese becomes delightfully melty and gooey, and the basil adds a burst of fresh herbiness. It’s a simple but mouthwatering combination of classic Italian flavors, with a French twist.

This pizza tastes perfect as it is, but if you want to add some more protein then anchovies, prosciutto, diced ham or chunks of good-quality canned tuna are all tasty options.

Here’s the recipe.