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Mediterranean-Style Dishes

March 3, 2011 | by Gitta Bixenspanner

A sumptuous buffet spread with the Mediterranean flair.

On a recent trip to Israel we were astonished to see the vast array of delicious dishes served at every hotel that we stayed in. Breakfast, lunch or dinner was always a delightful buffet with all kinds of salads that were pleasing to the eye and delightful to the palate. Even though they were light they filled us up until the evening meal. Surprisingly we did not gain weight on this two-week vacation.

It's a fact of life: We tend to gain weight as we get older -- at least half a pound a year. Over time, that adds up to increased pants sizes and health risks. But in one study, people whose meals most closely resembled Mediterranean-style dishes were 20–25 percent less likely to gain weight as the years passed. What's so great about enjoying the Mediterranean diet? Well, for one, Mediterranean meals tend to be high in fiber, so you're more likely to feel satiated right up to your next meal. For another, Mediterranean diet helps keep your metabolism steady, so you burn calories evenly throughout the day and don't feel the need to reach for a quick sugar fix.

Contrary to popular belief eating good fats keeps you healthy and lubricated, making all your organs function better. A low fat diet will increase sugar intake as well as increase your appetite.

Here are some delightful recipes I picked up from top chefs in the various hotels I stayed at.

Eggplant Salad

Eggplants are ever so popular in the Middle East, as they lend themselves to a variety of tasty dishes.


  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 Tbs mung bean sprouts
  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 12 black olives sliced


  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Cube eggplants with the peel. Salt lightly on all sides put into a colander to drain for ½ hour to an hour. Wash eggplant so that salt and bitterness drip out. Heat oil in a wok or 2 minutes. Add eggplant and cook for 10 minutes. Add chopped red pepper and stir-fry on high for 3-4 minutes. Peppers should stay al dente. Remove pot from the stove. Chop in onions and sprouted mung beans and mix well with cooked eggplant and peppers. Toss in the dressing coating all ingredients well. Serve with pita bread or crackers or as a side dish.

Preparation 20 minutes

Serves 4-6

Popular Israeli Shakshuka

The most common dish I observed in any breakfast buffet in Israel was Shakshuka. It was actually an education for me because I had never seen it or tasted it. I needed to find out the name for it. And I discovered that it is Shakshouka, often presented in two colors which means different vegetables used as the base.

Here is the recipe for the tomato Shakshouka that could serve as a nutritious dinner dish when offering dairy. The family is sure to love it.


  • 2 Tbs olive oil or olive oil spray
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 6 ripe tomatoes (Roma is the right size) cubed
  • 1 sweet red pepper clean and chopped
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 green hot chili peppers (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1 tsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic. Fry on high heat until translucent about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, add the red peppers, and continue frying covered for about 3 more minutes, mixing occasionally. Add the tomatoes, chilli peppers, tomato paste, paprika, stirring slightly. Cover the pan and allow mixture to simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the basil, salt, pepper, and then mix. Gently crack open the eggs without breaking the yolks, and drop them on the vegetables. Cover the pan and continue cooking the mixture for another 5 minutes.

Serve immediately with warm pita bread or your favorite crackers. Enjoy!

Preparation 25 minutes

Serves 4

Tasty Green Shakshuka

The green Shakshuka features frozen spinach along with the basic recipe above. Add 1- 12 oz. package frozen (checked) spinach to the recipe above and eliminate 2 tomatoes and the tomato paste. Proceed as above. Delightful for spinach lovers.

Chickpea Salad

Feta cheese and chickpeas lend a Mediterranean flair to this satisfying salad.

With a nice slice of whole wheat bread it is a meal in itself. Plain Yogurt is a great dressing for this salad, but would also be good with a tangy vinaigrette of your choice, or with a creamy ranch dressing.


  • 2 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups grape/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup Creamy Dill Ranch Dressing, recipe follows
  • Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste


Place chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, onion, dressing and pepper in a medium bowl. Mix until coated. Toss a 6 ounce container of yogurt over the salad or alternatively use the creamy dill dressing.

Preparation 15 minutes

Serves 4-6

Creamy Dill Ranch Dressing


  • 1 cup homemade or store bought mayonnaise
  • 1 bunch Bodek fresh or frozen dill


Mix mayonnaise with dill and toss over the chickpeas salad. This dressing is great over any salad or fish dishes.

Preparation 5 minutes

Serves 4

Orzo with Olives and Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is very popular in the Middle East, especially the one made with goat cheese. It was a part of every dairy meal. Feta cheese is very salty so take that into consideration when spicing your dish, it should not end up too salty.


  • 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 clove(s) garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary or oregano (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 can (14-ounce) whole tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 Tbs chopped, pitted black olives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces orzo
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic rosemary (or oregano), and crushed red pepper, (if using); cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

Puree tomatoes and their juices in a food processor until smooth. Cook stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in olives. Season with salt and pepper to taste..

Meanwhile, cook orzo until just tender, about 8 minutes or according to package directions. Toss with the sauce. Garnish with crumbled feta cheese and serve, hot or cold.
Preparation 20 minutes

Serves 4


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