One of my favorite scenes from Julie and Julia, which I have watched about a million times now, is when Julie is making bruschetta for her and her husband. I love watching the French bread sizzling in the pan and her husband’s reaction to how delicious it is. Unlike many of the rich, buttery French dishes that are made in the movie, bruchetta is a light and healthy Italian appetizer.
Bruschetta, although from Italy, reminds me of pan con tomate, a popular Spanish tapa (originally from the Catalonia region). Last summer when I was living in Spain, I ate a looot of pan con tomate, which is just toasted bread with tomato pulp and drizzled olive oil on top. During our daily snack break at work, my coworkers would all order pan con tomate, which was a simple, yet delicious snack. Bruschetta is different in that it uses diced tomatoes instead of tomato pulp. The tomatoes are also tossed with olive oil, basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese.
For this bruschetta, I used heirloom tomatoes – some were dark purple and some bright red. Just adding a little bit of garlic and basil made it so flavorful, but I also used balsamic vinegar to give it a little kick. This yummy appetizer can be whipped up in 15 minutes and doesn’t require any cooking. It is a perfect snack for a hot summer day or hors d’oeuvre for a dinner party.
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced
- 5 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1/2 loaf French or Italian bread, cut into slices
- In a bowl, toss all of the ingredients except the bread together.
- In a medium pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Toast bread slices on both sides until golden brown.
- Top bread with tomato mixture.
This summer I spent 2 wonderful months in the north of Spain where I was doing research on the Mediterranean diet. While I learned about the Mediterranean diet and its many benefits through my work, the best and most delicious way I learned was through eating…a lot. For two months, I happily feasted on the finest jamón (ham), tortilla de patata (Spanish potato omelette), and pintxos (small tapas). The hardest part was getting used to the late meal times – lunch at 2 pm and dinner at 9 pm!
Some of the most striking differences I observed between the Mediterranean diet and the American diet were 1) very generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil, 2) an abundance of fruits and vegetables, 3) less red meat, and 4) smaller portion sizes. I noticed that there were little stores that only sold fruits and vegetables located on almost every street corner. In the little neighborhood I stayed in, there were 4 of these stores in less than 10 minute walking distance! In Spain, people love to take their time to eat with friends and family. Meals can last for hours, until midnight even! At work, unlike in the US where many people have sad desk lunches, co-workers take the time to eat together and socialize. The Mediterranean diet isn’t just about the food, it’s also about the lifestyle. During my time there, I was lucky enough to try many unique Spanish foods such as Basque cuisine, croquetas, San Jacobos, and one of my favorites, salmorejo.
Most people have heard of the famous Spanish chilled tomato-based soup called gazpacho. It is from the south of Spain (Andalucia) where it gets very, very hot during the summer. However, many people haven’t heard of salmorejo, which is also a chilled tomato-based soup from southern Spain (Cordoba). Salmorejo is thicker and creamier compared to gazpacho, mostly because of the addition of stale bread. Another difference is that salmorejo is usually topped with hard boiled egg and ham. I prefer salmorejo because of the creamy texture; it is absolutely perfect in the summer!
- 8 plum tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 small onion
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar (or cider vinegar)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp chili powder (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 3 slices stale whole-wheat bread
- 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
- Iberian ham, chopped (optional)
- Core and seed tomatoes and then chop into quarters. Some recipe use tomatoes without the skin but I left them on.
- Add tomatoes, garlic, onion, sherry vinegar, olive oil, chili powder and salt and pepper into a blender.
- Purée until smooth. Then start adding pieces of the bread and blending until it gets to a creamy, thick consistency.
- Pour into bowls and top with chopped eggs and ham (I left out the ham for a vegetarian dish).
Zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables out there. I am a huge fan of zucchini and love to incorporate it in many of my recipes in various ways, whether going low-carb with zucchini noodles or adding it to a healthier dessert. However, I have never really enjoyed it alone – raw and without many other ingredients, the vegetable seems a bit bland. This all changed one night when I was dining in Spain. A friend and I were in a small, humble restaurant on the island of Mallorca where we ordered zucchini carpaccio, which turned out to be very simple but one of the most delicious vegetable dishes I ever tasted.
Carpaccio is an Italian dish that is made from thinly sliced raw meat or fish and typically dressed with olive oil, lemon, and Parmesan cheese. Although it is a common appetizer in the Mediterranean region, it is not as well known in the US. This vegetarian version of the dish was surprisingly amazing and as soon I took a bite, I knew I would have to recreate it at home. I wasn’t exactly sure what the ingredients were but I remembered the restaurant used a type of pesto that gave it a wonderful tangy flavor as well as arugula for some bitterness.
This elegant appetizer is perfect for the summer since it is light, refreshing, and flavorful. Make sure to pour plenty of extra virgin olive oil for a subtle, fruity flavor but also to obtain its numerous health benefits. Extra virgin olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, a dietary pattern in the Mediterranean region that has been associated with lower risk of heart disease.
- 1 zucchini
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 tbsp pesto
- 1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper
- Thinly slice zucchini with a sharp knife or with a mandolin cutter. Arrange slices to be flat on a plate.
- Drizzle olive oil evenly on the zucchini slices.
- Sprinkle lemon juice evenly on top.
- Spread pesto on zucchini slices.
- Top with chopped walnuts.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Let sit 15 minutes to 1 hour before serving.