The Mediterranean Platter, Revisited
When I laid eyes on my first baby, I thought he was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. This normal, predictable response is nature at work. We are unable to see flaw in our new offspring. We instead see perfection, as the instinct to love and protect fiercely grabs hold. Once our son, who was born early, plumped up a bit and started to smile and coo, Andy admitted to being relieved at how cute he had become. What did he mean, “had become?” I didn’t understand. Our boy had been adorable from birth, I insisted. “No, no,” Andy shook his head. “He looked like a monkey.”
I can admit that my son was wiry and small, with skinny limbs and wispy hair that stood on end. He was covered with a downy layer of dark fuzz, as is often the case with babies born before term. But I still maintained he was adorable from birth. When I look at those early photographs now, I see him differently. The flood of emotions rushes back and I remember those first heady days of intense love, sleep deprivation and out-of-whack hormones. But what I saw back then isn’t exactly what I see now when I look at those pictures.
I have often joked that this website is my third baby. So many parallels to “real” babies exist – I carried it (in my head, in my heart) for a long time before it entered the world, it kept me up at night quite a lot in the early days after launch and it has grown up awfully fast. If it were a real baby, it would be potty trained and in preschool by now. So when I look back at pictures and read my own writing from the early days of Weekly Greens (this is my first post!), it’s not surprising that I see it all a bit differently. I wrote that? I took those photos?
A couple weeks ago, I was contacted by Cava Mezze Foods, a local company that makes a delicious array of Mediterranean dips and spreads. They wondered if I’d be interested in trying some of their products, including hummus, harissa, tzatziki and a new quinoa tabloueh. The truth is that I buy their products regularly and quite enjoy them. And sometimes I have to hide the crazy feta from Andy if I don’t want him to eat the entire tub in a sitting. Their outreach was well-timed. I am long overdue to update my page/recipe for Mediterranean platter, which was one of the first recipes I posted on the site. I clicked over to the page and gasped in horror. Much like the early photos of my babies, the photo attached to this recipe didn’t seem as familiar as it had once been. In fact, I couldn’t believe that I had 1) taken the photo and 2) thought it worthy of posting to my website. The lighting was unattractive and the composition was all wrong. Did I ever think this was a good photo? I wondered.
The nice people at Cava delivered a few tubs of their delights to my front door. It became a good excuse to revisit the Mediterranean platter and re-shoot the photos knowing now what I know about taking photographs of food (a lot more than I knew back then!). So, I’m reintroducing the highly adaptable Mediterranean platter with brand new, appealing photos and a revised ingredient list. I made it the topic of my post for Relay Foods this week (you can see the column here and if you’re in Relay’s deliver zone, order the ingredients right from that page!).
We’ve long kept the Mediterranean platter in our weeknight dinner rotation. Here is why:
1. It’s never the same twice. This is a good thing. We adapt the platter to our tastes and our pantry contents. No stuffed grape leaves? No big deal. Just add more olives or cut up some carrots instead. You can really get creative and make it what you want.
2. It can become a no-cook dinner, if you want it to be. Occasionally, I include a little chicken with our Mediterranean platter. And sometimes I make parts of it from scratch. I recently tried this delicious creamy hummus from In Jennie’s Kitchen. You have to soak the beans overnight and make them from scratch, so it requires a bit of planning but it’s quite worth the effort. If you don’t have that kind of time, you can always make the zucchini hummus in a snap (yet another example of a photo that makes me shudder). Or mix up some tzatziki (the sauce from this recipe works well). But you can also let the chopping be the extent of your effort, using fresh pre-made dips and spreads like the ones from Cava. Sometimes it’s nice to keep the work to the lowest level possible short of ordering take out. I get it.
3. It can be made vegetarian…or not. My boys have a bigger appetite for meat than I do. With this type of meal, we can each have our way. Since I made and photographed the platter at lunch time during my work day, I made it to my own specifications (no meat) which is why you only see vegetables pictured here. I load up my plate with veggies and dips, they prefer a bit of chicken or even grilled steak. Everyone is happy.
4. It’s an all-season meal. In the summer, there is more produce and I have more options – juicy, ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans. In the winter, we rely more on olives, stuffed grape leaves and maybe the occasional roasted eggplant (try this method!).
In case you’re wondering, the answer is no. I will not show you the old photo. It’s just too painful. But if you poke around my recipe archive a bit, you’ll be able to tell which recipes are due for a re-shoot. And for the record, I still think my babies were just darling from the very (furry, skinny) start.
And now that we’ve settled that…what would be included in your ideal Mediterranean platter?