Mediterranean camping?

21 Jun

If you spend any time whatsoever reading food magazines or watching cooking shows, you've probably heard of the Mediterranean diet. The word diet, here, refers to a way of eating for the people who live around the Mediterranean Sea. They thrive on the freshest fruits and vegetables native to their region, whole grains such as rice and pasta, homemade breads, fresh-caught fish, and plenty of olives and olive oil. And they avoid processed, packaged foods.  Many of them eat meat only once a week, living almost entirely a vegetarian lifestyle. As a result, they have virtually no heart disease. I'm intrigued by this.

In addition, the Italian in me loves the foods native to this region. My grandpa (my mom's dad) was from Bari, Italy, which is on the Adriatic Sea side of Italy. He enjoyed cooking and his meals were very representative of the foods in the Mediterranean diet — delicious pasta with homemade tomato sauce (made with tomatoes from his own garden), steamed green beans, homemade breads and rolls, and salads that included homegrown tomatoes and basil tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. He canned all kinds of vegetables from his large garden and even made homemade wine. (He also made outrageously good homemade meatballs!) 
My mom continues to cook in a similar manner — the freshest ingredients she can get, homegrown herbs and vegetables, breads made from scratch and very few packaged ingredients. I guess that explains why I have such an obsession with good food. My own garden is filling in quickly with vegetables and herbs and I can't wait to cook with homegrown produce!
On the last full day of camping, we went Mediterranean with our dinner. We started off with homemade hummus and whole wheat pita bread, plus a tray of all kinds of olives, drizzled in olive oil and topped with fresh basil. My mom made a yogurt and herb based marinade for chicken and combined it with fresh onions, grape tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers to make kabobs, which we grilled (meat-free for me). I made Bobby Flay's recipe for Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette (per the reviews, I cut back a little on the olive oil). My sister made a yummy Wheat Berry & Edamame Salad she had found in a magazine ad. It was a fabulous dinner eaten like they do in the Mediterranean region — slow and relaxed, in the company of family. It was a wonderful night.
Although I don't have any recipes to post from dinner, I must post this appetizer spread my mom made one of the days we were there. I think it's right in line with the Mediterranean flavors. The original recipe was for roasted artichoke pesto, but she chopped all the ingredients rather than pureeing them in the food processor. The result was chunky, but a little creamy, and absolutely addictive on crackers. I plan to make a big batch to eat for lunch over several days!

ROASTED ARTICHOKE SPREAD
makes about 2 cups
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 packages frozen artichokes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Mix all ingredients but the basil leaves and spread out on a baking sheet. Cover with foil and roast on the grill until the artichokes are tender and lightly browned, about 35 minutes. Cool completely. Dice the mixture or pulse in a food processor to desired consistency. Serve on while grain crackers or bread slices. Enjoy!

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