It Was a Mediterranean Kind of Day

I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is fourteen days.—Totie Fields

So yesterday was kind of a Mediterranean day.

No I wasn’t on a Greek Island, or on the Italian Coast, or the south of France, or dining in a Tunisian cafe, or on beach in Turkey…I was home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. My wife and I had just returned from the closest thing we have to the Mediterranean, the Gulf Coast of Florida.

So, yesterday I decided to reinstitute a new dedication to the Mediterranean Diet. I don’t know if it was the sea, the salty air, the breeze, or the fact that I ate everything in sight for a week and it hurt to bend over and tie my shoes.

Beginning with breakfast, a Greek yogurt with honey, walnuts, and berries.

For lunch (pictured above), a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, olives, mozzarella, and topped with tuna. It was dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano.

For supper (pictured below), Big Surf’s stuffed peppers. The peppers were roasted and stuffed with a vegetarian chili of crushed tomatoes, quinoa, cannelloni beans, and topped with cheese.

All of these dishes were very good and I loved them all. And the bonus, I felt so good about myself.

Until…

For lunch today, I made myself a bologna sandwich and chips. Hard to get away from that Eastern Kentucky DNA.

Hey!! Wait a minute, Bologna is in Italy, right? So Italy is on the Mediterranean…

So come on self esteem, get back over here. You can’t go anywhere yet.

Homemade Wheat Crackers

Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks.—Marilyn Wann

My name is Big Surf Daddy and I have a problem…

I am a snack-a-holic.

My snacking event each evening begins as a small wake and swells to a large tidal wave of power that can’t be overcome. I start with something as healthy as an apple, move on to grapes, and as the tidal wave crescendos…chips, salsa, peanut butter, crackers, and Cheez-Its all come pounding down on me in a calorie-filled billow of salt and fried breakers. Duuuude!!

Then I do the walk of shame to the bed and curl up in a fetal position and think about what I’ve done.

As I try to incorporate the Mediterranean Diet into my everyday life, the Sea of Salt calls me back nightly, and the pounding of the calorie surf starts all over.

OK, enough of the metaphor.

I CAN’T STOP SNACKING AT NIGHT.

Mrs. Big Surf says I am a stress-eater. She is right, because I stress out if I can’t get enough snacks in me before going to bed.

Since the nightly Sea of Saltiness undertow drags me back into the calorie-infested deep (OK, last one), I decided to try to lessen my calorie and salt intake. I made my own crackers…less calories and less salt and less preservatives, right? Sounds like a good idea anyway.

I found Whole Grain Alice on YouTube: https://youtu.be/WyKzTJkGDCQ

This is such a simple recipe and easy to do. I added Everything but the Bagel spice, also extra salt, pepper, chia seeds and flax seeds. These are great with salads, cheeses, and just as a snack by itself.

I don’t know if it will lessen the shameful walks to the bedroom at night, but I feel better about myself and maybe I won’t be drawn into the seedy world of food porn.

Cauliflower with Turmeric, Lemon, and Caper sauce.

Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education—Mark Twain

The Mediterranean Diet has been my goal since this past holiday season. It is still my goal, so no, Mrs. Big Surf and I have yet to transform our diet. It’s like we are mired in this quicksand of calories and carbs and occasionally we find a vine from the Mediterraneanus Dietus plant that we can grab and pull ourselves out.

This cauliflower dish was the lifeline that may just save us.

This delicious cauliflower recipe came out of the New York Times Cookbook, called “Cauliflower with Caper Sauce”. We ate this as an entree with a salad.

Now Mark Twain may have thought cauliflower a bit too pretentious, but some would say cauliflower is the “Work-a-day-Joe” of veggies because it is so versatile and accommodating to your mood. I love the taste of cauliflower. I eat it raw, steamed, roasted, grilled, and sauteed. This sauce elevated the cauliflower to another degree. Maybe Mark Twain would have awarded it an honorary doctorate if he would have eaten this dish.

Asparagus Pizza

Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?—Moe Howard

This is an appropriate quote by the leader of the Three Stooges, for Mrs. Big Surf often describes my actions in the kitchen as Three Stooges video with Homer Simpson audio.

As Mrs. BS and I try to transition to the Mediterranean Diet, it is hard to diminish our craving for our favorite foods and one of those foods is pizza. We decided two years ago to learn to fix good pizza. We bought a pizza steel and a pizza peel. We found a great dough recipe in Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza, Pasta, and More cookbook. We use it exclusively.

This asparagus pizza comes from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. We love this pizza.

I never really liked asparagus until I was well into adulthood (my wife is not convinced I am there yet). Now I am eating asparagus on pizza. My pizza experience, until recently, was always accompanied by some kind of meat, now it seems meat is rarely on our pizzas.

This simple pizza recipe has graded parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, shaved asparagus tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and topped with one finely chopped scallion which is added when the pizza comes out of the oven.

