Healthy Mediterranean diet recipes are among the most delicious on the planet, filled with fresh produce and whole grains. And a great perk is that many classic dishes are naturally vegan — not veganized — making this group of cuisines perfect for the plant-based diet.
The value of the Mediterranean diet has been borne out by years of research. Numerous studies have shown that the lifestyle and dietary habits of Greeks and Italians, among other regional nationalities, contributes to long life expectancy and low rates of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic disease. The best part is that the ingredients are readily available anywhere, and are especially good way to experience seasonal eating.
Because Mediterranean cuisine encompasses a number of nations, climates, and topographies, it's not always easy to define it in a nutshell. Some of the regions whose cuisine is considered Mediterranean are Italy, Greece, Spain, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, and coastal Egypt and France. Common to these national cuisines is an affinity for olive oil (in fact, the use of olive oil in some regions delivers 40% of daily calories from fat, yet without adverse effect, due to its composition).
The diet is largely plant-based, filled with a profusion of vitamin- and antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fiber grains and legumes, and complex carbohydrate-rich pastas and breads. Garlic is used generously in nearly every region. And every cuisine utilizes plentiful herbs and spices to play up its unique character—from Morocco’s sweet mixes of cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric to Italy’s aromatic herbs—basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and more.
THE MEDITERRANEAN IN YOUR PANTRY
The national cuisines that comprise the Mediterranean diet have many elements in common with one another. Olive oil and garlic lead the way and are characteristic to all the cuisines; vegetables, fruits, grains, breads, legumes, and fresh herbs round out the basic pantry.
Mediterranean Diet Recipes
NORTHERN AFRICA (Morocco, Egypt)
Ingredients: Chickpeas, lentils, nuts, carrots, pumpkins and other squashes, rice, fava beans, dried fruits, sweet spices, flatbreads, mint
Well-known dishes: Couscous, tagine (vegetable stew)—Morocco; foul (fava beans with red lentils), koshary (macaroni with rice and lentils)—Egypt
- Moroccan Lentil and Garbanzo Soup (Harira)
- Moroccan-Style Vegetable Stew (shown above)
- Tagine of Squash and Mushrooms with Chickpeas
Ingredients: Pastas, semolina breads, beans, cornmeal, Arborio rice, artichokes, asparagus, fennel, mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, olives, green leafy vegetables, fresh herbs (parsley, basil, rosemary, and others)
Well-known dishes: Risotto, polenta, minestrone, pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup, shown above), pesto sauce
- Italian Pasta and Bean Soup (shown above)
- Mediterranean Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins
- Pasta with White Bean Sauce and Chard
- Italian-Style Rice and Peas (risi e bisi)
Ingredients: Rice, lentils, olives, eggplant, tomatoes, lemon, spinach, dill
Well-known dishes: Moussaka (eggplant casserole, which can be made meatless), dolmathes (rice-stuffed grape leaves), Greek salad
- Greek Stewed Potatoes, Green Beans, and Zucchini
- Greek-Flavored Lentil Salad with Tofu "Feta"
- Greek-Flavored Spinach and Orzo Soup
MIDDLE EAST (Israel, Lebanon)
Ingredients: Chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), cracked wheat, olives, tomatoes, eggplant, yogurt, flatbreads, fresh fruits (apricots, dates), parsley
Well-known dishes: Hummus (chickpea dip) baba ghanouj (eggplant dip), tabouleh (cracked wheat and parsley salad), jalik (cucumber soup), falafel
- Fattouche Salad
- Baba Ghanouj
- Tabbouli Salad (shown above)
- Baked Falafel with Smoky Tahini Dressing
Ingredients: Peppers (both sweet and hot), potatoes, rice, beans, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, oranges, saffron
Well-known dishes: Piperade (sauteed peppers), paella (rice, vegetables, can certainly be made without the characteristic seafood), Romesco sauce (with hot red peppers)
- Paella Vegetariana
- Spanish Bell Pepper Sauté (Piperade)
- Spanish-Style Rice and Red Beans
- Spanish Chickpea Fritters with Romesco Sauce (shown above)
FRANCE (specifically Provence)
Ingredients: Potatoes, tomatoes, onions, leeks, olives, eggplant, squash, sweet peppers, white beans, fennel, grapes and other fresh and dried fruits, fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, sage, basil, etc.)
Well-known dishes: Ratatouille (vegetable stew), soupe au pistou (vegetable soup with pesto sauce), onion soup, white bean stews
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