Known to be nourishing and light, Mediterranean cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world. In fact, the Mediterranean diet is revered by many experts as the best diet. It's also one of the easiest diets to follow because the food is hearty and filling but not very dense. So if you're looking to ease up on rich and heavy dishes, working more Mediterranean recipes into your meal-planning might be a good route for you and Yummly can help guide you…
Mediterranean food is exactly what it sounds like. It's cuisine based on the traditional food and cooking styles of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea like Turkey, Greece, and Israel. One of the reasons the Mediterranean diet is so popular is because the ingredients are fairly pure and there's little to no restriction on specific types of foods. Many of the dishes are made up of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and rather than red meat, fish and poultry are the main animal proteins. Additionally, the fat used in cooking is mostly olive oil instead of butter which means you're consuming less saturated fat and instead of salt, fresh herbs are used to season food. Not only are the foods pure, but the cooking is fairly simple as well. The meats are typically grilled and there are many different salads to build a meal with. The cooking style is very layered to bring out the best flavors in local foods without being overwhelming.
The food used to make Mediterranean dishes are native to Mediterranean countries. For instance, feta cheese is a brined sheep's milk cheese that originated in Greece, so you might find a Greek salad recipe that includes tomatoes, feta, and kalamata olives, which are grown in Greece. Or for a Lebanese meal, alongside tabbouleh and baba ghanoush, you might get a side dish of hummus made from garbanzo beans which are native to Mediterranean and middle eastern countries. Part of why the meals are so fresh is because they rely on the land around them. The shorter the distance the food travels, the fewer preservatives it needs to survive the journey. That said, the United States grows many of these items so we can easily get most of the fresh ingredients.
Vegan Mediterranean Recipes
It's easy to adapt Mediterranean recipes for a vegan diet because of the use of olive oil and the focus on fruits and vegetables. There isn't a lot of tofu, in use, but you can get protein from the nuts and legumes.
A lot of people as what nuts you can eat on the Mediterranean diet or if peanut butter is allowed on the Mediterranean diet. The short and the long answer is 'yes, you can eat peanut butter, tree nuts, and beans on the Mediterranean diet' because unlike most popular diets like keto and paleo, it's not very restrictive, rather, it's a diet that guides you toward healthy food. In fact, one of the most popular Mediterranean desserts -- baklava -- is packed with nuts. It's typically made with walnuts, cinnamon, and honey all layered in sheets of phyllo dough. Pistachios are very common in Turkish and Italian cuisine. All that indicates you can eat tree nuts and legumes -- so don't feel bad if you're craving almond bark, a PB&J or you want to make a bean salad you'll be getting your protein to support the vegan diet as well as getting Mediterranean flavors.
More good news about the Mediterranean diet is that you can eat potatoes and most other fruits and vegetables. In fact, the emphasis is on vegetables and lean proteins with very simple preparation. For a weeknight dinner, you might try a one pan meal of lemon chicken with roasted potatoes and fresh green beans. Serve that with a side of yogurt sauce and quinoa salad and you have a light yet substantial meal. There are no restrictions on fruit, but if you want authentic Mediterranean dishes made with fruit, figs, pomegranate, grapes, and apricots are what you want to look for. Dried apricots are very common in Mediterranean cuisine, but apricot preserves and apricot butter with toast go well with honey and Greek yogurt for breakfast. If you want to work fruit into lunch and dinner, pomegranate provides a sweet component to couscous, salsa, or guacamole. For a main dish, you could even use pomegranate molasses in a glaze for baked chicken.
Mediterranean cuisine includes most meat and poultry. You might find gyro and shawarma on Mediterranean menus, which are made with a mix of meats like beef, lamb, and chicken. Those were derived from Turkey's doner kebab, and in meatball form, they're called kofte -- which are easy to make at home. A popular dishe in Lebanese cuisine is kibbeh, which is made of bulgur mixed with meat and then pan fried. However, it might be easier to make chicken thighs braised in white wine with Mediterranean flavors like parsley, thyme, or oregano.
Fish is one of the more appealing items on the Mediterranean menu because it's light, low-calorie and low-fat. It can be smothered in a Mediterranean fish bake, grilled, or made en papillote, which is basically steaming it in an envelope.
Shrimp is one of the notable components of Mediterranean food. Paella is one of the more popular dishes shrimp is served in, you can also grill it to serve alongside salads or mix it into pasta dishes.
Squash is not a Mediterranean vegetable -- it's native to the new world -- but it can easily be adapted for Mediterranean dishes. Stuff acorn squash with couscous, feta cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes with a squeeze of lemon juice for a light but satisfying meal, or use spaghetti squash in lieu of noodles for a low-carb pasta salad.
Rice is a major component of Mediterranean cuisine -- most of the cultures and communities have a special way of making their own rice. Valencia, Spain is known as the birthplace of paella. If that's what you're after but don't want to bother with the seafood, try brown rice seasoned with saffron for a light meal with Spanish flair, but there are many different ways to make Mediterranean rice.
Since Mediterranean cuisine doesn't prohibit anything, you'll find most grains in any given meal. Pasta and flatbreads are common along with rice dishes. There are also items you might want to try that are similar to pasta like Israeli couscous mixed with goat cheese, tomatoes, and red onion for a side to go with grilled chicken breasts and a white bean salad. You can even serve it all with a side of crusty bread -- which is uncommon for other diets. If you want to eat authentic bread, try a lavash. Lavash is a common Middle Eastern flatbread. It can be soft and seasoned with sesame for wraps or they can be hard like a cracker for dipping in hummus or a roasted red pepper and olive tapenade.
What you won't see a lot of are heavy cream sauces which keeps the meals light, however, you might see sprinklings of parmesan cheese or crumbled feta to finish dishes. You might also find more dairy in Mediterranean desserts like Greek galatopita (milk pie) or Lebanese kanafeh, or for breakfast, labneh or Greek yogurt and honey accompanied by fruit is common. Cooking cheese is also common. Pan fried feta makes an amazing side for a melange of salads, but halloumi is widely known as a grilling cheese. Like feta, it's a brined cheese, but it's not as crumbly so when it's served warm, it slices easily -- it's not like meat, but it can easily replace meat if you're building a vegetarian meal.
Mediterranean cuisine combines many different elements to create healthy meals just about anyone can enjoy. Whether you are just getting started on the Mediterranean diet or you want to incorporate fresh flavors into your meals, you can find a recipe to suit you on Yummly.