I thought my wife had headed “round the bend” when she showed me this recipe. “Who would eat a pizza topped with asparagus?”, I asked. As usual, her intuition was correct. It is delicious…unless you are not an adult like me and don’t like asparagus.

Roasted Sesame Seed-Crusted Tuna with a Balsamic Drizzle

A tuna steak and a salad? Seventy bucks. Welcome to Los Angeles.—Mark Zupan

Well, in eastern Kentucky, you can buy a pack of three frozen tuna steaks at Kroger for $5.99.

I’m no expert but if I can fix two tuna steaks for Mrs. Big Surf and myself for about $4.00 and it tastes as good as any I can get in a restaurant this side of the Sierra Madres, then I am a happy man and I would say to all of you LA diners, “Sorry, Charlie.”

I got the inspiration for this seared tuna by watching a Gordon Ramsay video. He fixed an incredible looking dish by encrusting the tuna in sesame seeds. I didn’t have the time or the stamina on a Wednesday night to try to tackle all he did with his tuna steak meal, so I took a different route.

I started with reducing balsamic vinegar. Then I roasted the sesame seeds. In the meantime, the tuna steaks marinated in some Ponzu sauce. After salting and peppering the tuna steaks, I rolled them in the roasted sesame seeds. I seared them for a few minutes on each side to have a rare cook. I then drizzled the balsamic reduction over the tuna steaks and asparagus to finish the meal. It was soooo simple and soooo cheap and soooo healthy and according to Mark Zupan, I saved about $136.00.

I think this Mediterranean diet may work out after all.

Look who’s the big boy, being fiscally responsible.

Roasted Mushroom, Pepper, and Red Onion Salad

Too many green salads suffer from a lack of imagination—James Beard

I am currently looking out my window at the ice and snow that was dumped on us in the last few days and awaiting for the electrical currents to return from their temporary respite.

In these cold days, most normal folks think of eating something hot such as chili, soups, stews and whatnot. Not me. I am thinking of the delicious salad from last night. I love salads and can eat them at any time.

Since Mrs. Big Surf and I are trying to reform our diets to the warmer winds of the Mediterranean, I am always foraging through Mrs. BS’s many cookbooks, internet, and YouTube. But sometimes a person just wants to do something their own way. This is a constant tete-e-tete with her and I. She cooks really good food from really good recipes and I do way too much experimenting, and I am not a good enough cook to experiment as of yet.

This salad was one of my successes. I sauteed red onions, mushrooms, and a yellow pepper in extra virgin olive oil. After these vegetables cooled, I tossed them with grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, and feta cheese. I dressed the salad with red wine vinegar, more extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and dried oregano.

I will make this again, maybe tonight if the electric stays on holiday.

Greek Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food—Hippocrates

It is hard to overcome a lifetime of bad habits.

Bad habit number 1…I grew up planted in front of the TV watching sports and sitcoms and that continues to this day.

Bad habit number 2…I can’t do number one without stuffing my face with some kind of unhealthy snack.

My wife and I are trying to eat healthier. She equates this with the need for popping more popcorn and I am only eating a half box of Cheez-Its at a setting. It’s hard to overcome bad habits.

As we move through the middle ages of life, we are starting to accumulate more photos of our insides than our outsides. We feel now is the time to eat better. We have started by trying to stay with a Mediterranean Diet.

Last night, I found some frozen shrimp in the freezer. I also found a nice looking recipe in America’s Test Kitchen’s The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, which was a gift from a friend. This Greek style shrimp with tomatoes and feta was simply delicious. I like this book because it gives some options. We have a well-stocked pantry but no ouzo. This recipe called for ouzo, but said you could sub vodka mixed with anise seed. I have fixed many recipes out of this book and all have been really good.

As we begin our attempt to move from eastern Kentucky to the Mediterranean region in our kitchen, I will keep you abreast of our journey. At least we can travel through our culinary experiences.

Greek-Style Eggplant

When my baby cooks her eggplant, about nineteen different ways, sometimes I just like it raw with mayonnaise—From “Eggplant” by Michael Franks

Mrs. Big Surf and I are contemplating going “full boar” or “whole hog” into the Mediterranean Diet. Oopsie, I guess since pork is not a staple of this diet, please forgive the above phrases.

On our first date, my lovely wife told me she “never dove headlong into something, instead she would stick her big toe in to test the waters.” That has held true for 36+ years. So our foray into the Mediterranean Diet has been a slow one.

I made the above delicious meal with a recipe from http://www.themediterraneandish.com. It is only one way to fix eggplant, now there are only eighteen more ways to go.

I know we will have to give up pizza, French fries, fried potatoes, fried chicken, fried pork chops, sausages, salty snacks, donuts, and anything fried in a mixture of flour and eggs…unless we can get a mapmaker to prove that eastern Kentucky borders the Mediterranean Sea.