It’s official: the Mediterranean diet will keep you healthy, it will lower the risks of clogged arteries and their consequences all the while allowing you to eat yummy foods, including chocolate. What it will not do is help you lose weight. I am summing up in two lines a rigorous study done by the University of Barcelona, Spain, over the course of seven years, a study that has made headlines the world over. As if we didn’t know that eating grains, vegetables, pulses, nuts and fish was good for us. And yes,
I we also knew dark chocolate is very good for you. And sofagirl we also knew a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away.
Both Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan, two of my favourite sources when quoting sensible eating habits, define “food that is good for you” as “food that is linked to a recognizable edible source” or “anything your grandmother would recognize”, which I think are the best rules of thumb when deciding how to approach your meals.
My biggest challenge is bread. And pasta. I grew up with two sit-down home cooked meals a day, both consisting of a pasta dish + a meat/fish dish + one vegetable side. Lunch and dinner, with the only variation being soup instead of pasta now and then (which mostly had pasta cooked into it anyway). And fresh bread in the middle of the table, straight from the corner bakery, was never absent.
While I have trimmed down my pasta to a couple of times a month, the pull of fresh bread is too hard to resist. As luck would have it, fresh bread in the States, until a few years ago, meant a chewy baguette from the market, and even the advent of sourdough didn’t do much for me – I just don’t like sour in my pain quotidien. But bread bakeries are sprouting up everywhere, making my bread avoidance harder. To indulge, I will bake my own bread now and then and, this week, in the spirit of the Mediterranean diet, I experimented with a 100% flatbread – the inspiration being a video by Mark Bittman on the Times’ website and a bag of whole-wheat flour languishing in my pantry.
Of all people, I know what 100% whole-wheat flour will yield: and it’s not a fluffy focaccia, which is what Mr. Bittman is touting. Rather, you will end up with a flatbread. If it’s fluffy you want, use white flour or, for an in-between, use a 50/50 or 60/40 ratio. I stuck to 100% and, if my bread didn’t turn out to be 3” high, it was still delicious. Topped with olive oil and my very own rosemary, it was lovely with some sliced prosciutto and a chunk of cheese. Ok, the Mediterranean diet advocates small amounts of dairy but all the Mediterranean farmers I came across kept large rounds of cheese in their larders. Everything in moderation, right?
400 G/3 C Whole-wheat flour (or a mixture of whole-wheat and white)
6 g/2 ts Yeast
8 g/2ts Salt
3T Olive oil
1T Chopped rosemary
- Place the yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and add 1 cup of lukewarm water. Whisk and let sit for 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to bubble.
- Add the flour, salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Using the dough hook, mix for 5 to 6 minutes, until the dough comes together and is slightly sticky. If too dry, add a bit of water.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover loosely and let it rise for 90 mins to 2 hours.
- Pre-heat your oven to 500F/250C. Oil a baking sheet and press the dough into it with your hands until it’s about 1/4” thick. Brush it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and rosemary and let rest and rise again for about one hour.
- Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.
- Cut and serve. I used rosemary and salt but any topping of your choice will work (although fresh vegetables are best added halfway through baking if you don’t want to scorch them).
Mark Bittman’s original recipe called for the use of a food processor instead of a mixer. For his recipe check here