Mediterranean Diet – simple dinner ideas w/ Wendy Jo Peterson (part 2)

Mediterranean dietsuper simple dinner ideas with Wendy Jo Peterson.

Mediterranean Diet cookbook photo

I had the privilege of talking about the Mediterranean diet with chef and registered dietitian nutritionist Wendy Jo Peterson—owner of Fuelin’ Roadie and Edible Nutrition—at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Annual Food and Nutrition Conference last fall.

This is part 2 of our discussion. Wendy Jo is author of Mediterranean Diet Cookbook For DummiesMediterranean Diet - simple dinner ideas w/ Wendy Jo Peterson (part 2) (You can see the video here and part one of our two-part conversation here.)  

Neily:We talked about the Mediterranean diet in the last video. Let’s talk about some of the recipes—how about an easy dinner. People are always challenged with dinner.
Wendy:You know, one of the things I absolutely love about the Mediterranean diet is their use of herbs—fresh herbs. I can’t use enough fresh herbs. I grow a ton of them both in Austin and San Diego because we have pretty good weather for it. But, generally speaking, you can find a lot of parsley, or basil and things like that you can actually use in cooking. So one of my favorite things to do is make pesto. People think pesto requires a lot of time and it really doesn’t. There is a really good trick with making good pesto. The big thing is you always want to start with really fresh basil, because basil is the biggest herb used for pesto.Y ou start with basil—4 cups of basil. Put it into a food processor or a good blender, add your lemon juice (half a lemon or a whole lemon if you like it really citrusy). Add that (the lemon) first. Because as you’re blending it, it will start to oxidize but the lemon juice will protect it. If you don’t, it will turn brown.

Mediterranean and Indochinese cuisines frequen...

Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On my website,, I have a video I did with one of the local TV stations and I show what it looks like brown. It tastes the same. It’s not going to be bad and you don’t have to throw it out but it doesn’t look as pretty. When I go to the grocery store and look at their pesto, it looks pretty brown. Yuck! Don’t get that.

So, you add a lemon or half of a lemon based on how much citrus you want, two garlic cloves (I like mine spicy, so I add two but you can add just one) and then you add pine nuts, about half a cup of pine nuts, which are really creamy and savory. They’re a great nut. Add those in as well, pulse it to blend together. Once it starts blending, you’re going to add in the olive oil. You really don’t need that much—a quarter cup of olive oil which is about 4 tablespoons is really all you need for that quantity. And then you’re going to want to season it. So taste it with salt.

That’s a basic way of making pesto. You can put it in one of those little Tupperware or I prefer using mason jars. So put it in a mason jar, those glass mason jars and cover it with a little bit of olive oil. It will hold for a month in your refrigerator.

Wendy:Yes. Then what I’ll do is I top… I’ll make spaghetti squash or I’ll make pasta or pizza and then I’ll use pesto as the base. I’ll make salmon—just grill simple salmon and put a little bit of pesto on the top. And say I did the salmon say tonight. I always love salmon. So, I will put a little of pesto as soon as it comes off the grill. You don’t have to grill it on there. Maybe a little bit of fresh cheese if you like cheese. (In Italy, they don’t like to mix seafood with cheese.)
Neily:Really. Why?
Wendy:Yes. They just don’t. So, don’t ever ask for Parmesan cheese on your scaloppini with mussels or whatever. Don’t do that. They’ll look at you funny.(Those darn Americans!). It’s a good lesson to learn if you ever travel abroad over there.That’s a great way. Then, pair it with a very simple salad—tomato, cucumber, little bit of red onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil and fresh parsley. And you have a complete meal.It’s so simple. That’s the thing I love about that region—all their recipes are really simplistic. And just focus on the true flavors of the food versus adulterating them with a ton of different items. It makes it a really easy way to approach cooking anyway.
Neily:Yes, it really does. Simplify it. Sounds great. So that will keep (the pesto) for how long? A month?
Wendy:Yes. A month. Just put a little bit of olive oil on top. Every time you use it, just add another little layer of olive oil and that will keep.You can also do that with roasted garlic. I go to Costco and buy this big thing of fresh garlic with the actual heads. So, what I do is cut off the tips, then put a little bit of olive oil, wrap them in foil and put in the oven. And roast probably about 15 heads of garlic at one time and then I squeeze out the flesh, put a little bit of olive oil on top and those will keep forever. If I don’t feel I’m going to get to use it that quickly, I’ll freeze it. And then I’ll add the frozen garlic to sauces, stocks, soups, whatever I’m making.But, when I was writing the cookbook, I used in one week, 13 heads of garlic. It’s a good thing my husband and I really like each other because we were both stinking that week.
Neily:Haha. Don’t have to worry about any vampires. Thanks—great information! The book is ‘Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies. Wendy Jo’s website is Thanks for watching Neily on Nutrition and we’ll see you in the next video.


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