The “Mediterranean Diet” is a foodway created by those who live around that warm inland sea and now followed by people around the world. Its main components are whole grains, fish, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and olive oil. It includes a moderate amount of dairy, mostly cultured, and low amounts of land animal meat. As well as the ingredients, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes family, connection, and a modicum of physical activity.
Olive Oil Foundations
Olive oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet, used in everything from deep frying to desserts, lamplighting to massage. Olive trees grow abundantly all around the Mediterranean, and their fruits produce a wonderful oil in all qualities from flavor to healthiness. Olive oil is monounsaturated, the best kind of saturation level for cardiovascular health and lowered ‘bad’ cholesterol. It’s also rich in antioxidants and nutrients. What a lovely base to build a foodway on!
Above we mention that olive oil is ‘monounsaturated’. But what does that mean, and why does it matter? Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the chemistry of olive oil, but here’s a brief summary. Fats are composed of long chains of carbon atoms bound to a glycerin molecule. When all the carbons are bound to 2 hydrogens the fat is ‘saturated’ with hydrogen, A fat that has one missing hydrocarbon per chain (which results in a single double bond between carbons) is monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats have, you guessed it, multiple missing hydrocarbons and single or double links between carbons.
One interesting feature of fats is that the higher the proportion of saturated fats, the higher the melting point and temperature before catching fire. Olive oil, very rich in monounsaturated oleic acid, pours at room temperature but as a thick golden liquid. Also, monounsaturated fats are the best for cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that they drive down the concentration of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
Drizzle of Deliciousness
Olive oil achieves the amazing feat of being both delicious and good for us. It is one of those foods which expresses <i>terroir</i>, the character of the place where it’s produced. Therefore, olive oils vary widely in flavor, from grassy to buttery, peppery to rich, but every one is delicious and every one enhances the food prepared with it. In many Mediterranean cuisines there’s a custom of finishing off a dish with a drizzle of olive oil to add that last bit of mouthwatering shine. What could be more beautiful or more tasty?
The Mediterranean diet is excellent for novice and experienced cooks alike. Many of the cuisines under its banner are quite ancient, and their recipes are tried and true for new cooks. Meanwhile those who love to experiment in their cooking have a wide field of ingredients and techniques to work with, all tied together by the delicious olive oil.
Here at the home of the Cinder Grill we have some Mediterranean-themed recipes, including but not limited to:
- Beef Kabobs with Onions and Peppers
- Roasted Spaghetti Squash
- Lavish Lamb Leg
- Marinated Tomatoes with Sheep’s Cheese
- Shrimp and Bulgur Salad
And we’re always working on creating more, because we’re so inspired by the Mediterranean Diet. This foodway is not only delicious, not only healthy, but also joyful. It includes a wide range of ingredients and recipes that are beautiful and appealing, none more so than olive oil. It also includes many health benefits, ranging from the cardiovascular health we discussed earlier to overall increased longevity. Enjoy all these luscious possibilities with the Cinder Grill!