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Eating in the Mediterranean style is a healthy choice.

The Mediterranean people use olive oil in almost everything they eat. So, what is healthy about olive oil? Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found that oleocanthal, a compound in olive oil, may reduce inflammation, which could help prevent conditions like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases, as well as certain cancers.

The traditional Mediterranean diet utilizes lots of fish and vegetables and very little meat. Whole grain foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, polenta, rice and couscous are also a key part of the diet. Fruit is “what’s for dessert” in the Mediterranean and other important staples include nuts, legumes, yogurt and small amounts of wine.

Here are a few recipes to give you a taste of the Mediterranean.

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Spinach Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 lb frozen spinach, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions (green onions), white and light-green parts only, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 12 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 roll (20 sheets) from a package of frozen phyllo dough (Athens brand), thawed and at room temperature.
  • Olive oil nonstick cooking spray

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

Heat the oil in a saute pan and add the garlic and scallions. Cook for a minute or two until the scallions soften. Add the spinach, cook for a minute and remove the pan from the heat. Cool to room temperature.

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In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, feta cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, dill, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix in the cooled spinach mixture.

Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Reserve 5 layers of phyllo dough for the top and keep them covered with plastic wrap. Use 15 of the phyllo sheets for the bottom of the dish keeping the sheets covered  with plastic wrap after you remove each sheet of dough.

Place one sheet of dough in the baking dish off-center so it overs one side of the dish and hangs about 2 inches over the side of the baking dish. Repeat the layering so each side of the dish is covered in this manner. Coat each sheet with cooking spray after you place it in the dish.

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Spread the spinach filling on top of the phyllo layers. Take the remaining 5 sheets of phyllo dough and layer them over the filling, coating each sheet with cooking spray as you place it on top of the filling. Fold the overhanging side pieces of dough onto the top layer. Coat with more cooking spray.

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Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until the phyllo is golden brown. Let rest before cutting. Can also be served at room temperature.

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Lemon and Olive Baked Fish

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound skinless fish fillets
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking dish
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Lemon slices
  • Large Italian green olives (Castelvetrano, if available)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the fish fillets in a baking dish coated with olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano and black pepper. Beat lightly with a fork. Pour this mixture over the fish.

Scatter some olives around the fish. Sprinkle the top of the fish lightly with panko crumbs and place a lemon slice on top of each fish fillet.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the fish is cooked to your liking.

Italian Tomato Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb tomatoes (any type, as long as they are good quality)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 2 generous pinches of sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Thinly slice the tomatoes into rings and place them into a serving bowl.

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a small  bowl. Mix well.

Pour the dressing over the tomatoes and let the dish sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

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