We are continually admonished to eat a nutritionally balanced meal consisting of protein, vegetable, grain and dairy. Such meals do not have to be boring. With some imagination and with the aid of spices and herbs you can whip one up that is both balanced and delicious.
The ancient Romans referred to the Mediterranean Sea as Mare Nostrum, our sea; and indeed it was, as for centuries, they controlled all of the land that surrounds it. At the height of the Roman Empire, its colonies stretched east from Spain along the southern coast of Europe to modern day Turkey and south along The Levant and then west again along the north coast of Africa.
Most of the cultures that occupy those lands share a commonality in food. In an Italian home, lamb is usually the main course for Easter dinner. In Greek cuisine, as it is in Middle Eastern and North African cultures, lamb is very much prevalent. Herbs, such as rosemary and oregano, cross cultural lines as well, as do garlic and olive oil.
Grains too are a staple food in these cuisines. Rice is prevalent in most of them, while couscous is more prevalent in Middle Eastern and North African diets, although it also shows up in Sicilian meals, as it does in French cooking, particularly in Provence.
Broccoli, which is very common in Italian cooking, is readily available in practically every market, as are cucumbers, which are the fourth most widely cultivated vegetable in the world. Yogurt, especially the low fat kind, is an excellent nutritional food and can be adapted to many dishes. It is prevalent in several Mediterranean cuisines, particularly that of Greece.
Last night, we put this all together and came up with a meal comprised of Marinated Lamb Chops, accompanied by a yogurt-based sauce consisting of low-fat Greek yogurt, cucumbers and mint. And for side dishes, we prepared broccoli sautéed in garlic and olive oil and packaged couscous, which is quick and easy to prepare.
To round out the meal, we served a chilled lovely Rosé, from the Côtes de Provence.