• May 2011

Cooking the Mediterranean Way Is Not Just Soulful — It's Heart Smart

By Chef Stephen Sands
Owner
Culinaria Cooking School

For anyone on a quest to develop a healthy eating plan — look no further than the eating habits of the people of Italy, Spain, and Greece. These Mediterraneans have long prepared meals that include generous portions of olive oil, red wine, fruits and vegetables, an assortment of nuts, and, of course, plenty of fresh fish.

The health benefits are clear. A 2005 study published by the British Medical Journal associated the Mediterranean diet with longer life expectancy among elderly Europeans.

Additional research reported in 2009 by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that American women whose diets most closely resemble a traditional Mediterranean approach were significantly less likely to develop heart disease and stroke.

These findings are important, explains the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Teresa Fung, because while other studies looked at the effects of this diet on cardiovascular mortality, this study had enough participants to look at nonfatal events, and also examine stroke as a separate outcome.

As an Italian chef with deep familial ties to Italy, I have been eating and cooking using the Mediterranean approach for decades. This diet is easy to follow because there are no extremes. You can eat fish several times a week, and red meat, chicken, or pork up to twice a month. This diet also includes plenty of plant oils, so you are not cutting out all fats.

At Culinaria Cooking School, our teachers help students learn to make many recipes that use the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet, including the one below. Here’s to your good health!


Eggplant Steak With Mixed Vegetable Medley and Goat Cheese

Serves 4-6

What you’ll need:

1 large eggplant
2 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
3-4 large Roma tomatoes, seeds removed and cut in cubes
1 each red, orange, and green peppers
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-2 medium shallots, minced
1-½ cup reduced chicken stock
1 cup kalamata olives, cut in half
1-1½ T. capers, drained
1 4-oz. log or round of goat cheese

For the marinade:

¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
1 tsp. coarse grain mustard
2-3 T. chopped fresh oregano
½ cup olive oil, or any flavored oil (e.g., walnut, hazelnut, etc.)

Here’s how:

1. Prepare the peppers: Cut the top off of the red, green, and orange peppers, then make a vertical slice down the middle. Remove the center core and seeds, and place on a sheet pan, then broil in the oven. When the skin is dark brown, remove from the broiler and place the peppers in a bowl. Cover tightly with saran wrap until cool to the touch. Then remove the darkened skin and any remaining seeds, and reserve for later.

2. Prepare the marinade: In a large metal bowl, combine the first five ingredients and whisk, pouring the oil into the vinegar mixture in a steady light stream.

You can also use a blender, as this will keep the solution in an emulsion state for a longer period of time. Follow the same steps as above, and keep the blender running while pouring the oil in at a steady stream. Once incorporated, turn the blender off and pour the marinade into a metal or glass bowl.

3. Prepare the other vegetables: Cut the eggplant into ½” thick rounds, and marinate in a shallow pan for about 20 minutes. Grill the eggplant for about 5 minutes on each side, or until it is soft and pliable (but not mushy or burned.) Place on a plate. Cut the zucchini and yellow squash into quarters the long way. Remove the top ½ of the white pulp, and cut into equal sized cubes.

Note: All the vegetables should be about the same size, as this will ensure they cook at approximately the same amount of time.

4. In a sauté pan large enough to hold all of the vegetables, pour in a small amount of olive oil. On medium heat, sweat the shallots and garlic along with the chopped fresh thyme. Once translucent, add the squash, cubed eggplant, and olives. Stir. Then add the capers, roasted peppers, and tomatoes. Slowly cook the vegetables until they are tender, but not mushy.

5. Add chicken or vegetable stock. Add as much chicken stock or vegetable stock as needed to give the consistency of a vegetable stew, but not so much that the mixture gets soupy. Chop the fresh thyme and add in once the vegetables are cooked.

6. To assemble: Place a grilled eggplant steak on the dish, top with a spoon or two of the vegetable mixture, place a slice of goat cheese on top, and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.


About Culinaria Cooking School

Founded in 2008, Culinaria Cooking School brings together professional chefs and wine experts who want to share their passion for the culinary arts with the community. Conveniently located in the heart of Vienna, VA, the state-of-the art facility features modern equipment for use by our instructors and students.

The team includes (above, from left to right): Chef and CEO Stephen Sands, Office Manager Stefanie Sacripante, Chef and VP Pete Snaith, Chef Brian Batsel, Chef Robyn Alexander, Chef Bonita Woods, and Wine Director John Peters.

To sign up for a class, visit www.culinariacookingschool.com.

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