Follow the Mediterranean Diet with this Easy Travel Inspired Salad and Wine Pairing
It’s time to celebrate! I checked off a BIG “Make Someday Happen” moment from my list and finally went on that Mediterranean Cruise I’ve been dreaming about for decades. This epic trip inspired my Mediterranean Shrimp Farro Salad recipe and the wine pairings below which are perfect for a Springtime brunch with family and friends. Although I took a million pictures in my attempt to remember every detail of the trip, in the end, there’s nothing better than eating great food and drinking great wine to bring back those fantastic memories.
This post is sponsored as part of my partnership with CK Mondavi and Family. As always, all opinions shared are my own. I hope it inspires you to get together with family and friends, take that dream trip, celebrate life and go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time!
Travel Inspiration: The Mediterranean
My time exploring the Mediterranean towns of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca in Spain, Marseille and Aix-en-Provence in France and Florence, Rome, Naples and Amalfi Coast in Italy aboard Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of The Seas was beyond amazing. The memories of fun times spent with my family will be with me forever. I was mesmerized by the sights, the smells, the sounds, the tastes. Overwhelming the senses at times with so much to see, eat and do and so little time to take it all in. My camera was working overtime in a valiant attempt to capture everything. My brain kept saying soak it all in. Be in the moment. My heart was full of joy. I can’t wait to go back so until then, the food and wine will sustain those travel dreams.
Not surprisingly, food and wine made a big impression on this trip. Tapas and small plates galore. The multitude of lemon and orange trees along the famous Amalfi Coast drive. The gorgeous tomatoes and fresh vegetables in the markets of Aix-en-Provence and Barcelona, even on the side of the road in Positano. The fresh seafood of every kind (some I’ve never seen before). Wines at every meal (loved the roses in Provence, the reds in Tuscany and the whites in Spain!) The spectacular views of that bright blue ocean. Even the harrowing traffic along those winding narrow roads was white-knuckle terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I was finally getting to see all of this first hand. Rather than reading about it in magazines and blog posts and seeing gorgeous pictures on Instagram, I was living it. It was magic!
For two weeks, I experienced The Mediterranean Diet we hear so much about in the U.S. I can now say it’s definitely more than food. It is not a diet. It’s a way of life.
Eating healthy can often be difficult in our country. It was so easy in the Mediterranean with all these fresh markets. I hope to adopt more of those habits starting with this Spring salad recipe which combines shellfish, whole grains, and fresh veggies of as many colors of the rainbow as possible, dressed simply with fresh lemon and top notch olive oil.
The Mediterranean Diet
Did you know May is International Mediterranean Diet Month? Perfect time to celebrate with this Mediterranean Shrimp Farro Salad.
According to Food Nutrition Science, “The beauty of the traditional Mediterranean Diet is that, unlike restrictive fad diets, it celebrates cooking and eating simple, wholesome, minimally processed foods as well as being active, enjoying delicious meals with friends and family, and drinking wine in moderation with those meals.”
I like the sound of that.
Consistently throughout the trip, the fresh tastes and flavors shined in all the dishes we sampled – from the markets, to the corner tapas bar, to the 3 Michelin star restaurant. Local ingredients aren’t hidden under heavy sauces. Instead, fresh herbs, spices, citrus, flavorful vinegars and high quality olive oil are used to enhance their natural flavors.
Key components of the Mediterranean Diet include:
- Whole and minimally processed foods are selected over highly processed foods.
- Olive oil is a staple and the main source of fat together with nuts.
- Legumes, fish and shellfish are consumed regularly.
- Whole grains, vegetables, salads and fruit are eaten daily.
- Red meat is consumed sporadically, no more than a few times per week.
- Wine is consumed quite frequently with meals. 5 oz per day for women and 10 oz for men is acceptable.
- Enjoying meals with family and friends is very important.
- Walking and getting plenty of exercise is the norm. (I tracked upwards of 16 – 20,000 steps per day on this trip!)
Are you ready to adopt the Mediterranean Diet?
Let’s talk about the ingredients:
This hearty grain is considered the original ancestor to all wheat species. In ancient Rome, farro was a staple food providing nourishment for the Roman legions. This Old World heirloom is still highly regarded, grown for generations by Tuscan farmers.
