Review of The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Amy Riolo + recipe

When Amy visited her relatives in Calabria, Italy, she was surprised by how much healthier her relatives were. Her family that lives in the United States suffer from heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. She had believed it was genetic but her family in Italy have the same genes. The difference was the type of fresh foods they eat versus the majority of fast food and processed foods we have here in America.

These are the three factors that are part of life in the Mediterranean region:

  • Food is treated as medicine.
  • Moderation is key.
  • Active physical and social lifestyle is mandatory.

The recipes in this cookbook were chosen because of their taste, authenticity, and nutritional value. They are not only low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium; they are packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthful properties that our bodies need. The recipes are organized in the fashion of The Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. The base of the pyramid starts with lots of physical activities. The next group is fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs, and spices – the base of every meal. The third group is fish and seafood - at least two times per week. The fourth group is poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderate portions, daily to weekly. The final group is meats and sweets – less often.

Melissa’s culinary team prepared the dishes below with the utmost expertise and care.

In the Whole Grains chapter, Quinoa, Arugula, and Fig Salad (Salade de Quinoa, Roquette e Figues) is a French take on tabbouleh, replacing the bulgar wheat with nutritious quinoa.  Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Quinoa has a nutty grain flavor which works well as a replacement to bulgar wheat. The texture is a cross between rice and bulgar wheat with a good mouth feel. The figs add a nice sweetness and the arugula adds a green bitter to balance with the sourness of the lemon juice in the vinaigrette. Rating: 5/5

In the Fruits chapter, North African Fruit “Cocktail” (Assir Fawakha Taza) showcases countries like Morocco and Egypt where they serve fresh fruit cocktails at street-side fruit stands. This type of beverage is enjoyed on a walk after dinner as a sweet treat instead of ice cream. This beautiful drink looks like a sunset with strawberry juice on the bottom and the orange juice on top. The fresh pomegranate seeds and syrup add a tart punch. This would also be great as a smoothie with some ice blended into it. Rating: 5/5

In the Vegetables chapter, Spaghetti Squash “Pasta” with Zucchini, Basil, and Cherry Tomatoes (Spaghetti di zucca con zucchini, basilica e pomidori pacchini) shows the versatile uses of spaghetti squash in place of pasta. My dad used to make spaghetti squash for us when we were little. He used the spaghetti squash strands in place of spaghetti and topped it with his homemade spaghetti sauce. I love the sweet flavor of the spaghetti squash and really love this rendition of this vegetable. The mix of vegetables resembles a ratatouille with a roasted flavor that pairs well with the sweet spaghetti squash. The grated pecorino romano adds a creamy and salty flavor. Rating: 5/5

Green Beans, Potatoes, and Cherry Tomatoes with Pesto (Fagioli con patate e pomdori pacchini al pesto) is a great side dish with steak or even to serve at a picnic. The Dutch yellow potatoes have a smooth texture with buttery flavor. They pair well with the green beans and sweet tomatoes. The pesto brings the dish together with its umami flavor. Rating: 5/5

In the Fish & Seafood: Savoring the Bounty of the Mediterranean Sea chapter, Citrus-Marinated Salmon with Fennel cream (Salmone agli agrumi con crema di finacchio) is the perfect match of orange and salmon. Most people think lemon goes better with fish, but I think lemon is too harsh and masks the great delicate flavor of fish. Orange gives it just enough citrus flavor without overpowering the buttery salmon. The fennel fronds and orange zest in the yogurt cream are reminiscent of a thick dill cream sauce. Rating: 5/5

In the Meats & Sweets: Mediterranean Indulgences chapter, Raspberry Citrus Clafoutis (Clafoutis aux famboise) is a French pantry staple that housewives could make without a recipe. They would remember how it looked and smelled during the preparation and baking process so it could be baked anywhere, anytime. The texture resembles bread pudding with a soft, custard-like interior. The edges form a sturdy exterior to hold it together. The flavor is custard-like as well with bright sweet raspberries baked inside. Rating 5/5

Raspberry Citrus Clafoutis / Clafoutis aux framboise (© 2015 Fair Winds Press)

  • ¼ teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons (65 g) sugar, divided
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • ½ cup (63 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour or finely ground almond powder
  • 1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water (see page 185) or almond extract
  • Pinch of unrefined sea salt or salt
  • 1 cup (125 g) raspberries
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Yield: 4 servings

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Butter an 8-inch (20 cm) baking dish. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons (26 g) granulated sugar over the bottom.
  3. Beat the eggs and the remaining 3 tablespoons (39 g) sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. With mixer running on low speed, add in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, orange zest, orange blossom water or almond extract, and salt.
  5. Add the raspberries to the bottom of the baking dish, turn to coat in sugar, and pour the batter over the top.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden and custard is set. Serve warm, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook will help you live better, longer.

For more information:
The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Amy Riolo
Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Target 

On the search for an ingredient that you can’t find in the store, check out Melissa’s Produce’s website or call +1.800.588.0151.