Did you read about the new findings on the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet? I’ve been a devotee of that diet for years, but it’s nice to see it confirmed once again, and this time by even more solid research than ever before. It’s good news for anyone who still thinks that you need to cut out all the fats and all the fun from your diet in order to live longer. Olive oil is not only ok, it’s life giving. Wine is not only ok, it’s recommended, every night with dinner! Pretty cool.
The nice thing about the Mediterranean diet is how broad it is. It encompasses so many different cultures, all clustered along the Mediterranean sea, from Spain to the Middle East. Being situated along the Mediterranean means access to lots of fish, and a climate perfect for growing fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and olives. It’s resulted in an incredibly healthy and varied diet based on seasonal whole foods. Collectively these cultures place great value on the quality of their food, from cultivation, to preparation, and finally through to the relaxed enjoyment of their meals. We have a lot to learn from them.
For most of us it’s a process of slowly replacing the bad with the good. Less animal protein, more whole plant food. Less red meat, more fish. Less refined snacks, more nuts. Less hard alcohol, more red wine. Less saturated fats, more olive oil. Tabouleh is one of my favorite foods. I love the texture of the grains, the freshness of the parsley and mint, the sweet tomatoes, and the sharpness from the lemon and the red onion, mellowed by the fruity olive oil. It’s a good dish to celebrate these new findings with.
I’ve substituted millet for the more traditional bulgur wheat in this tabouleh. Millet is a small seed that looks a lot like quinoa. It cooks up quickly, has a lovely nutty texture, and it soaks up the juices from the tomato, the lemon and olive oil. It makes a perfect gluten free tabouleh.
As you’re putting together your salad, take a few minutes to appreciate the beauty of your ingredients. The way the light plays against the veins of the mint leaves, or the gleaming white of the cut radish. Taste the salad as you mix in the dressing, if it doesn’t delight you, work with it until it does. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a little more lemon, mint, or fresh pepper. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet don’t come solely from what you cook and eat, it’s how you cook and eat that matters just as much. You don’t just eat the Mediterranean diet, you live it.
Middle Eastern Millet Salad
1 cup millet
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups small tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, cut in small dice
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
several radishes, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced
juice of 1 lemon (more if necessary)
just shy of 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
heaping 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
- Toast the millet in a dry saucepan for a few minutes. Heat, stirring, until you start to smell the nutty aroma. Add in the water and bring to a boil.
- Cover, lower the heat to low, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes, if the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat, leave the cover on, and let sit for 10 minutes
- Fluff the millet and transfer to a bowl to cool. Break up any clumps with your finger tips.
- When the millet has cooled, add the vegetables and herbs.
- Mix the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add to the salad, tossing well.
- Add the feta cheese crumbles, and taste to make sure it’s perfect.
Notes: If you can’t find millet, substitute quinoa, and follow the package instructions for cooking.
~~~ slightly adapted from The Alkaline Sisters