Amy Riolo, well-known author and television personality, has created The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook to reflect her cultural and ancestral background and to help the rest of us eat more healthfully.
She writes, “My mission with The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook is to illustrate the easiness, effectiveness, and deliciousness of the Mediterranean diet in the most comprehensive, easy to implement, and fun manner possible. The combination of a lifetime of enjoyable meals that taste great and just happen to be good for you is almost too good to be true! One of the most attractive attributes of the diet is that, in essence, it doesn’t ask us to give up anything or deprive ourselves: it’s a simple strategy that requires exercise, consuming the majority of calories from foods that are good for you, and reserving those that aren’t for special occasions.”
The recipes featured in The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook are organized in the same format as the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. The plant-based foods chapter contains the most recipes. The Meats and Sweets section has the least number of recipes because it’s in the tiny triangle of the top of the pyramid.
- The Healthiest Diet in the World: Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
- Plant-Based Foods: The Foundation of the Mediterranean Diet
- Fish and Seafood: Savoring the Bounty of the Mediterranean Sea
- Dairy and Poultry: Farm-Fresh Flavors
- Meat and Sweets: Mediterranean Indulgences
- Mediterranean Cooking Basics
- The Mediterranean Pantry
I prepared a number of recipes from the book. The Seasonal Italian Frittata on Page 156 tasted fine, but my family didn’t find it remarkable. The directions say, “Try swapping out the zucchini and potatoes for artichokes and asparagus in spring…” The recipe didn’t mention zucchini and/or potatoes, so no quantity was given. Perhaps it was an editing oversight.
The Sweet Olive Oil, Cherry, and Almond Cake on page 102 was a pleasant dessert. Again, though, I found the directions to be incomplete. It calls for ‘sifting together the ½ C (188g) flour’ with the other dry ingredients. I carefully weighed the flour and measured 1 ¼ C of flour, the equivalent of 188g. That’s a big discrepancy. The directions also failed to mention when to fold in the stiff egg whites. I put them in at the end like most other cake recipes, but that omission was a rather large mistake in the proofreading.
I made the Spanish Seafood Paella on page 38, substituting swordfish for both the white fish and the baby squid. My shrimp was already cooked, so I added them at the end rather than cooking them for 40 minutes as called for in the recipe. With the saffron and paprika, the presentation was vibrant.
I tried the gluten-free recommendation for the Whole Wheat Pita Bread on page 19. Even with absolute accuracy regarding ingredients and procedure, the outcome was not very appealing. These gluten-free pitas were more like crackers that didn’t have much flavor. I appreciate, though, Amy Riolo’s efforts at including gluten-free options for many of the recipes that contain flour.
Those intent on discovering more about the Mediterranean diet and its health benefits will be delighted with the resources listed in the two-page Bibliography at the end of the book. It includes valuable books, websites, and magazine, journal, ands newspaper articles for further research.
The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook easy suggestions for incorporating the Mediterranean Diet into our lives. Riolo writes, “Residents on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia are 10 times more likely to live past the age of 100 than people in the U.S. Researchers who studied this remarkable longevity found that daily communal eating was commonplace and attributed it to the overall wellbeing of residents. The researchers concluded that there is something extremely satisfying and comforting about knowing that, no matter how difficult life gets, at lunchtime you will be surrounded by loved ones. This adds a deep sense of psychological security, which, in turn, has a positive effect on health and happiness.”
Reflecting on this different culture, Riolo admits, “I realize that, in our busy day-to-day existence, much of what I am describing sounds like a Utopian fantasy. While most Americans will find re-creating this type of lifestyle unrealistic, I propose simple ways to implement it:
-Vow to live each day with both pleasure and health in mind.
-Find easy, enjoyable ways to get more exercise such as gardening or walking with a friend
-Begin incorporating new and varied plant-based foods into your diet
-Identify simple, make-ahead dishes and snacks to work into your schedule
-If it is not already a custom, make plans to eat, exercise, and socialize with friends, family, and co-workers as often as possible
-Treat food, family, and friends as if they are the most important part of your life.
The subtitle of this book is “Harness the Power of the World’s Healthiest Diet to Live Better and Longer” and it’s appropriate. The pages present more a reflection of lifestyle than an actual diet complete with counting calories and watching quantities. Instead of needing serious kitchen skills and fancy kitchen gadgets to follow these recipes, you just need determination to live a healthier life.— Review by Lisa George, RFT Cookbook Editor of Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colorado; photos by Hannah George