November 10, 2017   - Vol. IX No. 23
Bite-Sized Med Appetizers
There is a wonderful, longstanding tradition throughout the Mediterranean of serving bite-sized portions of food—as a pre-meal snack to abate hunger pangs and accompany a glass of wine, or as a multi-plate meal in itself. Longtime Oldways friend and Mediterranean cooking expert, Paula Wolfert, writes about mezze , the flavorful small bites of North Africa in her book The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean (page 11, Ecco, 1994):

"A great Mediterranean mezze table is like a giant menu degustation. One has the opportunity to sample a whole slew of delicious foods at will: rustic red beans simmered in olive oil; grilled chicken with crackling skin, perfumed with the flavors of garlic and lemon; purees enriched with sesame seeds, nuts, and oils; pastries in all shapes and sizes…the list goes on and on."

Throughout the Mediterranean, these small treats go by a variety of names. In Greece, they might be called mezedes or meze , and feature flatbread with a bean and feta cheese puree. In Italy, depending on where you are, you might be served an apertivo , a pre-dinner tipple always accompanied with a small bite of food, or an antipasti platter of cheeses, olives, grilled or roasted vegetables, and cured meats. In Venice, there is a custom of enjoying  cicchetti , small tastes unique to the region such as marinated anchovies, stuffed olives, and polpette (teeny meatballs). But perhaps most well-known is the cultural and communal ritual of enjoying tapas in Spain, which is currently trendy both inside and outside the Spanish borders. Traditionally, family and friends gather on Sunday afternoons at tapas bars to catch up on the news of the week and enjoy a few slices of jamón (cured ham), tortilla española (a potato-laced omelet), roasted red peppers, and gambas al ajillo (garlic and hot pepper shrimp).

No matter the name of the Mediterranean treat you’re enjoying, when portion size is kept in mind, smaller is better. Plus, having some vegetables, hummus, or cheese to nibble on between meals can help curb overeating when the entrees are served. Deprivation is not on the menu in Mediterranean communities. Rather, the focus is on modest portions and simply-prepared plant foods. And, while they might be small in size, these snacks are often served with friendly company, another important aspect of a healthy lifestyle.

As you scramble to figure out your Thanksgiving meal plans, consider adding a Mediterranean-inspired dish to your menu—whether it’s before everyone sits down to the table, or as a new twist to side dishes. It can be as simple as replacing crackers and store-bought dips with hummus and veggies. And the good news is that turkey, the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece, has a neutral flavor that makes it ideal for pairing with a range of flavors and textures. In short: Don’t be afraid to experiment with Mediterraneanizing Thanksgiving.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipes.

This stuffed pepper recipe never fails to provide a stunning and delicious centerpiece. To serve as a light entree, add a side of tzatziki sauce or plain Greek yogurt along with a Greek salad. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of FOODMatch .

Try this spinach tuna pizza made with tuna in olive oil, fresh spinach, Kalamata olives, and mozzarella cheese. Bake until lightly browned and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Recipe and photo courtesy of the National Fisheries Institute .

These simple, yet flavorful, bite-sized appetizers are perfect for your Thanksgiving gathering. Not only do the walnuts add extra flavor and crunch, but they are full of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids (2.5 grams per one ounce serving). 

R ecipe and photo courtesy of California Walnuts .
Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.