We all know what we mean when we refer to the Mediterranean cuisine, though it is up to debate whether there is something called a Mediterranean cuisine at all! After all, the countries where the cuisine is supposed to be practiced – Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain etc, all countries around the Mediterranean Sea – have such diverse foods and recipes!
Still, Mediterranean food has been identified by study after study, as the healthiest way of eating in the world. And there are diet plans being marketed based on the concepts of Mediterranean food.
So what are the characteristics of the food style known commonly as Mediterranean cuisine? It is based on the traditional food items of the area and consists mostly of plant based ingredients like whole grains, tomatoes, olives, lemons and uses olive oil for cooking.
Also, most of the protein in the diet comes from lentils and fish, with meat, specially red meat, limited to small quantities. In fact, the word Mediterranean itself brings up lovely images of lemon trees and olive orchards, bright sunrises, and silvery fish swimming in blue waters.
One of the cereals that feature prominently among Mediterranean food is bulgur. Made out of wheat groats (hulled kernels that include the cereal germ and bran portion which are lost during regular milling), it is high-fibre, and has a light, nutty flavour. It is different from cracked wheat, which it resembles a lot.
A bulgur with some beautiful red and green components… perfect for a summer dinner!
And to add some protein to the meal, a fish fry from the shores another sea, far away in the south western corner of India!
Fish is one of the mainstays of the food in Kerala, located on the southern most western shores of India. With a long shoreline, fresh fish is abundant except for the few weeks at the height of the monsoon rains.
And as olive oil is typical of the Mediterranean, coconut oil is the main cooking medium in Kerala. At least, it was so till the numerous warnings about the cholesterol in coconut oil turned people towards other oils. I’m so glad to see the tide turning these days and the health benefits of coconut oil being recognised.
So these two items from so far away, but from similar backgrounds, work well together in this great dinner. Try it, you won’t be disappointed!
- 2 filets of white fish (such as tilapia or hake)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 medium sized shallot (quarter of a white or red onion will also work)
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 sprig curry leaves (available in Indian grocery stores)
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper powder (adjust according to tolerance for heat)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 cup bulgur
- 1 cup chopped green olives
- 1 cup chopped sugar snap peas
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- 1 ¾ cups water
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Grind together the shallot, garlic, curry leaves, cayenne pepper and turmeric powders, with salt to taste.
- Marinate the fish filets in the paste for at least 1 hour. You can keep it in the refrigerator overnight, but bring to room temperature before cooking.
- Bring 1 ¾ cups of water to a boil. Add olive oil, lime juice and bulgur. Mix well, remove from heat and let sit covered for about 20 minutes. Once at room temperature, add the chopped ingredients and mix well.
- Heat the coconut oil in a non-stick frying pan. When shimmering hot, add the fish filets (keep a splatter screen handy) and cook for about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove and serve with the prepared bulgur.