Chef John's Best Recipes for the Mediterranean Diet
You know Chef John, he's not really about dieting -- hello, duck-fat fries! He's a champion of good food and real ingredients and the limitless flavors of the world's many cuisines. And sometimes, happily enough, those interests intersect, resulting in delicious wholesome recipes that exemplify the Mediterranean diet -- which, after all, is not a diet of denial but a way of living that includes fresh ingredients (lots of vegetables), healthy fats, and even a little wine! These are some of Chef John's best recipes that celebrate the Mediterranean way of eating.
Chef John's Panzanella
"The key to this panzanella is frying the bread cubes in loads of olive oil in a skillet, which obviously makes them crispy," says Chef John. "But the healthful fat also soaks into the bread cubes and renders them semi-waterproof, or dressing-proof. The same goes for the dusting of Parmesan cheese applied halfway through the crisping process."
Chef John's Tuscan Bean Soup
Here's a hearty Italian bean soup that starts with an aromatic base of garlic, fresh herbs, and spices, simmered with cannellini beans in rich chicken broth. "There's just something about that combo of smooth, silky soup, and crunchy, crispy croutons that makes everything seem okay," says Chef John.
Green Quinoa Tabbouleh
"Tabbouleh is one of the all-time great cold side dishes," says Chef John. "Maybe it's the size of quinoa, or the less wheaty flavor, but for me this vibrant, bracing salad is significantly better with quinoa instead of the traditional bulgur wheat. Blanching the herbs keeps this fresh and green for several days."
Chef John's Romesco Sauce
"One of the all-time greatest summer sauces, this Spanish classic is perfect with anything off the grill, especially vegetables and seafood," says Chef John. "It also makes for an unbelievable sandwich spread, as well as a perfect secret ingredient for your favorite potato or pasta salad dressings. Whether we're talking the level of heat, or ratio between the ingredients, or how smooth or course you grind it, you shouldn't hesitate to adapt this to your tastes."
Olive Oil-Poached Tuna
"You're perfectly happy eating regular canned tuna until the day you taste the imported, olive oil-packed tuna and realize exactly what you've been missing. You tell people that there's nothing better, but that's not entirely true. There's this," says Chef John. "By gently poaching fresh ahi tuna in olive oil, you can create a tuna fish of exceptional quality. The taste and texture are amazing, and you can adapt this in many ways. Besides switching up herbs and seasonings, you can cook the fish to a wide range of doneness."
Chef John's Minestrone Soup
This classic Italian vegetable soup is super versatile. "This is the type of dish I never make the same way twice," says Chef John. "To make minestrone soup precisely same way every time, using a very specific list of ingredients and amounts, is to trample on the soul of this Italian classic."
My Big Fat Greek Salad
Chef John's Greek salad combines crunchy cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, oregano, and feta cheese with a simple vinaigrette. "You can't go wrong with this Greek salad," says Chef John, "especially if you remember the only and most important tip: toss it with the vinegar first before adding olive oil."
Tuscan Fish Stew
"I spent a few days in Florence about 30 years ago, and while I don't remember much, I do recall my surprise at how delicious the Tuscan fish stew was," says Chef John. "What I found so interesting was how herbs like oregano, sage, and rosemary, which I'd only associated with meat, were also used with seafood. Also, FYI just in case any old-school Tuscans are coming over: I hear that for this to qualify as an official Italian fish stew you need use at least 5 different types of seafood, which is both insane and adorable. Serve with crusty bread."
Chef John's Baba Ghanoush
"No matter what you're grilling this summer, chances are good you're going to have more hot coals than food to cook on it, which makes baba ghanoush the perfect post-barbecue recipe," says Chef John. "This is a wonderfully savory yet refreshing vegetable dip."
Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
Chicken and potatoes are roasted until the the chicken skin is caramelized and crisp and potatoes are browned for an easy Greek-inspired dinner."I don't have the energy or courage to cater for a living but, if I did, this Greek lemon chicken and potatoes would be one of my go-to entrees, and not just for big, fat weddings. It's a proven crowd-pleaser, simple to make, and easy on the wallet," says Chef John.
Bomba Calabrese (Spicy Calabrian Pepper Spread)
"This amazing Calabrian pepper spread is as delicious as it is unknown," says Chef John. "I love it on sliced fresh bread, but you can toss it with pasta, add it to a sandwich, fill an omelet, top a pizza, or serve as salsa with grilled fish, or in deviled eggs."
"Calamari has an unfair reputation for being tricky to work with and that it's rubbery when cooked," says Chef John. "Here's the secret: cook it in 45 seconds or 45 minutes -- very quickly or a long slow simmer. For this marinara dish, I use the long simmer method."
Pan Bagnat (Pressed French Tuna Sandwich)
With this recipe, Chef John transforms the world's most famous tuna salad, the Niçoise, into what will surely become the world's most famous tuna sandwich, a pressed sandwich featuring slices of tomatoes, red onions, banana peppers, green olives, and hard-boiled eggs, and a garlic, vinegar, and olive oil dressing. "According to people who consider things, this is considered the ultimate picnic sandwich, since it has to be made ahead, and the longer it sits in its own juices, the better," says Chef John.