ith the utmost respect, Mediterranean cuisine is sometimes described as peasant food. The sunny climate provides a long growing season, making it possible to enjoy a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Even the simplest meal is likely to be full of vibrant color.
Roasted Bell Pepper Antipasto
The Italian word antipasto simply means “before the meal.” It could be hot or cold, an appetizer, or cheese—anything that might be served before the actual meal begins. This roasted bell pepper salad, with its riot of color and flavor, is bold enough to take center stage on any table.
3 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
1 orange bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced into strips
8–10 artichoke quarters, canned and drained
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a large baking pan, and place the whole peppers in the pan. Bake for 45 minutes until the peppers begin to char. Remove from the oven, cover with a clean dish towel, and let cool for 5 minutes.
Remove the core and seeds from the peppers. Peel away the skin that comes off easily; don’t worry about skin that sticks to the peppers. Slice each pepper into thick strips. Place in a large bowl.
Add the sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and garlic.
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Drizzle over the vegetables and gently combine.
Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Date, Orange, and Carrot Salad
This surprising combination of simple ingredients results in a truly elegant salad.
1 head of Boston or romaine lettuce
3 medium carrots, finely grated
4 oranges, skin cut off with a knife (not peeled) to remove membrane and sliced
4–6 fresh dates, pitted and cut into eighths lengthwise
¼ cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Separate the lettuce leaves and arrange them in a wide, shallow bowl. Place the grated carrots in a mound on top of the lettuce.
Cut the orange slices into halves or quarters and arrange the pieces around the carrots.
Scatter the date pieces and almonds on top. Chill until ready to serve.
Combine the lemon juice, orange juice, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle over the salad just before serving.
A rustic and traditional dish, ratatouille is highly versatile because the quantity and types of vegetables can vary greatly. To a large extent, ratatouille depends on the produce in the cook’s refrigerator. It works as a one-dish meal, but it is often served with eggs or pasta.
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, cut in half, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium eggplant, cut into chunks
1 medium yellow squash, cut into ½-inch slices
1 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch slices
1 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
6 cups diced tomatoes, canned or fresh (do not drain)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pan. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and eggplant and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the yellow squash and zucchini and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes. (If needed, add a little more oil or some water to prevent sticking to the pan.)
Add the peas, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt. Cook gently for 15–20 minutes or until the stew is fairly pulpy.
Remove bay leaves and discard. Serve warm.