It has a light nutty flavor quality and chewy texture. Rich in fiber and proteins which makes salads a filling entree. It has more substance than quinoa and couscous, but either would work as a replacement.
Make a big batch and keep in the refrigerator for quick meals all week. Simply toss in any veggies and protein, olive oil and lemon juice and you have a great meal. This Shrimp Farro salad can be prepared ahead of time for easy entertaining. Simply spritz a fresh squeeze of lemon before serving to liven it up.
Native to the Mediterranean region, most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain, while California produces a majority of the U.S. crops. When buying fresh, look for a firm stem and tight, fresh leaves. To keep this recipe simple and easy, I use a jar of cocktail artichokes packed in water or oil and rinse them to remove some of the added salt and oil.
The asparagus in the markets in Aix-en-Provence looked so good I had a tough time resisting. The downside to visiting these food markets while on a cruise is that you have nowhere to cook. Asparagus have been a part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years, going back to ancient Greece and Rome. The white variety is grown in this area and was abundant, compared to our U.S. grocery stores. Its medicinal and supposed aphrodisiac qualities made the asparagus so revered it was even offered in rituals as a gift to the gods. Knowing that makes eating your veggies more fun, doesn’t it?
The variety of tomatoes in the markets along the Mediterranean coast was unbelievable. Although Italy is known for its tomatoes, especially from San Marzano near Naples, I was surprised to learn that tomatoes originated in South America and were brought to Spain and Italy in the 16th and 17th century. I used a variety of red, green and yellow heirloom cherry tomatoes to give this salad more color. You can use any variety you prefer.
Everywhere we looked we saw lemon trees. On the side of the road, in cafe patios, and apartment balconies. We found everything from soap to liqueurs (the famous Limoncello) to candies to perfume made with lemons. It’s no surprise citrus is such a strong part of the Mediterranean diet. In this recipe, I use the zest and juice of one lemon to flavor the farro, shrimp and vegetables and it adds the perfect touch of brightness without overwhelming.
Wine & Family
Every party needs wine. The Mediterranean diet encourages it!
CK Mondavi and Family are my go-to for easy entertaining at home because they offer great value and quality, plus their selection of 6 varietals suits every cuisine and taste. The winery, started by Cesare Mondavi in 1943, is family owned and run and now involves the fourth generation – known as the G4. I love that this generation of four Mondavi sisters – Angelina, Alycia, Riana and Giovanna – are now actively a part of running the company together with mom Janice, dad Marc, and cousins Lucio and Lia. It reminds me of the strong passionate women in my family (we were also four sisters). I’m proud to be a CK Mondavi and Family Ambassador for an all American company with strong family values and Italian roots.
“Passion has kept our family business going and I can say for all of us in this next generation,we are extremely humbled to carry on a wine legacy that was started by our great grandparents so long ago. We are also wholeheartedly committed to continuing the Mondavi family tradition for generations to come.” says Riana Mondavi, brand ambassador and Director of National Accounts.
Perfect Wine Pairing for Spring and Summer Recipes
I chose the Sauvignon Blanc to pair with this Mediterranean Shrimp Farro Salad. Crisp and clean, with notes of citrus on the nose and honeysuckle, it’s a great pairing for seafood, poultry, salads and those green vegetables and citrus vinaigrettes that are often difficult to pair wines with. (Think asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, peppers, peas and Brussels sprouts.)
The green cap on the bottle and the words “Crisp and Refreshing“ on the label serve as an easy pairing guide. If you look at each of the labels for CK Mondavi and Family wines, you will see similar descriptive statements to help you find a favorite.
This wine reminded me of a local sauvignon blanc from Navarra we enjoyed while visiting Elizondo, Spain. It was a warm and quiet Monday afternoon in this small town. Practically a ghost town as everyone was home or away for the long weekend. We found one restaurant open and spent a few lazy hours sitting on the sidewalk overlooking the Baztan river, chatting and sipping the crisp “blanco” with some delightful bites. Perfect way to end the day in this town which my parents and sisters once called home back in the mid 1960’s.
