Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mediterranean Diet 101: Chorizo and Cannellini Stew adapted from Bon Appetit

         The Mediterranean Diet is back in the news with some startling test results.  If you switch to a diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables and drink wine with meals, the diet will prevent about 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease.  The European doctors who conducted the study ended it earlier than expected. They thought it was unethical to continue. The results were so clear, the doctors felt that group not following the diet was at too great a risk.   Not one of the people in the study were in great shape. All 7447 of them were overweight or smokers or had diabetes or some other factor that put them at risk for heart disease.  Most of them were already taking blood pressure medication or cholesterol lowering drugs.
Add some wine and nuts to this picture
and you're on your way.
         One of the Mediterranean Diet control groups was told to use at least 4 tablespoons of Olive Oil a day.  The second was instructed to eat a daily handful of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts.  Both groups ate three servings a day of fruit, two of vegetables.  Fish was to be eaten 3 times a week, as were beans, peas and lentils.  White meat replaced red and, heaven be praised, the group was instructed to drink at least seven glasses of wine a week with their meals. The third group were given a standard low-fat diet--the holy grail of many diet gurus in this country.  But, like so many of us, they didn't stick to their diets very effectively or for any length of time.  It's just too demanding and, to frank, tasteless.  So in reality, the study ended up being a comparison between the standard modern with its red meat, sodas, commercial baked goods and a diet that walked away from all those. And the winner is....the Mediterranean diet which eschews dairy, commercial baked goods and red meat.  
Fill at least 7 of these a week.
They don't say "To Your Health" for nothing!
         I would not say that Andrew and I live on a Mediterranean diet but we make a conscious effort to include as many of its features as we can.  We have a handful of nuts a day, fish once or twice a week.  We’ve cut down on beef.  I try to include legumes whenever I can.  And, lord knows, I comply with the admonition to drink at least seven glasses of wine a week.   We are always on the lookout for recipes that will fit in with our good intentions. Andrew’s sister, Lauren, brought today’s recipe to our attention.  It’s adapted from this month’s Bon Appetit this month. Despite how short a time it’s been up on, it’s attracted plenty of raves.  I did change out a couple of things.  I used Chorizo Chicken Sausages which clock in at half the calories of the fresh Chorizo.  Lauren used Hot Italian sausage.  Both gave us plenty of flavor.  I wanted more heat and so I incorporated 1 tsp. of Aleppo Red Pepper Flakes.  I’ve seen smoked paprika all over the place –Trader Joe’s has it for $  1.99.  Leave it out if you must but it’s really worth using in this warming, flavorful and healthy dish.  Here’s the recipe and good luck on your new diet:

Recipe for Chorizo and Cannellini Stew adapted from Bon Appetit  
This comes together in under 30 minutes and serves 4.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 pound fresh Mexican chorizo or Italian sausage links or Chicken Chorizo sausage
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme
2 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. Alleppo or Red Chile Flakes 
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
5 ounces baby spinach (about 10 cups)
Smoked paprika (optional)
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage
and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through
about  20 minutes. Transfer sausage to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same
skillet. Add onion, garlic, and thyme sprig. Cook, stirring occasionally,
until onion is softened, 5-8 minutes.

Add beans and broth and cook, crushing a few beans with the back of
a spoon to thicken sauce, until slightly thickened, 8-10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Add spinach by handfuls and cook just
until wilted, about 2 minutes.
Slice chorizo and fold into stew; add water to thin, if desired. 

Divide stew among bowls; drizzle with oil and sprinkle with paprika, if


  1. How incredible is chorizo?? My world is a better place since getting aquainted with that wonderful product.

    Favorite use of chorizo: saute thin slices over very low heat allowing all those luscious spices to gently release with the melting fatty goodness. Cool and toss with paper-thin slices of red onion and one bunch of flat leaf parsley roughly torn. Sprinkle over this some red wine vinegar and good olive oil. Indulge with some hot crisp French bread. Heaven.

    1. Katie, Thank you so much for this. Sounds delicious and can't wait to try it. All best, Monte

  2. Finally tried your Lacquered Duck Breast with a Vegetable Mikado. Unfortunately, I overcooked it. Have made a note for the next time. Where did you find the long radishes? Could not find them, so used two Persian cucumbers instead. Never had them before. They tasted a little of eggplant. Yum.

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