A visual delight, exquisitely delicious, and good for you—it's no wonder that Mediterranean cuisine is so popular. In fact, Mediterranean fare is healthful enough to have inspired a wealth of scientific research. Mediterranean cuisine is built around fresh, wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains and breads, legumes, seafood, nuts and seeds and olive oil. Because we're talking about an area that spans the Mediterranean Sea -- including Greece, Spain, Southern Italy and Turkey -- there are a wide variety of dishes, influenced by everything from European pastas and wines to Middle Eastern yogurts and flatbreads.
Try our classic Mediterranean recipes here.
Essentials Spices for Mediterranean Cooking
Thanks to the liberal use of rich, quality spices, virtually all Mediterranean fare is distinctive and flavorful. Here are some of the seasonings most commonly used:
Allspice: A single spice that imparts the warm flavor and rich aroma of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, allspice is also known in Mediterranean cooking as myrtle pepper. (It's a member of the myrtle family.) You'll find it whole and ground in recipes for seafood, poultry and meat marinades, as well as in rice dishes and desserts -- like cakes, pies, and puddings. It's also often used in tandem with other spices, especially on vegetables and in stews and stuffings.
Anise Seed: The warm, sweet, licorice-like taste of anise seed is used to flavor both sweet and savory dishes. In Mediterranean cooking you'll find it in seafood recipes, dried fruit and nut mixtures, breads (like biscotti), and desserts.
Annatto Seed: Annatto seed adds a warm, sweet, peppery flavor and a lovely orange color to grains, seafood, vegetables, meats, stews, sauces, and legumes. It's often used in combination with other spices. You'll also find it referred to as roucou, lipstick tree, bija, and achiote.
more essential spices for Mediterranean cooking...
For ease in creating Mediterranean dishes, you'll want to keep a variety of spice blends handy. Good choices include: Bouquet Garni, Fines Herbs, Garlic Pepper, Greek Seasoning, Herbes de Provence, Italian Seasoning, Lemon Pepper, Onion Salt, Peppermill Gourmet Blend, Spaghetti Seasoning, Cheese and Italian Herb Seasoning, Veggie Pepper, and Venetian Blend. Alfredo, Dolmades, Tabbouleh, Falafel.
Garlic gadgets, grinders and graters, pepper mills, mortars and pestles, salad spinner, and colanders.
Chopped button mushrooms and shitake mushrooms are available in convenient, dried form, so you can always have them on hand. To reconstitute, simply soak them in water for an hour. Or simply add directly to a long-cooking soup, stew, or sauce.
Dried tomato flakes
Reconstitute for rich tomato flavor in casseroles, sauces, soups and stews, pasta dishes -- anyplace you want tomato flavor. Soak in water for an hour before using, or add directly to a long-cooking soup, stew, or sauce.