If you prefer tropical fruit notes in your white wines, the Chardonnay is the way to go. This recipe could be easily transformed into a hot pasta dish by substituting your favorite pasta with a touch of butter instead of the Farro. The Chardonnay would be my pairing of choice then.
Of course every party needs to have a red wine and CK Mondavi Red Blend (previously called Scarlet Five) has been my favorite for years. It’s fantastic with burgers, steaks, salmon and BBQ recipes.
Check out the infographic “Wine Pairing Made Simple” and more Wine Pairing Tips from CK Mondavi
If you’re interested in learning more about CK Mondavi and Family, wines and recipes, visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. Follow #CKMondaviWines #CKMondaviAmbassador and #CKMondaviPerfectPair on social media.
Check out the wine locator online to find CK Mondavi and Family wines in your area.
Share your favorite CK Mondavi and Family pairing on Instagram and Twitter using hashtag #PairNPost for a chance to win entertaining prizes in CK Mondavi and Family’s sweepstakes.
Mediterranean Shrimp Farro Salad Recipe
The quantities listed below are provided as a point of reference only. They can easily be adjusted to taste and reduced if you want to serve as a side dish rather than entree.
This hearty salad with shrimp, farro and a multitude of colorful veggies is full of refreshing and bright Mediterranean flavors. It's perfect as an entree or side dish for brunch, lunch or dinner. It can be prepared ahead of time and is also great for leftovers. It's so versatile it allows you to easily substitute your favorite fresh veggies and proteins. Quantities listed are for reference only. Adjust to taste.
- 1 cup farro
- 1 lb uncooked shrimp (12 large shrimp)
- 8 oz asparagus
- 4 oz sweet mini yellow, red, and orange peppers
- 8 oz artichoke hearts (from jar)
- 8 oz heirloom cherry tomatoes
- 2 oz Parmegiano Regiano (shaved)
- 8 oz mozzarella pearls
- 1 fresh lemon juiced and zested
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (If you have an infused olive oil, even better. I used a Meyer Lemon and Rosemary olive oil oil)
- fresh basil (cut 4-5 leafs into ribbons and reserve remaining whole leaves for garnish)
- sea salt
- fresh cracked pepper
Prepare farro per package instructions. Cooking time is approximately 30 minutes. Drain water. Set aside in covered pot for 5 minutes to steam, then remove lid to bring to room temperature. If cooking ahead of time, refrigerate until ready to use and warm for 30 seconds in microwave. Farro tastes best just slightly warm.
Cook shrimp in steamer basket, covered pan or grill until pink (approximately 5 minutes if using frozen shrimp). Season to taste with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Trim ends of asparagus. Steam or grill until crisp tender (approximately 4-5 minutes, depending on thickness. Pencil thin asparagus will cook much quicker.) If steaming, remove from heat and plunge asparagus into an ice bath (a bowl with ice and water) to stop cooking.
Slice cherry tomatoes and artichoke hearts in half.
- Slice sweet peppers into thin ribbons.
Season farro with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste, olive oil, zest and juice of half lemon, and basil ribbons. To keep it easy, we skip mixing the olive oil and lemon juice to make a vinaigrette and add the ingredients directly into the farro then fluff with a fork.
To serve, arrange farro in a large bowl and place all ingredients on top in a decorative rainbow pattern. (Alternate colors for visual impact) When ready to eat, toss all ingredients. You can also arrange individual salads by dividing all ingredients equally in small bowls.
This recipe is very versatile and can be prepared ahead of time. You can use quinoa, brown rice or orzo in place of farro. You can use chicken, tuna, or lean steak in place of shrimp. Add other veggies based on your preferences.
I hope you’re inspired to try my Mediterranean Shrimp Farro Salad! If you do, please share your photos and tag @goepicurista #GoEpicRecipe on Instagram and Facebook. It’s a thrill to hear your feedback and that I helped inspire you to celebrate and “Make Someday Happen” Please don’t be shy about leaving comments below.
Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with CK Mondavi and Family. As always, all opinions are my own and I only partner with brands I love to inspire you to go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time. Thank you for supporting those who support my mission at GoEpicurista.com. For more about my guidelines, read my disclosure policy. Cheers!