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Mediterranean Diet Recipes: Vegetable-Laden Salads

Using salads as a regular part of your Mediterranean diet is a great, easy way to add a variety of healthful, nutrient-rich ingredients. For example, cooking broccoli as a side is a wonderful choice, but that dish only provides the nutrients found in that one food. Salads, on the other hand, offer the nutrients of many different foods, such as greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans, in one dish.

Greek Salad

Prep time: 12 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

8 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

4 medium tomatoes

2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

6 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Juice of 1 large lemon

1/3 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

  1. Place the torn lettuce leaves into a large salad bowl.

    Slice the tomatoes into 8 wedges each and place on top of the lettuce. Add the cucumbers, olives, green onions, and parsley.

  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic.

    Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the salad and toss. Sprinkle the salad with the feta cheese and serve immediately.

Per serving: Calories 264 (From Fat 194); Fat 22g (Saturated 5g); Cholesterol 17mg; Sodium 280mg; Carbohydrate 16g (Dietary Fiber 5g); Protein 6g.

Italian Bread Salad

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Prep time: 12 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 pound day-old French bread or other crusty bread

4 medium tomatoes, large diced

1 English cucumber, seeded and diced

1/2 small red onion, sliced thin

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

8 basil leaves, sliced into long strips

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cut the bread into one-inch cubes.

    Heat a cast-iron or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Place the bread cubes into the skillet and toast until slightly browned.

  2. In a serving bowl, combine the tomatoes (including the juice), cucumber, and onion.

    Top with the toasted bread.

  3. Mix the oil, vinegar, and basil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Pour over the salad and toss gently before serving.

Per serving: Calories 440 (From Fat 255); Fat 28g (Saturated 4g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 378mg; Carbohydrate 40g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 8g.

Some people prefer to let the salad season for 30 minutes at room temperature prior to adding the toasted bread.

Pomegranate Salad

Prep time: 8 minutes

Cook time: 7 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces chilled halloumi cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

6 cups baby arugula leaves or spinach

1 cup fresh mint leaves, sliced into long, thin strips

1/2 cup pistachios

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup bottled pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large, heavy cast-iron or nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat.

    Add the cheese, being careful not to crowd the pan, and lower the temperature to medium-low.

  2. Cook the cheese for 2 minutes on each side or until a golden brown crust is achieved.

    Place the cooked cheese on paper towels to drain; remove the excess oil from the pan and reserve for the salad.

  3. In a serving bowl, toss together the arugula, mint, pistachios, and pomegranate seeds.

  4. In a small saucepan, heat the pomegranate juice over medium heat until it reduces by half, about 3 minutes.

    Remove from the heat, add the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  5. Toss the salad mixture with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

    Arrange the cheese slices on top of the salad, drizzle with the remainder of the dressing, and serve.

Per serving: Calories 419 (From Fat 307); Fat 34g (Saturated 10g); Cholesterol 45mg; Sodium 418mg; Carbohydrate 14g (Dietary Fiber 4g); Protein 18g.

Halloumi cheese is a popular cheese used in Greece and found in specialty stores. You can also buy it online. If you can’t find it, buy slices of mozzarella cheese; brush them with egg whites and dust with bread crumbs prior to cooking so they don’t melt.

Tomato, Cucumber, and Basil Salad

Prep time: 12 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

8 Roma tomatoes

1 large cucumber

1/4 cup red onion, cut into 1/8-inch slices and then halved

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup feta cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Slice each tomato into 6 wedges.

  2. Cut off both ends of the cucumber and slice it lengthwise down the middle.

    With a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Slice the cucumber into half moons about 1/4-inch thick.

  3. In a large serving bowl, toss together everything but the salt and pepper. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Per serving: Calories 65 (From Fat 41); Fat 5g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 4mg; Sodium 58mg; Carbohydrate 5g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 2g.

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