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The Mediterranean Diet is new again

We are all familiar with the main ingredients of the Mediterranean Diet: olive oil, fruits, whole grains, legumes and seafood. But many lesser known ingredients that are part of this way of eating add flavor and can make familiar dishes taste new.

How To Make Quick and Easy Chunky Hummus
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Dandelion greens

Dandelion greens

These slightly bitter greens are a relative of chicory and add flavor and vitamins to any dish. Boil them quickly in salted water to get rid of the bitterness and add them to soups, sauces and eggs. The deep flavor will surprise your taste buds and the added nutrition will keep your heart happy.

Crushed red pepperCrushed red pepper

This affordable ingredient has been used to add flavor to meat roasts, seafood and pasta in Southern Italy since the pepper was brought from the New World. But in Italy red pepper is used in moderation, adding flavor, but not overpowering the dish. So, experiment with crushed red pepper and find one that is to your liking. It will add a kick and an almost imperceptible sweetness to your foods while making your taste buds dance for joy. Try it in soups, pasta sauces or on spaghetti with extra virgin olive oil and a little pecorino.

Broccoli rabeBroccoli rabe

This dark leafy relative of turnip with a strong flavor and pleasant bitterness adds vitamins and minerals to your diet while you’re not watching. Boil broccoli rabe for a couple of minutes in salted water (to get rid of the bitterness) and toss it in some warm extra virgin olive oil and garlic. If you really want a great dish, add a dash of crushed red pepper. You will never look at greens the same way!


Anchovies add depth of flavor to food and elevate it to a new level. They come dried and salted or canned in olive oil. If you use salted anchovies, rinse them to get rid of the excess salt. If you use anchovies packed in olive oil, drain the olive oil. Add an anchovy fillet or two to the extra virgin olive oil when you are starting a soup or pasta sauce and stir it until the anchovy melts. It will release flavor, but you will not be able to see it in the finished dish. So, if you choose not to tell your guests what the secret ingredient is, we won’t tell.

Ricotta salataRicotta salata

Ricotta, a by-product of cheese-making, is low in fat and high in nutrition. The pressed, salted, dried and aged version, ricotta salata, is used for grating or shaving. In Southern Italy, ricotta salata is often used to finish a pasta dish. It adds a milky sweetness to the dish but also some saltiness without the fat of other cheeses. So next time you want to make pasta richer AND healthier, go for ricotta salata.

The Puglian Cookbook by Viktorija Todorovska

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