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A high-protein, Mediterranean feast

A high-protein, Mediterranean feast

Eating for gains, both in the gym and at the table

When my husband was single, he used Sundays to make himself a giant vat of plain chicken and steamed vegetables to last the week. Like so many other other athletes, eating had a singular purpose: building muscle. In order to achieve that end, he endeavored to “meet his macros.” That meant 185 grams of protein every day. It was a chore. He was a machine! I really admired his discipline and adopted many of his habits.

Since becoming a mother, and by extension, manager of my family’s nutrition, the nature of meals has changed. We are no longer atomized, single people, eating our food mostly alone with the purpose of maximizing the health of our bodies. This was a partially virtuous way to encounter food, I think, but it is unfitting for the purposes of family.

Now, the dinner table has become ground zero for connection, culture, and, I don’t think I’m overstating this, civilization. It’s where we pray together. It’s where we share our intimate thoughts as well as belly laughs. It’s where my children practice etiquette.

Sustenance is the bare minimum requirement for our meals — with toddlers, feeding them at all can become a challenge in itself! Health, of course, considering our children’s growing brains and bodies, remains central. But as of late, joy has become an even more vital requirement.

So, the food I make must be enjoyable. Delicious food helps our family enjoy one another’s company as well as develop an appreciation for technique, history, and tradition. I want my children to feel as though they are part of a culture even greater than the nuclear family. This is what my grandparents ate. This is what I’ll feed my grandchildren.

Feeding my family is for keeping them alive and it is for keeping culture alive. Especially in a political climate where traditions, at least European traditions, are regarded with suspicion, and in a cultural climate that prioritizes convenience, individualism, and machine thinking, cooking excellently might just be an expression of radical civil disobedience.

Tonight, to honor my husband’s fitness goals and his Mediterranean heritage, I am making three very high-protein, delicious, and satisfying dishes: meatballs, cucumber salad, and quinoa tabbouleh. This feeds a family of five with leftovers.


As ever, season to taste. Some people like a splash of cinnamon in their meatballs. I really enjoy the 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s. Sometimes, instead of baking these, I flatten them and sauté them as patties.


  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 ½ cup sourdough starter (or ¾ breadcrumbs soaked in buttermilk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 cup minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • The seasonings you like! Parsley, basil, oregano, cinnamon — this is so personal and difficult to prescribe because, as I’ve said, I frequently just cook with vibes.


  1. Add all the ingredients into a bowl and use your hands to mix thoroughly. Doctors wouldn’t appreciate me saying you can taste as you go to determine whether or not they taste good (ahem, it’s fine).
  2. Form meatballs.
  3. Fry as you would a hamburger patty OR bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.

Cucumber tzatziki salad


  • 2 English cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 2 small red onions, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 ½ cups Greek yogurt
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar is fine)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine cucumber and onion
  2. Whisk all wet ingredients, including herbs
  3. Combine
  4. This tastes best having sat for about an hour, and it keeps for awhile

Quinoa Tabbouleh


  • 2 cups dry quinoa
  • 4 cups of broth of your choosing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • ½ cup high-quality olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts (10 scallions)
  • 2 bunches fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 bunches fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 bunches fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 English cucumbers, medium-diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved through the stem
  • 4 cups medium-diced feta (8 ounces)


  1. Pour 4 cups of broth into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa. Cook until the quinoa can be fluffed with a fork and the broth has been absorbed. Place in a bowl and immediately add the lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, and 3 teaspoons of salt.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2-4 teaspoons of salt, and 2 teaspoons of pepper. Add the quinoa and mix well. Carefully fold in the feta and taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve cold.

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