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Eat Like the Greeks! 4 Easy Mediterranean Dinners

Fresh pasta, grilled fish and a vibrant salad come together quickly for healthy, delicious summer meals

devin alexander holding one of her salmon recipe dishes and a closeup of grilled chicken and zoodles

Photos by Riley Hallead

En español | It's no secret that Mediterranean dishes and the diets they've inspired — with plenty of grilled fish, colorful veggies and splashes of olive oil — are among the heart-healthiest. But these meals are not only nutritious, they're relatively easy to throw together, too. Plan one of these zesty, satisfying mains for your next summer get-together, and you'll be out of the kitchen and out on the patio with friends faster.

tomato feta shrimp pasta

Michelle Pederson

Tomato Feta Shrimp Pasta

I buy canned Italian cherry tomatoes for recipes like this one, and they are so worth the extra money, for both taste and health reasons. While they're sweeter than your typical American canned tomatoes, they have no added sugars. They also tend to be much lower in sodium, with fewer additives and preservatives.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil spray (propellant-free)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 can (14 to 14.5 ounces) no added salt Italian cherry tomatoes (Italian whole miniature tomatoes or tomatoes in tomato puree)
  • 1/8 teaspoon reduced-sodium salt substitute or sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 count or more), preferably wild-caught, peeled and deveined
  • 1 ounce (1/4 cup) crumbled light feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 4 ounces uncooked green lentil pasta or 3 ounces high-fiber whole grain rotini or penne

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring it to a boil. Add sea salt to taste.

Lightly mist a medium ovenproof (to 450°F) frying pan with the olive oil spray. Place it over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, just until they become fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, salt substitute or salt, and pepper and turn the heat to medium high. Continue cooking, stirring the tomatoes constantly until they become jam-like, about 5 to 7 minutes. (If you don't constantly stir them, the sauce can burn and some will boil away.)

Turn off the heat and stir in the mint, olive oil and shrimp. Make sure the shrimp are in a single layer and covered by the sauce as much as possible. Sprinkle the cheese and parsley on top. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the shrimp until those in the center of the pan have plumped and are no longer translucent in the center and the cheese is melty, 8 to 14 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the large pot of boiling water according to the package directions (omitting any butter or oil). Divide the cooked pasta between 2 serving bowls. Spoon half of the shrimp mixture (about 1 cup) over each bowl of pasta. Enjoy immediately.

Makes 2 servings. Each serving (half of the pasta plus 1 cup of sauce) has 430 calories, 8g fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 195mg cholesterol, 480mg sodium, 1,620mg potassium, 50g carbohydrate, 11g fiber, 9g sugars, 43g protein, 530mg phosphorus.

devin alexander holding a dish with her grilled salmon with pistachio and quinoa recipe

Riley Hallead

Grilled Salmon-Topped Lemon Pistachio Quinoa Salad

The freshly squeezed lemon juice and arugula really give this salad some bite — without it being too strong for the average palate. (Fun fact: I featured the dish on the menu of a cruise ship restaurant I once ran.) With a piece of freshly grilled salmon, this makes an entire meal, though it's also excellent on its own.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic
  • 6 cups arugula, coarse stems removed, torn
  • 4 (4 ounces each) salmon fillets, preferably wild-caught
  • Extra virgin olive oil spray (propellant-free)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

Preheat a grill to high.

Add the quinoa, pistachios, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and arugula to a medium mixing bowl.

Mist the salmon fillets lightly with the olive oil spray. (If you don't have a sprayer that is propellant-free, brush the fillets lightly with extra virgin olive oil.) Season with salt and pepper.

Lower the heat on the grill to medium (or position the salmon away from the direct flame) and place the salmon fillets side by side (don't let them touch). Grill them until they are just barely light pink throughout, 1 to 3 minutes per side. (This will vary depending on your grill and the thickness of the fillets, so watch closely.)

Toss the salad until the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt. Divide it among 4 plates or bowls. Top each with a salmon fillet. Enjoy immediately.

