I’ve been craving Mediterranean food like crazy lately. There is just something about the fresh medley of tomatoes and vinegars and herbs that is simultaneously comforting and refreshing, just what the fickle weather of springtime seems to call for! Something filling to stave off the cold, wet wind; something zingy and fresh to compliment all of that young energy and new life springing back into the world. . . I’ve been playing around with this recipe for a short time, finding the balance between light and hearty is something I thankfully seem to do pretty well. This nutrient dense meal is incredibly tasty, and incredibly satisfying. Bliss isn’t an exaggeration, this meal is delightful and I am constantly in the mood for it now.
To be completely transparent, I’ve never cooked by the book, so to speak. I’m not good at following recipes; I’m good at following my nose. For that reason, I’ve had a lot of trouble figuring out how to write a recipe that others can follow. There is so much left up to preference, and I never record amounts, I simply cook and adjust, cook and adjust. I often make an incredible amount of food (especially soup) at a time, and end up freezing meals for later dates. I can’t say it’s a bad way to live, this kind of bad volume judgment actually serves future me very well.
I’ve done my best here to make a fairly easy to follow procedure, but I want to encourage individualism and growth in skill, so I’m going to leave a lot of measurements at “to taste” and let you be the judge of you!
There’s nothing better than having ingredients ready to throw meals together. Pre-prepared ingredients are a lifesaver for people with busy, hectic lives (read – most everybody.) They can be the difference between extremely poor choices and healthy, gourmet meals… The two main ingredients (by volume) in this are quinoa and ground turkey (mixture). I like to have an amount of cooked quinoa ready in the fridge, and cooked ground meat in portioned bags in the freezer – that kind of preparation takes this from fairly time consuming to simple and quick. But you may not have these items pre-prepared, so that is where we will start.
Quinoa is a nutrient bad ass, packed full of vitamins and minerals like zinc, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese and phosphorous. It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa is a seed heavy in low glycemic, slow digesting carbohydrates with a good amount of fiber.
Quinoa is cooked as one part grain/two parts water. Measure one cup dry quinoa, pour into a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly, until suds no longer form. Drain and place in pan. Cover with two cups water, and bring to rolling boil. Turn your heat down to low and place a tightly fitting lid over pot – allow to simmer for fifteen minutes – do not remove the lid. After fifteen minutes, turn off stove or remove from heat, and allow to sit covered for five minutes. After that, your quinoa should be ready to fluff, very lightly salt, and good to go!
Cooked Ground Meat
Feel free to leave the meat out of this recipe if you don’t partake, but meat is full of nutrition in forms that are much more bioavailable to us than in plant sources. We are omnivores!
Any ground meat works great in this recipe. For a more hearty taste, go with ground beef, bison, venison, or lamb.
I chose ground turkey for this recipe because I think the light flavor compliments the season very well – we are, after all, celebrating warmer weather. Ground chicken is also a good option.
Dice red onion and garlic, I usually use one small/medium sized onion to every pound of uncooked meat. And an assload of garlic. Please adjust this to your preference.
Mix diced onions, garlic, and ground meat in pan, season with fresh ground pepper, rosemary, and a pinch of salt. Hash around in pan and cook until browned.
Next, we are going to marinate some tomatoes! This is also fairly time consuming depending on how long you choose to marinate them. I say a minimum of thirty minutes, but anywhere from that to overnight is great!
Mediterranean Balsamic Marinated Tomatoes
Fresh, ripe tomatoes are so good for you! Tomatoes contain plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; they are an incredible source of lycopene, and a good source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, beta carotene, vitamin K, chlorogenic acid, and more. Eating tomatoes is known to reduce the risk of certain cancers, like prostate, lung and stomach. Tomatoes are particularly heart healthy, and may also improve skin health!
This is where we start to delve into that lovely Mediterranean flavor! Dice tomatoes into cubes. Lightly pepper your tomatoes, then pour balsamic dressing over and stir around a bit. You can use your favorite balsamic dressing, or make your own!
When I make my own balsamic dressing, I use: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh pressed garlic, brown mustard, fresh ground black pepper, rosemary and a touch of honey and sea salt.
Mushrooms may seem unassuming, but they are actually antioxidant powers houses. They are beneficial to the immune system, help support brain and heart health, and decrease inflammation, among many other benefits.
Set mushroom caps out in the sun for 20 minutes. I previously mentioned how mushrooms can soak up sunlight and convert it into vitamin D just like we can. This process also helps to dry them a bit, making it easier to brush off dirt.
While you are waiting for your mushrooms to soak up some sunlight, skip ahead to the next step and begin prepping your pine nuts! Once you get them in the pan, grab your mushrooms and return to this point –
Chop mushrooms into desired size. After your pine nuts are browned, pull them out of the pan and set them aside. Turn up the heat and throw your mushrooms into that same hot pan with some olive oil. We are going to caramelize/brown them. Once they have shrunk to about half their original size, sprinkle them with salt and fresh ground black pepper, then continue to sauté until uniformly browned.
Pine nuts are one of the many incredible nutritious gifts of coniferous trees. They are high in healthy fats, protein, and a plethora of necessary nutrients. They contain notable amounts of; manganese, iron, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, copper, thiamine, and choline. I call pine nuts piñon, but in Italy they are called Pignoli!
Place freshly rolled or ground dried herbs (see suggested list below!) and diced (fresh) garlic in a pan, and cover in olive oil.
It is easiest to use pine nuts that are pre-shelled from the store, honestly. If you have pine nuts in shell, place as many as you would like in a Ziploc, and seal it. Roll over with rolling pin several times to crack and open shells. Sift through and separate flesh from shells. Compost shells.
Roughly chop pine nuts, or leave whole if desired. Heat marinated oil until garlic begins to sizzle. Add pine nuts and sauté until they, and the garlic are browned, but not burnt.
Rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, sage, and parsley is a great mix of Mediterranean style herbs to use for this recipe. If you want you can sub in an ‘Herbs de Provence’ mix, or even an Italian herbs mix.
You’re done cooking!
Ready to assemble? It’s up to you to decide how you want to throw this all together. If you’re cooking for multiple people, you can let them scoop each ingredient into their own bowl, or you can pre-mix, do whatever!
Finish it off per bowl with a bit of lemon juice, cheese, and some basil!
Fresh squeezed is always best, but feel free to use pre-bottled. For even more lemon zing, you can grate some rind right over the top!
Most people have shake-parmesan in their house, but for a real indulgence try fresh grated parmesan, Romano, Asiago, or Manchego cheese!
Lay basil leaves uniformly on top of each other, and roll into a cigarillo form, slice into ribbons. This is called chiffonade. Cut in half again if you like, and sprinkle over to taste!
There you have an amazing, powerful Mediterranean meal! Enjoy!
What are your thoughts?
This is my first recipe! Please let me know how I can structure this in a way that may be more helpful to you! Let me know what you think of it, what you might add or change, and how you liked it! Comment below, or connect with me on any of the following social media platforms!
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Now, for the disclaimer – I am not an adventure guide, personal trainer, doctor, nutritionist, or medical authority, this is meant to be only a source of information and inspiration, implementing these techniques into your daily life is something you do of your own free will and at your own risk.
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