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Cook These Meals at Your Own Home and Enjoy Savoring Them
When you have the perfect set of circumstances converge in one place, then you’ve got yourself one hell of a tourist destination – and that’s exactly what the Mediterranean is. Perfect climate, awesome food and the best wine makes this region in the world absolutely irresistible. Mediterranean countries include Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco, which simply means that there’s almost an unlimited number of food varieties available here. For most of us, the Mediterranean diet is all about wine and seafood; however, what exactly is the Mediterranean diet?
To find out, you simply have to try these 20 iconic Mediterranean foods that highlight the best dishes that this part of the world has to offer.
Feta is a brined curd white cheese made either from sheep’s milk or from a mixture of sheep and goat's milk – it is developed by the ancient Greeks and is still being used today. It has a whitish color that sometimes has small holes and at other times has none whatsoever. Unlike Swiss cheese and other types of cheeses which are mostly circular in shape, the Greeks make their feta cheese into large blocks and is aged in brine. It has a tangy and salty flavor that range from mild to strong. It has a slightly grainy texture and it crumbles easily. The Greeks enjoy it with their salads, paired with zucchini, or even with just plain wheat bread.
This one is the more familiar food item among the lot. While most people think that the Italian cuisine is as a whole in and on itself, it is actually part of the Mediterranean diet. Trust me when I tell you that nothing else comes close to the Italian pizza! But any pizza recipe in the Mediterranean diet is just as good, because it is made with natural ingredients and is therefore loaded with nutrients.
3.) Lentils and Yogurt
The lentil is an edible legume. This plant produces seeds annually and its lens-shaped seeds gave it its name. Boiling them is the most common preparation method; however, they can also be eaten soaked, germinated, fried, or baked. With only 5% of the readily digestible starch in this seed and a higher content of slowly digested starch make lentils a recommended food for people with diabetes. Yogurt on the other hand is a food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria part of this food is actually lactobacillus which has several health benefits. Lentils folded into yogurt, spinach, and basil is a Mediterranean classic that's super easy to make at home.
The Greek dish spanakopita is essentially a pie made from spinach. Chopped spinach, feta cheese, onions or scallions, egg, and seasoning are the ingredients that make up its traditional fillings. You may feel weary when eating this savory pastry at first, but once you’ve taken your first bite, then you’ll understand why it’s found in almost all Mediterranean diet food blogs.
5.) Baba Ganoush
Baba Ganoush is a Levantine appetizer of Lebanese origin consisting of mashed cooked eggplant, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, spices, garlic and various seasonings (sometimes yogurt is used to make it). You can serve this dish with tomatoes, onions, or other kinds of vegetables that suit your taste. It’s customary to serve Baba Ganoush before dinner in the Eastern Mediterranean area. It creates an atmosphere where the dish becomes a means for guests to socialize before they eat the main course.
Have you Tried Eating any of the Dishes Mentioned Here?
Tell us about your Mediterranean diet dining experience. Was it great? Mediocre? Bad? Were the reviews fair and honest or did some of them exaggerated a bit? What about the Mediterranean lifestyle? Did you enjoy your visit to the Med?
Hummus is another appetizer famous in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and is considered a dip, spread, or savory dish made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with sesame seeds, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. What makes this food particularly interesting is the fact that it is very delicious and its flavor is enhanced even further when paired with fresh bread, fruits, and veggies. How about that? All the best flavors and healthy goodness in one dish!
It might seem uninteresting but almost all countries that contribute to the Mediterranean diet have at least one salad recipe to boast from their individual local cuisine – and they do have some of the best and healthiest salads in the world. Salads are often dressed, and are typically served at room temperature or chilled, though some can be served warm. One of the most popular salads is the Greek salad with feta cheese. Some salads are easy to make and you can even make them at home like the Mediterranean Cobb salad, fresh tuna salad, a zucchini ribbon salad with fresh balsamic, or even a potato salad.
A lot of people associate the paella with Spanish cuisine, but the fact is that it is actually a traditional dish of the Valencians (an autonomous community of Spain). Paella is also the name of a Spanish traditional pan that's used to cook the food over an open fire. The pan is wide and has a shallow depth. It’s so versatile that you can make it with almost any kind of meat including chicken, shrimp, chorizo, lobster, and many others. It is believed that this dish has been around since the 10th century AD, which makes it roughly at least a thousand years old!
The Mediterranean diet wouldn’t be complete without fish and seafood dishes to showcase and, as a matter of fact, there are a lot of seafood recipes in Mediterranean dishes. Seafood recipes such as roasted salmon with smoky chickpeas and greens, shrimp scampi, salmon with roasted red pepper quinoa salad, and many more will absolutely delight your palate.
Ratatouille is a French Provençal stewed vegetable dish originating in Nice, although most people associate this word with that cute little cooking rat from the 2007 Pixar film. In the Mediterranean though, the ratatouille is known as a delicious dish usually served during the summer. It is made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, marjoram, fennel, and basil.
