Most people have had (and enjoyed) a caprese salad-- a simple Italian salad, made with sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and sweet basil, seasoned with salt and olive oil, usually served as an appetizer.
Here it’s taken one step further and the same ingredients are used for a main entree. Sizzling hot and juicy, this is a healthy option using staples of the Mediterranean diet. Traditional Italian cooking uses fresh, flavorful, natural ingredients that are nutritious and delicious. You can find the recipe at the end of this article.
Mediterranean cuisines generally include similar ingredients in addition to regular, moderate physical exercise.
- High intakes of olive oil, vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grain cereals, nuts and legumes, whole grains cereal, nuts and legumes.
- Moderate amounts of fish, poultry, cheese and yogurt and red wine.
- Very little consumption of eggs, red meat, processed meat and sweets.
Recent studies suggests that a Mediterranean diet may help with weight loss, improved blood-sugar levels and reduces risk of depression.
More about the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet got its name from the way people in Southern Italy, Greece, and Spain traditionally ate (and for the most part, still eat). If your first culinary thought associated with these cuisines is red wine, you’re still correct! The Mediterranean diet encourages moderate consumption of red wine to promote heart health (no more than 5 ounces per day for women and 10 for men). Moderation being the most important word here, because you don’t want to promote the negative inflammatory effects that excessive alcohol consumption can present in the body.
The Mediterranean diet is directly linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. It lowers your bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol. It’s also associated with lower risk of cancers (especially breast), and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
So, how do you start eating like you live in Southern Italy?
Small changes are absolutely key. Before you know it, they’ll become habitual and you won’t think twice.
First thing’s first: When you cook, replace butter with olive oil. Look, especially, for extra-virgin olive oil, which has higher quality standards and therefore more concentrated nutrients. It is a perfect example of “good fat”. This simple replacement is your first step to better overall health. Olive oil is cleaner than butter in every sense, and has much more nutritional value. Plus, the taste is unique. Butter tastes like fat, whereas olive oil has a distinguished yet subtle earthiness. Try finishing your salads with it, coating your proteins before cooking, or using it to start up a saute. If you’re otherwise healthy, incorporate 2 tablespoons of olive oil into your daily diet. There are a million ways to enjoy olive oil--drizzle over your favorite fresh or cooked veggies, create a salad dressing with red vinegar and fresh herbs, or drizzle it over beans for a filling side. Be careful not to fry in olive oil, though--the smoking point is much lower than other oils, which could lead to a dangerous situation in the kitchen.
The next simple step you can make is replacing a chunk of your meat intake with fish. It’s recommended to eat fish around 3 times per week. Choose fatty fish that contain omega-3s, as these are a staple of the Mediterranean diet and pack a ton of nutritional value. When we say fatty fish, we of course mean healthy fats, and we refer to salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel, and similar fish. You can enjoy these fresh or packed in cans. Also considering red meat intake to once per week, and consider options like lamb and bison, which are leaner and cleaner.
Want an easy weeknight fish dinner that checks all the Mediterranean diet boxes? Dry out a salmon fillet (skin on) with paper towels for 10 minutes. Coat with 1T olive oil and sprinkle salt on both sides. Turn on your broiler. Place the salmon skin side-up on a sheet pan, score the skin with a sharp knife, and broil for 10 minutes. Finish with fresh dill and oregano. The skin will crisp up beautifully and the fish underneath will still be moist and flavorful. Serve this with a small side salad and your favorite lentil. (And don’t forget the red wine, of course.)
Of course, you don’t have to, and shouldn’t, eat just fish.
Here’s a recipe for chicken caprese that will leave you satisfied.
The most important ingredient in this recipe and most dishes originating from the Mediterranean is Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Preliminary evidence indicates that regular consumption of olive oil may lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegeneration.
- 4 chicken breasts, about 1-1 1/4 pounds
- salt and fresh black pepper
- 1/4 cup Botticelli extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 leaves fresh basil, plus more for garnishing
- 4 slices fresh mozzarella
- Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken.
- Using a saute pan with a lid over a medium to high flame, sear the chicken 1-2 minutes on each side until they develop begin to carmelize. Remove from pan.
- In the same pan, lower the flame to medium and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute and then add the wine.
- Add the tomatoes and basil to the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes, just until they begin to break down.
- Return the chicken to the pan and top with the mozzarella slices.
- Cover and cook until the mozzarella has melted.
- Garnish with basil and enjoy!
The result is a sweet, savory, melted cheese chicken dish that is healthy and refreshing – with flavors and ingredients that complement each other perfectly.
See the recipe on video: Created by our friends at Botticelli Foods and Cooking with Nonna: https://www.facebook.com/BotticelliFoods/videos/10155775945043735/