I don't think there could be a breakfast more perfect than this Mediterranean spread. Maybe I'm biased since I've left a part of my heart back in a former life where we enjoyed quite a bit of the Mediterranean and North African/Middle Eastern cuisine. But there's something special about savoring a sampling of several small plates in a slow, simple, and unpretentious manner. It's as much about an attitude, adopting a certain aesthetic of living, as it is about the actual food. The best news is that both can be enjoyed from ANY corner of the world! Yet, it's such a stark contrast to how we dine in North America.
You know what they say: "What has been seen cannot be unseen." Knowing from research the positive effects of mindfulness, savoring, and slowing down, and experiencing other ways to approach meals (and life!), I feel responsible for sharing tools that can support desired changes to health and lifestyle; changes that could be beneficial for our relationships, digestion, immunity, mood, well-being and more. But like any change, we must start with one small step. And maybe today that small step can be a mezze!
This collection of plates is also a powerful antidote to cravings and the underwhelming feeling we experience due to the almost one-dimensional flavor of salty or sweet in today's meals. The mezze hits all six tastes, incorporates cold and warm dishes, and is light and fresh, yet totally satisfying and filling. You will end the meal craving nothing. I also love this mezze because it's perfect as is for a small group. Or pull out a few of your favorite dishes (say, one of the salads, flatbread, and the lentil soup) and you've got an easy, inspired breakfast for any ordinary morning.
I cannot tell you how right this meal feels with its fresh vegetables and herbs simply dressed in olive oil and lemon or vinegar, feta cheese, smoky red pepper hummus, soft flatbread, briny olives, and warm and creamy spinach lentil soup. Of course it can be enjoyed for any meal and is an especially inspiring, balanced way to start the day.
Mediterranean Breakfast Mezze
Za’atar Cucumber Tomato Salad (recipe below)
Lemony Shaved Fennel Salad with Dates & Walnuts (recipe below)
Spinach Red Lentil Soup (recipe below)
Fresh greens such as arugula
Za’atar Cucumber Tomato Salad
1 English cucumber, cut in half moon slices
8 oz / 226 gr. cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small bunch parsley, chopped and divided (reserve half for soup below)
A few splashes of red or white wine vinegar
Generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Feta, crumbled, to taste
Za'atar, to taste
Add everything but feta and za'atar to a large serving bowl. Toss well, taste for seasoning.
Add feta and gently combine. Generously sprinkle za'atar over top and serve.
Lemony Shaved Fennel Salad with Dates & Walnuts
Notes: Recipe calls for fennel and zucchini. Alternatively, replace zucchini with another fennel bulb.
1 small fennel, halved and thinly sliced (use super thin blade of mandolin)
1 zucchini, thinly sliced (use super thin blade of mandolin)
Handful of toasted, chopped walnuts
1 Medjool date, pitted and thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
A few generous pinches of salt
Toss everything together in a medium serving bowl. Be generous with lemon and salt - you want the flavors to pop.
This salad gets better as it marinates. Let it hang out on the counter while preparing the other dishes.
Spinach Red Lentil Soup
3 1/2 cups (830 ml) water
1 1/2 cups (300 gr.) red lentils, rinsed
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 - 1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice from 1 juicy lemon
2-3 large handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped
Half small bunch of parsley (reserved from cucumber tomato salad above)
Generous grinds of black pepper
Combine water, red lentils, cumin, turmeric, and salt in a medium soup pot. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, mince garlic and set aside.
Once lentils are tender and soup has thickened, stir in garlic, lemon, spinach, parsley and black pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve warm.