11.) Greek Gyros
Gyros is a Greek dish made from cut chunks of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie that's similar to the kebab and shawarma from Turkey. The difference between the 2 dishes is that gyros usually come with the same combo of lettuce, tomatoes, and onions; whereas shawarma has a mixture of meat that’s exceptionally flavorful and juicy (the meat are marinated with spices like turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and garlic). Both dishes are actually part of the Mediterranean diet and are healthy to consume, but if you haven’t tried the Greek gyros yet, then now would be the best time to do it!
12.) Tomato, Avocado, and Basil Salad
It may seem odd since we’ve already mentioned salad earlier, but believe me when I say that this one deserved a feature all to itself. You will find that this Tomato, Avocado & Basil Salad is the perfect side dish for any meal, as the gorgeous ripe tomatoes and creamy avocado will absolutely drive you nuts. Even though it’s already amazing on its own, I recommend that you pair it with chorizo sausage to augment the taste even further.
13.) Tuscan Chicken
Tuscany is a region in central Italy where cities like Florence, San Marino and Bologna are located. The people here are thriving in their food game and one cuisine that stands out from the rest is the creamy Tuscan chicken. Packed with flavour, the creamy sun-dried tomato sauce mixed in the Tuscan chicken is the ultimate chicken dinner. It is best eaten with pasta, potatoes or just plain wheat bread and peel off chunks to dip into that creamy sauce. It’s also very easy to make.
Tapas comes from the Spanish verb “tapar” which means “to cover,” a cognate of the English “top.” Tapas may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried baby squid). The dish originated in Barcelona, Spain during the pre-19th century period – today tapas have evolved into a more sophisticated cuisine that they can even be made into an entire full meal!
A national favorite in Greece this dessert will make everyone think that you went to a culinary school to become a great chef, but little do they know that it's very easy to make! Baklava has many layers - it's a delicious pastry dessert made from filo with chopped nuts as its filling, and drizzled with syrup or honey as its sweeteners. The baklava was among the most popular snacks in the Ottoman Empire. Today, due to the popularity of this dish, countries such as Greece, Turkey and other Middle Eastern nations all make the claim that the baklava originated in their country. But as for me, I’m just glad that such a dish exists because life would be boring without it.
Falafel is a Middle Eastern food with a long history in Arab countries, particularly in Libya and Egypt, but these days it is a common dish in the Mediterranean diet. The falafel is made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both which is deep-fried and shaped like a patty or a ball. The reason why the falafel is so delicious is because it is topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and sprinkled with sauces that are based on tahini.
Couscous is a famous dish from North Africa about 0.12 in or 3mm in size steamed balls made from rushed durum wheat semolina that in most North African customs is served with a stew that requires a spoon on top. This dish is made from semolina flour rolled into tiny balls and then steamed. It's a common misconception that the couscous is a grain when in reality it is actually some sort of pasta. It is a nutritious cuisine that can be eaten as the main course meal, side dish, or even as a snack.
The scientific name of the tomato plant is Solanum lycopersicum and its edible berry is also called by the same name. Despite it being famous across Europe, especially in Italy, as well as in the Mediterrannean, did you know that this plant actually originated in South and Central America? In fact, it was the Aztecs who gave it its name “tomatl,” which the Spaniards called “tomate” and is finally translated in English as the tomato. A great example of how to prepare the tomato and turn it into a super meal is the caprese salad.
No, gelato and ice cream are actually 2 different dessert favorites that people mistake as being similar. The gelato is uniquely an Italian frozen dessert that's been around for decades and is very popular in Italy as well as the entire Mediterranean. Even though it is made from milk and sugar (among other ingredients), the gelato is lower in fat compared to other frozen delights, which makes it a healthier choice. Compared to the American ice cream, gelato is actually creamier, smoother and silkier - it's also more elastic and denser which makes people fall in love with it the first time they try it. Gelato is served warmer than the American ice cream and with this temperature difference, it ensures that your mouth and taste buds will not feel numb and you’d be able to enjoy all the flavors in it.
The Mediterranean diet stands out from the other diet programs, because of its super healthy foods and also the delicious yet healthy wine selection as well. There are well-established scientific facts that say red wine is good for your health and the Mediterranean diet has several red wine selections that you will find pleasurable. From the rosé in Southern France, sangria in Spain, and red wine from Italy, they speak volumes about the beauty of the Mediterranean cuisine’s versatility.
The Mediterranean Diet and your Health
The Mediterranean diet has been known to help reduce risk and prevent diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer's disease and even some cancers. This is the reason why it is highly recommended by most health experts all over the world! In case you haven’t switched to the Mediterranean diet yet, then I suggest you start now and prolong your life by 5 – 20 years more through this diet plan. There is no downside to this and it’s basically and win-win situation for you. Encourage you family and friends to do the same.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- What are the top 5 diet plans in the world?
- Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, The Flexitarian Diet, WW (Weight Watchers) Diet and Mayo Clinic Diet.
- MIND Diet, TLC Diet, Volumetrics Diet, Nordic Diet and Ornish Diet.
- Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet, The Flexitarian Diet, WW (Weight Watchers) Diet and Mayo Clinic Diet.
Interpreting Your Score
If you got 0 correct answers: Not good.
If you got 1 correct answer: Excellent!