Imagine yourself biting into a gyro. First, your teeth touch that soft pita bread followed by some crispy lettuce and juicy tomatoes. You strike gold as you bite into the meat and all of the spices and flavors make your taste buds jump. I don’t know about you, but this is the feeling I get every time I eat Mediterranean food.
Mediterranean food is undoubtedly irresistible, but with such a wide array of dishes and ingredients, it's hard to differentiate between all the different items. This Mediterranean food guide lead you through the different flavors and foods — along this journey you will find lots of butter, many veggies and meats, and of course, some great carbs.
The famous gyro (pronounced YEE-roh) is the ultimate trifecta of salty, greasy, and delicious. The meat used in a gyro is cooked on a special rotisserie that is constantly turning and roasting chicken, lamb, or beef. To serve, you use a special shaver to shave the meat, going from top to bottom.
Sure, some choose to eat the meat on its own, but those who know what's up eat the sandwich in its entirety — the meat is topped with tomatoes, onions, tzatziki (and at times, French fries) and is placed inside a warm, toasted pita.
2. Hummus/Baba Ganoush
Hummus actually means “chickpea” in Arabic. This dip came to life because of the mass cultivation of chickpeas in the Mediterranean, and it has since become a worldwide phenomenon. This dip’s main ingredient is, you guessed it, a chickpea. A basic hummus consists of mashed chickpeas, tahini (a ground paste made from sesame seeds), olive oil, and spices, but you can alter it by adding other ingredients or spices. You can learn how to make it with five ingredients here. Baba ganoush is similar, but it uses eggplants as the base instead of chickpeas.
Yes, a kabob and kebab are the same thing — kabob is just the North American way of spelling kebab. A kebab is skewered pieces of well-seasoned meat and veggies that are grilled to perfection. While the most traditional meat of choice is lamb, it is common to use others including chicken, beef, ground beef, and even fish. As always, it's often served in a warm pita with grilled veggies.
The word dolma comes from a Turkish word meaning "to be stuffed." A dolma is a stuffed vegetable — the most common kind of dolma are stuffed grape leaves, but eggplants, bell peppers, and tomatoes are popular as well. The fillings are normally rice or meat-based, seasoned with potent spices and onions, and a lot of olive oil.
Choreg is a braided sweet bread. If Paula Deen had to choose a favorite Mediterranean food, it'd probably be choreg because it's made with a LOT of butter. It also has a dry texture and is normally topped with sesame seeds. My favorite way to eat it is fresh out of the oven, when its sweet, subtle flavor is enhanced. Oh, and obviously, I always add more butter to it.
Probably the most famous dessert from the Mediterranean region, baklava comes in many ways, shapes and forms. The traditional baklava is a walnut mixture layered between phyllo dough that has been soaked with lots of butter, and topped with a homemade syrup. You can change it up by using different nuts, like pistachios, altering the traditional triangular shape, or omitting the syrup (but where's the fun in that). Learn how to make your own here.
Falafel is perfect for vegetarians. But just because they're made from veggies doesn't mean they are healthy — falafel is made from chickpeas, onions, herbs, and spices that are processed together and fried. The frying creates a crispy outside while maintaining a soft inside. As kids, who wanted veggies? Well, if it's deep-fried and comes from the Mediterranean, I sure wouldn't have minded them. Learn how to make a gluten-free, baked alternative here.
Pilaf is a rice that is fried and cooked in a spiced broth. You can enhance the flavor further by adding spices, pieces of meat, or adding nuts or dried fruit. There are many variations on how to cook the pilaf, but my favorite is the one my family has been doing for their entire life — fry up some vermicelli pasta and then toss in the rice and broth.
If you don't know what pita bread is, I'm judging you a little. A thin bread that has a pocket in the middle, pita bread is usually served warm in a majority of Mediterranean restaurants, and it's easy to see why — it can be used as an on-the-go sandwich, to wrap meat, to dip in hummus, or (my favorite way) eaten on its own.
Are you an omnivore? Do you love pizza? Enter lahmajoun. Lahmajoun is a thin dough topped with a light layer of ground beef, bell peppers, onions, and of course, Mediterranean spices. To add some freshness, it's topped with a squeeze of lemon.
Moussaka is basically a Mediterranean lasagna. It's a Greek oven-baked dish that consists of layers of vegetables and meat and is topped with béchamel sauce. It starts with a layer of eggplants (or potatoes), followed by a layer of ground beef with lots of tomatoes, onions, spices, and red wine, followed by another layer of eggplants, and finished off with béchamel sauce and cheese.
Cheese — undoubtedly one of mankind's greatest creations. Mediterranean culture puts it to good use in spanakopita and boreg. Both foods consist of phyllo dough that is soaked in butter that's used to layer (or wrap) an irresistible, cheesy filling. While the spanakopita includes spinach in the filling, the boreg does not. I don't allow myself to try one, because eating just one is impossible.
Tabouleh is a salad made with lots of parsley, bulgur grain, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, lemon juice, and olive oil — it's great as a side salad to many Greek dishes. Personally, I love it because it combines many different textures, has an earthy, yet tangy flavor, and is extremely fresh.
Tzatziki is a Greek yogurt-based sauce that is combined with cucumber, dill, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice to use as a refreshing dip for pita bread. It's also served with a majority of the foods mentioned above — learn how to make it here.