However, "The Ultimate Mediteranean Diet Cookbook" by Amy Riolo (Fair Winds Press, $22.99) isn't about eliminating everything you really like. It's about eating delicious food that happens to be good for you.
"You can have everything in the Mediterranean diet," Riolo (above) said during a book presentation and signing at Melissa's Produce. You just don't eat the "bad" things as often.
On the other hand, "diet is the leading killer of adults in the United States," she said. This is scary, which means dump the bad stuff and eat what Riolo suggests, which is pretty tasty.
My favorite of the dishes she presented at Melissa's was a side dish of green beans, potatoes and cherry tomatoes with pesto (above). It's "a typical Italian salad," said Riolo, whose roots are in Calabria.
Then there was a quinoa, arugula and fig salad--a "French spin on tabbouleh," she said. Spaghetti squash subbed for pasta in a hearty main dish with zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, basil and a sprinkling of cheese on top.
Because seafood is one of the good things we should eat, she suggested salmon marinated with orange juice and olive oil, baked with onion and fennel and topped with dollops of Greek yogurt mixed with fennel fronds and orange zest (above).
For dessert, a raspberry citrus clafoutis (above) came from the sweets section. The desserts are at the end of the book, not because they usually do come last, but because Riolo has organized her book in accordance with the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.
The foods to eat the least of, meats and sweets, conclude the book. The most desirable foods come first. These are fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices.
Riolo's recipes represent the entire Mediterranean area, not just Italy, France and Spain. A few examples are Egyptian cream of lentil soup, Turkish chickpea salad, Greek style roasted fish and vegetables, Lebanese Fattoush salad, Turkish eggplant and herbed rice pilaf and a North African fruit cocktail.
The cocktail (above) combines pureed strawberries and orange juice, each kept separate for a showy appearance. It's served with a topping of pomegranate syrup and pomegranate arils. To make the syrup, Melissa's chef Tom Fraker simmered bottled pomegranate juice until reduced and thickened it with cornstarch blended with water.
The book presents nutritional findings and advice, but the recipes are what interested me. Riolo, who is working on an Italian cookbook for diabetics, signed my book "Enjoy with Pleasure and Health." That's a healthy way to look at a diet rather than regarding it as something you'd rather avoid.
GREEN BEANS, POTATOES AND CHERRY TOMATOES WITH PESTO
From "The Ultimate Mediterranean DietCookbook" by Amy Riolo
1 1/2 pounds baby yellow potatoes or Yukon gold, washed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half on the diagonal
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic
3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, unfiltered if possible
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup cherry tomatoes
Unrefined sea salt or salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the potatoes in a large steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes. Add the green beans to the potatoes in the steamer and continue to steam, covered, for another 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into an ice bath to cool.
Make the pesto by combining the pine nuts, garlic, basil and olive oil in a food processor. Process until a smooth paste forms. Using a spatula, scoop pesto out of food processor and into a bowl. Stir in cheese.
Transfer the vegetables to a large serving bowl and add cherry tomatoes. Add the pesto and stir to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 servings.