Over the past several years, you probably have heard about the benefits regarding the Mediterranean Diet and it’s ant-inflammation effects. Recently, there has been an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology titled Trending Cardiovascular Nutrition Controversies. This includes a wonderful graphic called Evidence for Cardiovascular Health Impact of Foods Reviewed. Check it out, it contains a lot of great information. One of the things It mentions is that foods prepared the traditional southern way may be linked to heart disease. I have been thinking for quite some time that I would like to share how these traditional foods can be prepared in a heart healthy way while still having lots of delicious flavor. That is why I call this post, the Mediterranean Diet Appalachian Style. I have lived in Southern Appalachia for 10 years now and I was so happy to learn about its incredible local food scene here in Asheville. There are many foods that are grown and raised where we live that provide many of the same benefits as the foods grown in the Mediterranean Region. Here three recipes that have I have created utilizing some of these local foods in our community.
The first recipe is called Black Eyed Pea Bowls. This recipe was inspired by a dish served at Tupelo Honey Cafe which is a well known farm to table restaurant which started in Asheville and now is regional in our area. I have used fresh okra in the summer and when it is out of season, I have used frozen okra in recipes but I also want to share a variation today of substituting sweet potatoes instead of okra during the winter months. In Western North Carolina, we have a grist mill named Barkley’s Mill so I can get fresh grits for this recipe! They are so yummy and are also a whole grain!
Spring Strawberry Asparagus Salad
Spring means asparagus and strawberries and I hope that this recipe will soon become your new favorite salad! A little sweet, a little tart and a little savory, this salad is full of flavor. I used aged Parmesan cheese to make my cheese curls to garnish the salad but you can use a local cheese also. Here is a list of cheese in our region WNC Cheese Trail.
Makes 4-5 servings.
1 bunch fresh asparagus
2 cups fresh strawberries
1/4-1/3 cup red onion rings
1-2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Approximately w ounce large Parmesan curls, see below (but you could use hard, aged local cheese)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 of a freshly squeezed lemon
2 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoon chia
Salt and pepper to taste
Carefully wash asparagus and gently trim the stems on the end. Heat a medium sauce pan with bottle and begin boiling.While the water is heating, in a large bowl add water and ice. Place the asparagus in the sauce pan for a couple of minutes until the spears become bright green. Take out with tongs and then plunge into the bowl.Take out gently and allow to dry on a clean kitchen towel. Place gently on a medium platter. Wash and stem the strawberries. Slice in half and lay carefully on top of aspargus. Sprinkle with walnuts. With a cheese cutter or vegetable carefully shave large slices of Parmesan cheese. Prepare salad dressing by adding olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon, honey, salt and pepper to taste. Shake well and drizzle over salad. Gently sprinkle with chia seeds.
Pecan Encrusted Trout Over Greens
Makes 4 filets
A few years ago, I fell in love with some pecan encrusted trout! This recipe is a lightened version of the other but with all the great flavor! It is also very quick to make!
4 trout filets (approximately 4-5 ounce)
1 tablespoon melted Smart Balance or butter
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup bread crumbs (can use gluten free)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a glass pie plate, beat egg, add milk and melted butter or margarine. In a separate plate, mix bread crumbs with chopped pecans, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Dip the skinned side of the fish in the egg wash and gently press into the crumb mixture. Place fish on a lightly greased cookie sheet pecan side up. Repeat this process for each filet. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet with a spatula.
For a great resource on local food in the Western North Carolina, check out Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Programs Food Guide.Local Food Guide is a wonderful resource to help you find local farms, tailgate markets and farm to table restaurants. If you want to learn more about diet and inflammation, check one of my recent blog posts on the topic here. I was also recently interviewed in a recent newspaper article on diet and inflammation.
I was thrilled to partner with Metro Wine Asheville to present the Mediterranean Diet Appalachian Style with Andy Hale with Asheville School of Wine. We paired some Appalachian inspired small plates with wine and I shared more on this topic. My friend and artist, Rachel Kanter helped me bring my vision of the Appalachian Pyramid a reality just in time for this class. Thank you so much Rachel!
I hope that you enjoy these recipes and that they will inspire you to eat healthier whether you live in Southern Appalachia or somewhere else! I grew up in the Midwest but have lived in the south for over 20 years. I have embraced many delicious traditions here in my new home but I have been fortunate enough to be able to make them heart healthy without losing the flavor. Being an registered dietitian nutritionist in Asheville, I love helping others feeling their best and becoming more healthy. If you are new to my blog, welcome and if you have come by again, thank you and I hope that you feel inspired to make something delicious! I just added some free seasonal food posters, you can find them here.
Strive towards the Mediterranean Diet only making it even better by incorporating the food that grows where you live!