The Basics of Traditional Mediterranean Food

The “Mediterranean Diet” has been front page health news for the past few years, with doctors, health blogs, and morning shows proclaiming the virtues of traditional Mediterranean food. Heck, even Harvard says the Mediterranean diet is “effective at warding off heart attack, stroke, and premature death.”

Which is all wonderful, except…what exactly is Mediterranean food?

The Mediterranean is Crowded

Depending who you ask, the Mediterranean consists of roughly 23 countries, with obvious inclusions like Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey, along with lesser known Mediterranean border states like Albania, Slovenia, Malta, and Algeria. Each nation brings millennia of culture, tastes, and unique ingredients to the table (literally) so deciding on any one “authentic” Mediterranean diet is difficult. However, despite the hundreds of recipes a few unifying themes and food trends tie this complex region together throughout the centuries.

Mediterranean Food: The Basics

Spreads, Sauces, and Dips, Oh My!
No matter where it’s from, the one thing Mediterranean food has in common is that you’re going to eat a lot of it with your hands. Sauces, dips, pastes, and spreads—like tahini, shakshuka, and hummus—are the cornerstone of practically every Mediterranean meal, and beg to be enjoyed with practically everything.

Hummus for instance—a simple spread made from chickpeas, lemons, garlic, and tahini—is one of the oldest foods on the planet, dating back nearly 10,000 years. You’ll find it in sandwiches, on wraps, or scooped up with pita bread (or just your finger; we won’t tell) everywhere from Spain to Lebanon.

Typically mild, Mediterranean food derives most of its flavor from mixing and matching spreads and sauces to customize each bite to your taste.

Pita Bread
As good as they are, you can’t live on Mediterranean sauces alone—you need something to spread them on! Luckily, pita bread is the delicious foundation for most Mediterranean meals.

Literally translated as “pie” or “cake” in Greek, pita bread can be found on tables from North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. Rich in energy—like most ancient food stuffs—pita bread forms the light fluffy base for chicken shawa wraps, baked falafel, and veggie gyros, not to mention twists on delicious classics like labneh and zaatar.

Nibble pita on it’s own, dip it into tzatziki, or pile it high with marinated beef and greens. No matter where you go, pita bread is a fundamental part of Mediterranean cuisine.

Salads: More than Just Dressing
The Mediterranean cuisine isn’t all meat and bread—far from it. In fact, a large portion of the recommended “Mediterranean Diet” consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, ancient grains, and of course greens.

Kale, spinach, and other leafy greens like arugula form the base of most Mediterranean style salads. What typically sets Mediterranean salads apart from their American brethren is the rich blend of fruits, veggies, and nuts. Ingredients like walnuts, mint, olives, tomatoes, raisins, and feta are common Mediterranean salad staples.

At Nanoosh we even fuse traditional Mediterranean style salads with fresh organic ingredients from other parts of the world—like quinoa—to bring the health benefits of the Mediterranean into the 21st century.

It’s no coincidence that Mediterranean food is named after the massive sea that made up the heart of the Ancient world. Cultures from the Greeks to Egyptians harvested fish, seafood, and even the salt itself from the surf to flavor and prepare their meals.

Seafood and fresh fish are important parts of any Mediterranean diet, and the same Harvard study found what millions of Mediterranean grandmothers know to be true—enjoy fresh fish at least twice a week for health benefits that will last for decades.

The Original Melting Pot

The Mediterranean has been a rich melting pot of cultures, ingredients, flavors, and tastes since man first began to sail along its ancient shores. Taste the fusion of old and new at Nanoosh and embrace the delicious health benefits of one of the most enduring diets on earth.