A Mediterranean Thanksgiving – Cooking up a delicious paradox

It’s no secret at all – I love food. I like new foods, weird foods, comfort foods and classic foods. As long as it doesn’t have cilantro in it, I’m probably going to try it. So it should be no surprise that when I first saw a copy of The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, I was thrilled to see new flavor profiles and combinations. And yet, the book had been sitting on my desk for months (making me hungry) and I hadn’t tried making anything from it yet. When I mentioned this to a friend and partner-in-culinary-adventure-crime, she offered her kitchen as a test kitchen and her family as food critics.

We were overwhelmed by the choices and wanted to try everything, but once we saw that the book includes suggested seasonal menus, we knew exactly what we needed to make: the Autumn Mediterranean Holiday menu! With five dishes, we knew this was something we just had to try. The menu items were as follows:

Yum!  Last weekend we met to cook up an early Thanksgiving meal, Mediterranean style. We laughed at the irony of this (since there is no turkey Thanksgiving tradition anywhere in the Mediterranean that I know of), but we were too hungry to worry about it.  Please forgive our unstyled food photos – sometimes it was tricky to remember to take a photo before digging in!

Italian Asparagus Soup

I made this the night before and found that it stores well, travels well and can easily be reheated.  Better yet, the soup really does get a creamy texture once you’ve added the nonfat yogurt. Consensus around the table was that its bright color and smooth flavor made it a satisfying dish.

Healthy Living Tradition
Asparagus is a leading supplier of folic acid, a crucial nutrient for developing healthy infants. A large spear has only 4 calories, so it can be enjoyed in abundance.

  • 2 bunches asparagus (about 1 lb each), cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 ¾ cups nonfat milk
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  1. Place asparagus, milk and water in a large saucepan. Add salt and pepper. Stir. Bring to boil over high heat. Cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until asparagus is tender.
  2. Pour soup into blender. Remove center spout from lid to prevent it from bursting. Place lid on blender, and hold a kitchen towel over the center hole. Puree soup until it is blended. Whip soup for 1 minute and return it to the saucepan.
  3. Add yogurt. Stir to mix well. Heat soup over low heat until warm. Stir in cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Pour into clear glasses or coffee mugs, and top with parsley.

Spice-Dusted Sweet Potatoes

I don’t think it gets much easier than this: you bake a sweet potato, slice it in half, drizzle olive oil over it then dust it with a unique custom spice mix. It. Was. Fabulous.  I wouldn’t limit this to an autumn dish, either, since we’d run out of oven space, we actually cooked the sweet potatoes outside on the grill!

Healthy Living Tradition
The sweet potato has a low glycemic index value, which means that eating them won’t raise blood glucose levels as high as eating other potatoes. For a healthy variation, try replacing the potatoes in your favorite recipes with sweet potatoes.

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork, and place in the middle of the oven. Back for about one hour or until potatoes are soft when pressed.
  2. Halve sweet potatoes by splitting lengthwise and making crisscross cuts in the flesh. Drizzle olive oil evenly over the flesh of the four halves. Sprinkle the Moroccan Ras el Hanout Spcie Mix and pepper over each one. Serve hot.

Moroccan Ras el Hanout Spice Mix

Ras el Hanout means “head of shop” in Arabic. Some versions of this spice mix contain up to 27 different ingredients. Spice mixes are an integral part of Moroccan cuisine, and many people, as well as spice vendors, claim that their version is best.

  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp saffron

Pour all ingredients into a bowl and stir until combined. Place in an airtight container inside a cupboard, away from heat, for up to one month.

Healthy Living Tradition
All across north Africa, spices are used to prevent illnesses and maintain healthy body functions. Take the time to research which foods are appropriate for your body type and to add new flavors to your meals.

Southern French-Style Herb-Roasted Turkey

Amy Riolo, author of The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, writes that this dish as become the crown jewel of her American Thanksgiving meal – and I can see why!  It was one of the more simple ways to dress a turkey – and didn’t require stuffing or sieving lumps out of gravy. The addition of lemon juice brightens the flavors infused in the turkey from the different seasonings.

Healthy Living Tradition
Much leaner than red meat, turkey doesn’t need to be saved for Thanksgiving. Serve this delicious roast whenever you have a large gathering. Turkey should be roasted 20-25 minutes per pound.

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 (10-12 lb) turkey
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1 whole head garlic, top chopped off
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 spring fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Use 1 Tbsp olive oil to grease the bottom of a large roasting pan. Wash and dry the turkey thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper on the inside and out. Place turkey breast side up in the pan.Brush the turkey with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle Herbes de Provence and poultry seasoning on turkey and rub into skin with your hands. Place whole garlic head, 1 lemon half, rosemary, thyme and sage inside the cavity. Squeeze lemon juice from remaining lemon half over the top of the turkey. Place turkey in the oven, add a cup of water to the bottom of the pan, and roast for 1 hour, uncovered. Baste turkey after the first hour of cooking.If turkey looks very brown, cover it with foil. Continue to bake for another 2-2 ½ hours or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the turkey breast meat reads 180°F on the meat thermometer.
    Remove from the oven and place on a carving board. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Remove skin while carving.
  2. Strain the liquid from the bottom of the pan into another saucepan. Juice the remaining 2 lemon halves, add to the saucepan, and stir. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook for 10 minutes until sauce has reduced. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve sauce in a gravy boat next to turkey.

We also made the Warm Goat Cheese Salad (a real treat for anyone who loves goat cheese as much as I do) and the Baked Egyptian Pumpkin Pudding (with toasted almonds, raisins, and cardamom – a unique and pleasing alternative to the classic and heavy pumpkin pie).

At the end of the meal, we all agreed: bringing spices that are uncommon to most American dishes into one of the most traditionally American meals was a fabulous way to dress up our dinner party!  Check back next week for an interview with the cookbook’s author, Amy Riolo.  If you’re interested in purchasing her book, The Mediterranean Diabetes Cookbook, use promotion code BLOG20 and you’ll get 20% off (expires November 21, 2010). Taxes, shipping and other discounts excluded.

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2 Responses to A Mediterranean Thanksgiving – Cooking up a delicious paradox

  1. Pingback: Easy chicken and rice casserole

  2. maract.se says:

    Hi there, just wanted to say, I loved this article. It was inspiring.

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