Here’s a traditional American comfort food, adjusted to fit the Mediterranean diet. This dish is 100% healthy Mediterranean eating, with a familiar All-American flavor.
I tweaked a recipe I found in the March 2011 issue of Cosmopolitan. With a 20 minute baking time, the broccoli retains a nice, ever-so-slight crunch. You can bake it longer if you like a mushier casserole. The original recipe called for more lemon juice, but I found it over-lemony and reduced it to what you see here.
Mediterranean All-American Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. You’ll need your largest casserole dish, but you won’t need the cover. Gather:
1-1/2 T. butter
1-1/2 T. olive oil
plus a little extra to drizzle on baked chicken
3 T. whole wheat flour
2 cups water plus 2 cubes vegetable bullion (chicken bullion or broth is fine, too)
1/2 cups chopped onions
1/4 t. minced garlic
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
3/4 t. Italian Volcano Organic Lemon Juice (or fresh lemon juice, just use more)
1/2 cup low fat or no fat plain yogurt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided into 1/4 cup and 3/4 cup
3 cups broccoli florets, fresh or frozen and thawed
1 1/2 lbs. skinless, boneless organic chicken breasts
3/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1. Bake the chicken breasts with the chopped onions and a drizzle of olive oil in a teflon pie plate until chicken is cooked through.
2. Meantime, melt butter with olive oil over low heat, stir in flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add the 2 cups of vegetable broth gradually while stirring and cook for 10 minutes more, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Remove from heat, then blend in yogurt, then 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.
3. When chicken is cooked through, remove from oven and set chicken aside. Stir the garlic in with the onion and return to oven (with an extra drizzle of oil if necessary) for another 5 minutes, until onion begins to brown, or if onion is already to brown, then to blend the flavors. Then add the onion mixture to the sauce.
4. Arrange the broccoli florets to cover the bottom of the casserole dish. Pour half of the sauce over the broccoli. Then shred the chicken over that, and pour on the remainder of the sauce.
5. Top with the breadcrumbs, and then the remaining grated Parmesan.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, then place under broiler just until top is golden brown, about 1 to 5 minutes.
Serve this casserole with a salad made of dark, leafy greens like lettuce or chard, and make sure to include tomatoes and carrots. Dress with your best olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pesto, and sprinkle with ground flaxseed.
Adding the salad, you’re now getting your quota of dark green, red and orange vegetables, plus lean protein from the chicken. You’re also getting healthy dairy with the yogurt, whole grains from the flour and bread crumbs, monounsaturated “good” fats from the olive oil, the important “allium” vegetables onion and garlic, and Omega-3 from flax. Don’t forget to sprinkle a spice blend on the salad, because herbs and spices are an important part of the Mediterranean diet.
Serve fruit and nuts for dessert, and you’ve just eaten the entire healthy Mediterranean food pyramid. Buono appetito!