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Mediterranean Diet Recipes: Appetizers as a Meal

Traditional Mediterranean cuisine is quite unique in that many people often don’t have a main entrée, but instead they eat a series of small side dishes including a variety of different foods, such as meats, beans, vegetables, grains, and fruits. Lunch is the main meal, so dinner is often something light, such as a meze platter.

Making dinner out of appetizers is easy because you have a good variety of foods to choose from. Nowadays, you can find many tapas restaurants sprouting up with this same idea of serving several small appetizers as a meal. Here are a few meal ideas using appetizers:

  • Meaty Grape Leaves with some sliced raw tomatoes and radishes

  • Greek meatballs with tomato sauce, Italian Bruschetta, and a small tossed green salad with vinaigrette salad dressing

  • Classic Hummus with Toasted Pita Chips and sliced raw assorted vegetables like carrots and bell peppers and Tuna Stuffed Baby Tomatoes

Meaty Grape Leaves

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 55 minutes

Yield: 40 servings

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 cup bulgur wheat (small grain) or basmati rice

1/2 medium onion, minced

1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped fresh mint

1/2 cup (packed) finely chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jar grape leaves

3 cups chicken stock

Juice of 1 lemon

  1. In a large bowl, mix the beef, rice, onion, mint, parsley, cumin, coriander, olive oil, and garlic.

  2. Place 1 grape leaf on your work surface, vein side up, removing the stem if it’s still intact. Place a level tablespoon of the meat mixture in center of the leaf near the stem end.

  3. Fold the sides over the filling and roll up firmly beginning at the stem end, tucking in sides as needed. Place in Dutch oven, seam side down with one end facing the center of pot.

  4. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling, layering the dolmas along the bottom and starting new layers as necessary. Pour the stock over the dolmas and add the lemon juice. If necessary, add water until the dolmas are just covered with liquid.

  5. Top the dolmas with five more flattened grape leaves and a heatproof plate to hold them down as they cook. Lid the Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Drop the temperature to low and cook for 50 minutes at a low simmer.

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  6. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat, uncover, and cool the dolmas in the pot. Using tongs, gently remove the dolmas from the Dutch oven onto a serving plate and serve them warm or chilled.

Per serving: Calories 46 (From Fat 23); Fat 3g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 4mg; Sodium 237mg; Carbohydrate 4g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 3g.

Greek Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 17 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Yield: 10 servings

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 cup uncooked basmati rice

2 onions, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

  1. In a Dutch oven, heat the tomatoes and vegetable stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and stir in the wine, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

  2. Meanwhile, combine the ground beef, basmati rice, onions, olive oil, mint, and garlic in a large bowl. Using your hands, knead the mixture and roll into 1-inch balls.

  3. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through, occasionally stirring to coat the meatballs with the sauce. Serve on a warm platter with toothpicks.

Per serving: Calories 318 (From Fat 137); Fat 15g (Saturated 6g); Cholesterol 62mg; Sodium 294mg; Carbohydrate 24g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 19g.

Italian Bruschetta

Prep time: 12 minutes

Cook Time: 3 minutes

Yield: 16 servings

1 French baguette

1/4 cup basil, chopped

6 Roma tomatoes, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped, plus 1 whole clove for rubbing)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Cut the baguette into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place 6 inches under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until toasted.

    Watch the baguette so it doesn’t burn. Once toasted, take out of the oven and set aside.

  2. Combine the basil, tomatoes, chopped garlic, olive oil, and salt.

  3. Cut the ends off the whole garlic clove.

    After the bread is done broiling, rub each piece with the garlic. Evenly spread the topping mixture on each slice of bread.

  4. Arrange the slices on a platter or individual plates and serve immediately.

Per serving: Calories 119 (From Fat 36); Fat 4g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 265mg; Carbohydrate 17g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 4g.

Hummus

Prep time: 10 minutes

Yield: 16 servings

Two 14.5-ounce cans chickpeas

Juice of 2 lemons

2 cloves garlic

1/4 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup tahini paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch of cayenne pepper

  1. Drain the chickpeas and reserve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the liquid. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and puree until smooth.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture is creamy. If necessary, add the liquid reserved from the canned chickpeas to create desired creaminess. Transfer the hummus to a bowl and serve.

Per serving: Calories 85 (From Fat 25); Fat 3g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 228mg; Carbohydrate 12g (Dietary Fiber 2g); Protein 3g.

Toasted Pita Chips

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 12–15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

4 whole wheat pitas

4 teaspoons olive oil

Sea salt to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Using a pastry brush, brush each pita with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.

  3. Cut each pita into 8 wedges. Arrange the pita wedges on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool the pita chips to room temperature and serve.

Per serving: Calories 210 (From Fat 55); Fat 6g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 341mg; Carbohydrate 35g (Dietary Fiber 5g); Protein 6g.

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