Mediterranean meals

Flavor and health combine in dishes inspired by the region.

Published in FSD Update

The Mediterranean diet is more than just healthy. With an emphasis on fresh produce, flavorful herbs and spices and plenty of grassy olive oil, it’s also tasty. Which means that for non-commercial operators juggling demands for fare that’s both nutritious and delicious, this way of eating strikes the perfect balance.

Salvatore Cantalupo, corporate chef at Corporate Image Dining Services, based in Stamford, Conn., puts it more bluntly: “We can’t serve bland food; it won’t sell,” he says. To solve the problem, he’s turned to Mediterranean-inspired dishes that highlight bold flavors, like salmon puttanesca over Israeli couscous; arugula salad pizza with roasted red peppers and a balsamic vinaigrette; sweet basil-citrus shrimp salad; and gourmet tapas and risotto bars. The offerings are touted on cafeteria signage, as well as in customer menu emails. “Of course, word of mouth always helps, too,” Cantalupo says.

At Chandler Unified School District, in Arizona, fresh hummus is the name of the game. Preportioned for elementary school students and served on the salad bar, the chickpea dip is a healthier alternative to ranch dressing, while still managing to increase raw vegetable consumption.

At Chandler high schools, the hummus is served on a Mediterranean plate with flatbread slices, crudités and olives. “Calling it a Mediterranean plate seems to give it more appeal to students who are health conscious, [as well as] the teachers and staff,” says Nutrition Supervisor Wesley Delbridge, R.D. And since the hummus is made from scratch in house, it’s also a hit with parents. 

Students get a taste of more exotic fare at the University of Oklahoma’s Athens Café, in Norman. Typically, the all-halal menu includes gyro sandwiches; entrées like tagines or Moroccan chicken; sides such as stewed Tunisian vegetables or Algerian green beans; plus salads, hummus, pita chips and baklava.

And though the café hasn’t done much marketing, word of mouth has brought in plenty of curious customers. “What wound up happening was people who came for a gyro sandwich found out about the other foods featured on a daily basis and that made the café a destination,” says Director of Dining Services Frank Henry.

In step with the Mediterranean diet’s minimalist approach to meat, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, promotes Meatless Mondays. “The Meatless Monday dishes emphasize plant-based ingredients such as whole grains, vegetables, peas, beans, lentils, healthy oils, and a variety of herbs and spices for flavoring,” says Director of Food and Nutrition Services Veronica McLymont, R.D.

The patient menu, too, has recently received Mediterranean inspiration. A new salad features chopped romaine, diced cucumbers and tomatoes, shredded carrots, chickpeas, feta cheese, croutons and tahini dressing, while the Mezze Platter boasts hummus, roasted eggplant, tabbouleh, roasted beets and olives.

A Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, dill, olives, feta cheese and herbs is served at the cafeteria, and specialty salads featuring whole grains like quinoa, bulgur or couscous are also available. “As healthcare providers, we’ve shared education promoting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, so we’re compelled to practice what we preach,” McLymont says. 

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
vegetables with dip foodservice healthy menu

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

There was a time when healthy food meant counting calories, omitting carbs, giving up sugar and going fat-free—in other words, it was all about deprivation.

But not anymore. Today’s definition of healthy means an overall focus on nutrition and wellness that doesn’t mean giving up enjoyment. It’s all about balance: good fats, healthy carbs, better sweeteners, wholesome ingredients and satisfying flavor enhancements. It means food that customers can feel good about, at the same time that they’re enjoying the dining experience.

According to...

Industry News & Opinion

Aramark today announced a partnership with celebrity chef and TV personality Cat Cora that will put a new concept from the Top Chef star in Aramark’s North American business-and-industry accounts.

The new fast-casual concept, called Olilo by Cat Cora, promises a healthy, made-your-way menu, according to the global foodservice provider.

“By bringing together Chef Cora's award-winning brand and healthy cooking advocacy and Aramark's commitment to enriching and nourishing the lives of the thousands of consumers we serve every day, we have an opportunity to elevate the on-site...

Industry News & Opinion

Members of Congress and several advocacy groups gathered on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to highlight the potential loss of millions in state funding because of a Child Nutrition Reauthorization block grant introduced last month, and to call upon legislators to squash the bill.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 houses a statute that would provide three unannounced pilot states with block grant funding. Participating states would be exempt from federal nutrition regulations and would no longer qualify for the 6-cent reimbursement per lunch garnered by certified...

Ideas and Innovation
peppers jars

While it only serves 200 students and staff daily, the Muse School in Calabasas, Calif. , has a need for fresh produce that’s much larger than the typical K-12 school. The private institution serves entirely vegan fare, menuing 1,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables per week.

“Despite the large amount of produce we use, the great majority is consumed, and there’s little spoilage,” says Kayla Webb, executive chef. “We barely throw away any produce.”

The Muse School has strict policies in place—outside food is banned, for example, to cut down on waste. But even if an operation...

FSD Resources