Makes 4 servings. Each serving (about 1 1/2 cups salad plus 1 salmon fillet) has 351 calories, 15g fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 62mg cholesterol, 65mg sodium, 929 mg potassium, 25g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 2g sugars, 29g protein, 424mg phosphorus


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grilled chicken zoodle marinana

Riley Hallead

Grilled Chicken Zoodle Marinara

If you “cook” the zucchini in this recipe, it starts to taste like, well, zucchini. If you just warm it and toss it in the hot marinara, it makes a great, nutritious dish for non-veggie lovers. I love Pecorino Romano cheese, but it's generally high in sodium. So if you have high blood pressure or need to seriously watch your sodium intake, opt for Parmesan in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces), ends trimmed, or 6 1/2 ounces store-bought zucchini spirals
  • 2 (4 ounces each) trimmed, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (preferably free range), pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free garlic and herb bread seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil spray (propellant-free)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-natural marinara sauce (preferably low-fat, low-salt, no sugar added), heated
  • 2 tablespoons (about 1/2 ounce) grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (preferably natural)

Preparation

Preheat a grill to medium.

Cut the zucchini into pieces according to the directions for your spiralizer (if you purchased zucchini spirals then skip this step). Create “spaghetti” noodles from the pieces with the spiralizer. Let the spiralized zucchini rest on a lint-free towel or paper towels.

Rub the chicken breasts evenly all over with the olive oil, then with the seasoning, salt and pepper. Place the chicken on the grill and turn the heat to low (if there is no temperature control, position the breasts away from direct flame). Grill the chicken until it is no longer pink inside, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Remove the chicken from the grill and tent it, letting it rest for 3 minutes. Transfer it to a cutting board and cut the breasts diagonally to create half-inch strips.

Meanwhile, place a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat. When it's hot, remove it from the burner just long enough to lightly mist it with the olive oil spray. Toss the zucchini in the pan just long enough to warm it; do not cook it or it will get mushy.

Transfer the warmed zucchini to a strainer for a minute to release any excess moisture. Divide it evenly between two serving plates. Top each with half of the marinara sauce, then place a chicken breast on top of that. Season with the cheese and additional pepper, if desired, and enjoy immediately.

Makes 2 servings. Each serving (half of the “noodles” plus 1 chicken breast) has 300 calories, 10g fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 70mg cholesterol, 250mg sodium, 1,250mg potassium, 20g carbohydrate, 10g fiber, 11g sugars, 30g protein, 335mg phosphorus.

mediterranean tabbouleh with grilled shrimp

Riley Hallead

Mediterranean Tabbouleh With Grilled Shrimp

I love this salad topped with grilled shrimp, but it's also excellent topped with simple grilled chicken, salmon or tofu kebabs. It can be made up to a day ahead (a couple of days if you hold off adding the tomatoes and cucumbers until just before you serve it). If you don't find bulgur wheat with the other grains in your grocery store, check the cereal aisle.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat
  • 1 1/4 pounds shrimp (16 to 20 count or more), peeled and deveined Greek or lemon pepper seasoning, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped curly parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup seeded, finely chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup seeded, finely chopped cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

In a medium nonstick saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the bulgur. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Allow the bulgur to cool to room temperature.

Preheat a grill to high. Toss the shrimp with the 1 teaspoon of olive oil and the seasoning.

In a large salad bowl, make the tabbouleh by combining the parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, remaining olive oil, mint, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled bulgur until combined.

Turn the grill to low and arrange the shrimp side by side, without touching. (If you can't turn the grill to low, position the shrimp away from direct flame). Grill the shrimp for 1 to 2 minutes per side until they are no longer translucent.

Divide the tabbouleh evenly among four salad bowls, plates or cocktail glasses, then divide the shrimp evenly among them, arranging them on the plates. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings, or about 4 1/2 cups tabbouleh plus the shrimp. Each serving (a heaping cup of tabbouleh plus 5 or 6 shrimp) has 345 calories, 32g protein, 31g carbohydrates (1g sugar), 11g fat, 2g saturated fat, 198mg cholesterol, 7g fiber, 208mg sodium.

Recipe adapted from The Biggest Loser Flavors of the World Cookbook by Devin Alexander © 2011 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP, The Biggest Loser (TM) and NBC Studios, Inc., and Reveille LLC. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc.

Devin Alexander is a New York Times best-selling cookbook author. Find more of her recipes at devinalexander.com.

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