Mediterranean food, by definition, is a simple cuisine. What makes it so beautiful is the use of fresh ingredients that are usually locally sourced to create a stunning array of flavors, vivacious menus, and diverse combinations. Herbs are a huge part of why this cuisine is so special and they're used quite heavily in many dishes. The freshest, purest olive oil is put to good use while acids such as vinegar and citrus are used to brighten and enforce the flavors in certain dishes.
In short, Mediterranean cuisine could be described as a rainbow of fresh flavors, vegetables, and fish, all coming together to produce something that makes you feel good from the inside out. Each flavor is reminiscent of an ocean overlook in Greece or a sunset in Turkey, helping to bring both culture and tradition into a cuisine that has existed for centuries. Diving into these dishes isn't just to satisfy hunger, it's to provide an experience like no other.
In Mediterranean cooking, feta can be paired with almost anything. It's often used as an appetizer as well after being marinated in olive oil and herbs, then served along with pita bread for dipping.
However, it's also used in salads, dips, and even paired with roasted zucchini. This tangy, salty cheese is the go-to in Mediterranean cuisine and pairs well with most dishes, thanks to its versatility. It can be made with either sheep's, goat's, or cow's milk, each one adding a different level of tang and depth to its flavor.
This crowd favorite is one of the most popular dishes to come out of Mediterranean cooking and it's easy to see why. A combination of onions, feta, and spinach are combined with eggs to create a creamy, hearty filling for phyllo dough, which is layered to create a crispy, satisfying meal.
It's often seen as an appetizer as well with miniature versions of this spinach pie preceding larger meals or a salad.
This Levantine dish is commonly served as an appetizer or small plate prior to the dinner meal and is a great way to start off any course.
The dish itself, much like others in this cuisine, is simple, consisting of cooked eggplant, tahini, garlic, local spices, and occasionally yogurt. When blended together, it has a mild, savory flavor with hints of eggplant and a bit of nuttiness and creaminess from the tahini.
Traditionally, paella is made with a pan specifically suited to the job as well as ingredients, such as fresh seafood, which come from Spain. However, there are plenty of recipes that include variations and can be made anywhere in the world, with most of them containing any combination of chorizo, shrimp, lobster, mussels, and chicken.
It's seen commonly throughout Spain and is somewhat of a national dish, exuding all the traditional flavors that the country is known for.
Ratatouille gained even more worldwide attention when the Pixar movie sharing the same name was released. However, this dish has strong roots in France, specifically hailing from Nice, where it was once a peasant dish.
It's commonly made in the summer and makes good use of vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and garlic, and the most prominent herbs are marjoram, basil, and fennel. Together, these stewed vegetables meld together to create a dish that's not unlike what's seen in Ratatouille and conjures up the same comforting flavors.
Falafel has popped up all over the Middle East over the last few centuries and now, it's also a popular food in the Mediterranean.
It's well-known for its place in vegetarian and vegan lifestyles but it's a great dish all around; make with cooked chickpeas or fava beans, or, something, a combination of the two, it's then breaded and fried to create a satisfying and protein-filled snack. It's often served with a side of tzatziki for dipping, as well, and garnished with fresh herbs.
No trip through the Mediterranean would be complete without diving into one of the most well-known desserts from the region. The same phyllo dough that goes into spanakopita can be used for sweet purposes as well, as it is in this layered dessert.
In between each layer, a generous amount of either syrup or honey is spread throughout, and then is topped with chopped nuts, such as pistacios. Interestingly, each region across the Mediterranean has its own twist on baklava recipes, making it unique to the country it's found in.