Comfort Food: A Mostly Mediterranean Summer Menu

Summer is my favorite season. I don’t complain or whine about the heat, or even the humidity. Many days this summer have been over 90ºF; and the sun and heat make me happy.  All I need to remember is how unpleasantly cold — really freezing — it was this past winter. In summer, I’m happy to spend time outdoors in a way I’m not when the weather’s cold.

Summer produce is my other favorite thing about the season. Savor summer fruits and vegetables now when they’re at the height of flavor. Farmers’ markets in some areas are already introducing late summer/early fall produce. It’s the in-between season and the new fall produce is not as flavorful as it will be later on. For instance, apples won’t be really sweet until there is a chill in the air. Eat summer produce while you still can!

My sister, Cheryl, and I put together a mostly Mediterranean summer lunch menu and tried it out on some friends. I want to start entertaining more since I do it so seldom. Plus, my friends wanted to check out Cheryl’s issues of American Womankind magazine (reviewed here).

Our lunch menu is a departure from usual summer barbecue fare, but it’s still about comfort food. We checked out what produce between our two kitchens we already had on hand.

Tomatoes are such a summer vegetable (though it’s really a fruit), which also means  they’re especially flavorful now. I decided to make a Greek yogurt tomato soup.

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Prepped ingredients for a tomato soup

Greek yogurt tomato soup

Greek yogurt tomato soup

I had a couple of huge zucchinis in the refrigerator and more ripe tomatoes that needed to be consumed. Ratatouille was starting to look like a menu item, so I bought an eggplant. This menu was shaping up to have a Mediterranean flair.

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Eggplants at the grocery store

What else would go with this meal? Mushrooms! Cheryl sautéed wild mushrooms: etoki, shiitake, oyster, portabello, and crimini.  (Wegman’s has the best grocer selection of wild mushrooms I’ve ever seen!) Mushrooms, by the way, are also powerful support for the immune system. I eat them almost daily.

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What to do for protein? A favorite summer comfort food is deviled eggs. I served two types as an appetizer: wasabi and Indian curry. The curry deviled eggs were our favorite! Umm!!! The nicoise olives in the center were another Mediterranean touch.

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2 types of deviled eggs: wasabi and Indian curry

We also had a small platter of Jamon Iberico de Bellota — the finest Spanish ham there is.  This type of ham is sliced paper thin. It is so rich and buttery. Unlike the ordinary ham in the States, you don’t need to cut off the fat on Iberico de Bellota ham because it’s very edible.  A few of these slices suffice for a delightful gustatory experience. (Shout out to Wegman’s again for carrying precious packages of this pork.)

Jamon Iberico de Bellota

Cole slaw is another familiar comfort food. Cheryl’s version was an Asian slaw. It was delicious and added a crunchy element to the meal. (Don’t underestimate the power of cabbage. It’s a cancer-fighting food. Cabbage is in the family of cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, brussels sprouts, watercress, bok choy, and cauliflower.)

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Main course - vegetarian

The Menu

Appetizers

Deviled eggs (Recipes – D’Lish Deviled Eggs by Kathy Casey)

Nicoise olives

Iberico de Bellota ham

Main Course

Greek yogurt tomato soup – (Recipe – Moosewood Restaurant:  Cooking for Health)

Ratatouille (Recipe – originally from Alice Waters, found here.)

Sauteed wild mushrooms (Recipe – Spain: Recipes and Traditions from the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalusia by Jeff Koehler)

Asian slaw (Recipe – Adapted from Yum Universe by Heather Crosby)

Dessert

Peach, nectarine, and blueberry crisp (gluten-free) (See recipe here.)

Peach and wild blueberry crisp

If you follow a Paleo diet, you’d want to replace the topping on the gluten-free dessert because it contains oats. A possible solution could be to replace the oats with a combination of unsweetened coconut chips, chopped almonds, and almond flour. It won’t be quite as crunchy as the oats, but it would be Paleo-compliant. Any suggestions from the Paleo community are welcome!

Also, if you eat the Paleo way, you’d want to substitute the dressing in the slaw and the mayonnaise in the deviled eggs. They contain sesame oil and canola oil, which the Paleo community refers to as “industrial oils.” I haven’t found a mayo in stores yet that is made from 100% olive oil.  The easy switch for the Paleo diet is to make a cole slaw with a homemade mayonnaise containing olive oil. The mayo can be used in both the slaw and the deviled eggs. You can find a mayo recipe here.

Last, but not least I had another special, very well-behaved guest: Lulu, Cheryl’s Havanese. She was easily thwarted from her one mad dash for the ham.

Lulu - lunch guest

See how you can make the most of the last of summer’s bounty. Enjoy!

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