Food & Drink

'Peasant diet' offers princely health benefits

It seems as if first ladies everywhere are becoming advocates for healthy lifestyles. Like first lady Michelle Obama, who is involved in the Let's Move! campaign, Patricia Moore-Pastides is on a mission to promote healthy eating.

Moore-Pastides, wife of Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, is a proponent of the Mediterranean diet, which she details in her cookbook, "Greek Revival: Cooking for Life." After the couple went to Patricia Wells' cooking school in Provence, France, for their 25th wedding anniversary, thoughts of having a school like Wells ran through Moore-Pastides' head. That notion eventually turned into "Greek Revival."

The book takes you back to the so-called "peasant diet," which actually was quite opulent. It was resplendent with colorful seasonal vegetables and fruits; seafood; whole grains, nuts and seeds made into dense breads; meat only on holy days; and legumes to provide protein during other times. While reading the book, you'll find 87 simple, healthful recipes but not a diet regimen. She offers stories of life in Greece and Cyprus that demonstrate the people's simple-yet-sumptuous lifestyle.

Moore-Pastides, also a public health professional, will be the featured author at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Lunch With Author series at noon Dec. 2 at the Moss Creek clubhouse in Bluffton. I'll share a few of her recipes so you can sample the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. E-mail her at

Roasted Cumin Carrots

15 whole large carrots

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 cup water

1 sprig fresh oregano for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut and discard the stems and tips from the whole carrots. Peel the carrots and score them by partially slicing into them shallowly on a diagonal, concentrating on the thickest parts. Spread out the carrots on a baking sheet, leaving some space between them.

In a large measuring cup or a small mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, orange juice, balsamic vinegar and ground cumin. Whisk well to combine. Pour the mixture over the carrots and roll them in the marinade to coat all sides.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for a total of 45 minutes. About halfway through the cooking time the liquid will have evaporated, so pour 1/2 cup of water over the carrots and cook the remainder of the time until they have browned and are fork tender.

Transfer carrots to a serving dish and garnish with a sprig of fresh oregano.

Sauteed Dates with Almonds

Dried pitted dates

Roasted whole almonds

Olive oil

Sea salt

Examine a date to locate the hole from which the pit was extracted. Insert a whole roasted almond into the hole. Repeat until you have made the desired number of stuffed dates. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Saute the stuffed dates for a few minutes, then turn them and saute for a few more minutes. The dates will soften and deepen in color.

Remove the stuffed dates from the pan to a serving dish and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately.

Spanakorizo (Spinach and Brown Rice)

Makes: 5 servings as a side dish

1 cup brown rice

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 scallions, diced

5 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried and chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Sea salt and pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

5 thin lemon slices

Cook the brown rice according to package directions.

While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and saute diced scallions until soft. Add the chopped spinach and cook while tossing until it becomes wilted, just a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside. When the rice is fully cooked, add the rice to the saute pan. Stir to combine the rice with the sauteed spinach and scallion mixture.

Stir in the fresh chopped dill, add the sea salt and pepper to taste, and transfer the dish to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with lemon slices.

Serve immediately or at room temperature.