Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan #3: Let’s Go to the Middle East
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Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan #3: Let’s Go to the Middle East

If you’re a fan of luscious baba ghanoush, zesty shakshuka, lots of fresh vegetables, and simply cooked meat and fish, this is the Meal Plan for you. Get started with the Yummly Meal Planner today!

Photograph by Olga Ivanova

One of the main reasons the Mediterranean diet has become so popular — and why so many doctors recommend it — is its flexibility. Forget eliminating food groups or measuring portions. All you have to do is eat the way people in that region do. That makes meal planning for the Mediterranean diet downright easy.

Some of the brightest, most flavorful recipes for the Mediterranean diet come from the Middle East. The menu boasts a rainbow of veggies, chickpeas and other beans, herbs and spices, lean proteins, and heart-healthy olive oil. A Meal Plan for the Mediterranean diet offers a mix-and-match collection of dips, salads, and mains. Cook these Middle Eastern recipes — and you’ll have a week of easy, satisfying breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

Note: The Yummly Meal Planner is available to paid subscribers.

With the Yummly Meal Planner, you can start slow, with just a dish or two, or add multiple recipes to your personalized Meal Plan. From there, create a smart Shopping List, add custom items, sync lists across devices, and even get groceries delivered. 

When it comes to the Mediterranean diet, healthy, fast, and fresh recipes from the Middle East aim to please.

Shakshuka

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This Israeli breakfast (or breakfast for dinner) has become super popular of late, with good reason. It’s nothing more than eggs baked in a tomato and pepper sauce — but the flavors will knock your socks off. Vibrant and filling, scented with garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, chef Richard Blais’ version comes out of the oven bubbling and juicy. Don’t forget to serve it with pita or some crusty bread to dip into those perfectly runny yolks.

Israeli Salad

Though you might be tempted to dismiss this as just another chopped salad, Israeli Salad is anything but ordinary. The key is in the cutting. Rather than stopping at bite-sized pieces of cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, and red onion, you’ll mince the vegetables small enough to get some of each in every forkful. Toss them with chopped fresh herbs and a lively lemon dressing — and serve. In Israel, this dish appears on the table at almost every meal, including breakfast.

BEST Layered Hummus Dip

Think you know the ubiquitous chickpea dip? This sophisticated (but still easy) approach will expand your hummus horizons. It starts with homemade or store-bought hummus. Simple enough. But then, you top it with lean ground beef and aromatic vegetables simmered with allspice, pleasantly sour sumac, cinnamon, and tomato sauce, plus fresh chopped tomatoes, parsley, and toasted pine nuts. Cut up some pita and dig in.

Baba Ghanoush

The star of mezze platters and sandwiches, fluffy baba ghanoush, tastes much more complex than the recipe suggests. When you roast an eggplant whole, it emerges from the oven collapsed and soft. It’s undergone a magical transformation and become luscious and smoky. Scoop out the insides and whip the eggplant flesh with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin. Once you see how easy this is, you’ll want to make baba ghanoush every week.

Chirchi

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Also known as tershi, chirchi is an ancient Jewish dip from Libya, typically made with pumpkin. It’s spicy and tangy, with plenty of garlic, harissa (a North African spice and chili paste), cumin, and lemon juice. Caraway seeds add an unusual — but delicious — hint of licorice. Chef Einat Admony’s version uses butternut squash and carrots for a bit of sweetness. Keep it in the fridge to serve on sandwiches, with simple grilled fish or meat, or on a mezze plate.

Orange and Olive Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette

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The layered flavors of harissa take center stage as the basis of chef Einat Admony’s simple vinaigrette — the spiced chili paste mixes with nothing but lemon juice, honey, and olive oil. Drizzled atop elegantly plated slices of sweet oranges, zingy red onion, and salty olives, this dressing elevates three everyday ingredients to spectacular heights.

Turkish Lentil Soup with Baby Spinach

This hearty Turkish soup seasoned with sumac and paprika is an excellent example of the Mediterranean diet. It features legumes (red lentils), plus whole grains (bulgur wheat) combined with plenty of vegetables (carrots and spinach), olive oil, and broth. Just before you serve, add a squeeze of lemon juice for a hint of acidic brightness and some chopped parsley for a fresh, herbal accent.

Za'atar-Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Bean Salad

Yummly Original

Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend, features more of that sumac, a dried and ground berry with a pleasantly sour taste. Mixed with dried herbs, sesame seeds, salt, and olive oil, it becomes a flavor rub for roasted cauliflower steaks. When you top those with a lively salad made from cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes, olives, and parsley, you’ve got a vegetarian dinner every bit as exciting as you’d find in a restaurant.

Grilled Chicken Kofta

Kofta are Middle Eastern meatballs made with ground beef, lamb, or chicken, plus spices and herbs. They don’t have to be round, as you can see here — these are chicken kofta formed into flattened oval patties, which are easier to grill. Mix ground chicken with onion and garlic, fresh parsley and mint, and Middle Eastern spices, including Aleppo pepper, a mild red variety with a whisper of sweetness. Served with pita, Israeli salad, and hummus, it makes an easy, healthy dinner.

Spicy Moroccan Fish Chraime-Style

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The Mediterranean diet features plenty of fish, like this stew. Made by Sephardic Jews in North Africa, chraime calls for simmering fish fillets in a zesty tomato sauce. Here, chef Einat Admony uses a healthy dose of garlic (10 cloves!), sliced jalapeño and harissa paste for heat, and paprika and cumin to add complexity. Cherry tomatoes offer juicy sweetness, and mild, flaky branzino soaks up all that flavor as it cooks. 

Yes, I want more Mediterranean diet recipes

On the Mediterranean diet, instead of depriving, you get to treat yourself, and it's so versatile it can accommodate just about any taste. The Mediterranean is a vast and diverse area, so this eating pattern covers a variety of cuisines and can hardly ever get old. How to Meal Plan for the Mediterranean diet? Have fun with it! Create a weekly menu featuring healthy dishes from different parts of that region and sample from the unique bouquet of flavors you've created. With the Mediterranean diet, there's always more to explore, and your Yummly Meal Planner makes it easy and that much more enjoyable. Check out the following articles for more helpful information and Mediterranean diet recipes.

The Mediterranean Diet: How to Know if It's Right for You

Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan #1: A Week of Quick and Easy Recipes

Mediterranean Diet Meal Plan #2: Family-Friendly Favorites

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