The countries on the shores of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea – Italy, Greece, Spain,Turkey and Lebanon, to name a few – are not only outstandingly rich in culture and history, but also lands of exquisite fresh, spicy and exotic world-renowned cuisine that caters for all tastes. Developed under a tradition that goes back for millennia, Mediterranean cuisine is not only flavorful but diverse and healthy too, combining smooth olive oil with vegetables, poultry, seafood, grains, and the aromatic touch of regional spices that make these dishes appetizingly unique. So if you’re either visiting and want to get a ‘taste’ of the Mediterranean culture or simply looking for something light and delicious to cook, you definitely don’t want to miss the following foods.
Mussels with tomatoes and chili is a spicy seafood recipe widely served in Greece, and a perfect choice for a romantic meal for two due to mussels’ aphrodisiac properties, which have been known and used since ancient times. It can also be used as a starter for stylish parties or lavish brunches. It is best served with a slice of bread and, for a touch of sophistication and that extra ‘bite’, with a few drops of ouzo, the Greeks’ traditional liquor.
Another Mediterranean pastry made of dough and just as sweet as the ambrosia of the gods are the Greek loukoumades (from Turkish, lokma, meaning mouthful, morsel), which are deep-fried dough balls drenched in sugar syrup or honey and cinnamon. According to the tradition, these were served to the winners of the Olympics in ancient Greece and nowadays Greek Jews use them as special treats during Hanukkah.
A great way to add protein to your diet is by trying chickpeas in different salads. All along the Mediterranean, especially in Greece, the most popular diet salads combines it with hand crushed tomatoes, sweet red peppers and seasoned with paprika, cumin, the zest of half a lemon and fresh mint leaves. As its aspect is very colorful and vivid, natural, served with crunchy toasted pita it makes the perfect mix of nutritious and tasty breakfast.
Fresh fig tart with honey-orange custard is an exciting dessert due to its rather unusual primary ingredient, fig, since it is a flower, not a fruit, but which is succulent and sweet as honey when ripe. The custard renders the tart light and creamy and the crisp scent of the orange flower water in it makes it truly mouthwatering and a great evening dessert to be savored on a terrace with the sound of foamy sea in the background.
A light, typically Mediterranean dessert that is also easy to make is Greek yoghurt with honey and strawberries. It is also healthy, quick and low-fat, and the strawberries can be replaced with any fruit of choice, like berries, blueberries, banana slices, and so on.
Caponata is a typical Sicilian aubergine dish which can be served as an appetizer as well as main course and a warm vegetable side dish for fish. What makes it stand out is the quality of the tomatoes, capers and aubergines which are harvested on Sicilian land and carefully selected. It is ideally consumed with scattered basil leaves and toasted ciabatta or a crunchy bruschetta. There are variations to this meal; for example, more aristocratic restaurants in Sicily offer a variety of lobster with wild asparagus while the Palermo version uses octopus, both of which are great choices if you are a seafood lover.
Delizie al limone is, as its name already suggests, a refreshing lemon delight traditionally served on the coastal stretch between the Sorrento Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast, a place widely appreciated for the beauty of its landscapes.
These little ‘delights’ are dome-shaped sponge cakes filled and covered in lemon custard, the perfect choice for a lazy hot summer’s day on the coast.
The exceedingly rich food dishes seductively served on the shores of the Mediterranean have gotten to be amongst the most popular recipes all over the world. The combination of specialties is always surprising as it is fresh and ingenious. The chefs from all these cultural gastronomic heavens make sure that the freshness of the taste and flavor never constitute a criterion of telling the dietary food from the classical ones. The thing is sure, you’ll never tell it from the taste.
The protein-rich fresh vegetables, fish, seasoned grains and olive oil make it not only very appetizing, but one of the world’s healthiest as well. Following a Mediterranean diet can help avoid high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity on the long run.
If you visit Italy and are looking for something special, you just have to try the chicken saltimbocca, an internationally famous specialty of Rome which literally translates as “jump in the mouth”. It is named so because it is found to be so irresistibly delicious that it jumps into the customer’s mouth. Strips of chicken breast are wrapped in thin slices of prosciutto, marinated and then sautéed, and served with sage leaves, capers, and wine sauce. Mmm!
Far from recommending classical recipes, the chefs on the sunny shores rather finely combine in creative and pungent ways some key ingredients for healthy meals. For instance, the typically Italian broccoli rabe is served all over the world in classy restaurants with whole-wheat orzo, seasoned with a slime slice of lemon, feta and oregano for a more intense flavor. While the salad is very easy to make and you can have it at home whenever, it’s a very popular dish on the Italian shore of the Mediterranean. There are a number of bold ingredients to pair broccoli with, such as hot pepper, anchovy and sausage. Like any other member of the cabbage family, the richness in vitamin C, fibers, calcium and potassium make it popular among the health consumers.
Whenever there’s a festival or a special occasion in Morocco, the locals celebrate with many hearty dishes, among which the Moroccan Tagine, which is a casserole dish with vegetables and meat that is cooked in a special pot called tajine that renders ingredients their buttery tenderness. Succulent and savory, the tajine is a sort of stew that is rich and also light and healthy at the same time.
The world of Mediterranean desserts is an exotic paradise of tastes, aromas and fresh ingredients that you will only find in the countries lapped by the enchanting blue waves of the Mediterranean Sea like fig, orange flower water, dates, grappa and an outstanding variety of fruits. Whether it be the iconic, sweet baklava or the famous Greek fruit salads laced with wine, the taste and tradition of these treats will enthrall the imagination – and palate – of any curious traveller in search of new sensations.
Going to Turkey? Then do try Lahmacun, or “Turkish pizza” as it known outside Turkey. It may look very much like Italian pizza, but it is in fact very different in taste. It consists of a mixture of mainly meat, vegetables and spices that are spread on a very thin crunchy bread, and there is no cheese. The mixture of scents and tastes dances in your mouth, always leaving you wanting more. Lahmacun is very popular in the South and East of Turkey, where it is typically eaten with hot pepper and salad.
If you want to get a taste of the long-dawned glory of the Ottoman Empire, try baklava, the richest and sweetest dessert of the Turks but which is served all throughout Greece too.
It is a pastry made of layers of paper-thin phyllo dough stacked with ground nuts and honey, and, in some parts of Greece, with pistachio nuts or sesame seeds added to the filling. What is exquisitely delicious about this dessert is the honey that drenches the dough layers, rendering baklava soft, smooth and syrupy.
Eggplant is the meaty plant of the Mediterranean cuisine, a great source of proteins in a gastronomic territory where meat rarely appears. Its neutral flavor makes it go with many combinations. Its versatility is, nonetheless, classified into preferred dishes, among which grilled eggplant and tomato rounds with sprinkled mozzarella, and the greatest spice to be seasoned with is basil. What makes the widely served garnish stand out is that it goes great with many dishes, transforming any meal into feast. While the Mediterranean flavor of the food is delicious, you don’t have to go further than to a market to bring a divine corner of the Mediterranean at home.