The Roots of Mediterranean Cuisine
Mediterranean Cuisine includes the cuisines of all the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea. The countries are Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco.
French and Italian foods are so well known in America. It’s almost like we don’t think of them as the Mediterranean anymore. Even though they are, especially Italy, which as a peninsula that is virtually surrounded by the Mediterranean. Though French and Italian foods and to a lesser extent Greek food have carved out distinct niches of Mediterranean cuisines. Tunisian, Turkish, Lebanese, Israeli, Morrocan, Egyptian, Spanish cuisine is also all Mediterranean cuisine.
At one point the Turkish based Ottoman Empire also ruled all the Mediterranean. They also ruled South and East of Greece which left a common cultural influence. Spain was also ruled for about 700 years by the Moors, a name for peoples of North Africa and the Middle East.
Although we call it Mediterranean cuisine or diet, there is a difference between the different countries and kitchens of the Mediterranean. Therefore, each one has it’s own unique dishes and flavors. However, they all use similar ingredients that you can use when we are making low carb Mediterranean food at home.
Common Mediterranean Ingredients
Olives & Olive Oil
We can’t discuss the Mediterranean without discussing the ingredients that make it famous: that is olives and olive oil. Olive oil is a foundation for cooking, therefore, adding a bright flavor to sautés and enhancing fresh sauces that top everything from pasta to grilled fish. Therefore, olives make for delectable, savory appetizers or all-day snacks. Each area also has distinctive olives and olive oils to share. Therefore, olives have many shapes. From the rounded, nutty flavors of Spain to the potent, herbaceous olive oils of Greece.
You can also read more on the health benefits of consuming olive oil on a regular basis.
The Mediterranean cooks around the world are also always looking to use a lot of lemons from zest to juice. Lemons are also used heavily in the Eastern Mediterranean for dressings and marinades. In the Southern European region, where dishes may be a little richer than their coastal counterparts, you’ll find lemon as a finisher for roasted meats like pork and lamb combined with capers in pasta dishes. Therefore, a combination of lemon, olive oil, and high-quality salt makes a wonderful super healthy salad dressing.
Fresh yogurt can be used as a dipping sauce for spicy kebabs in the classic gyro condiment, tzatziki, made with yogurt, fresh garlic and cucumber, a drink (especially at the Turkish kitchen) and more. Tart and refreshing, it also provides a cooling element for heavily spiced grilled meats. Yogurt is not only delicious it has also many health benefits.
The proximity of the Mediterranean Sea to this region means that the Mediterranean diet also features fresh seafood! From grilled fish to seafood, also including the famous Greek or Spanish Polpo which is the octopus. Therefore, this is a perfect healthy addition to the low carb Mediterranean diet.
An incredibly versatile protein. Also, chickpeas are used in many forms in Mediterranean cuisine. Also, common eaters see this legume most often in hummus, the Eastern Mediterranean dip made with chickpeas, tahini, lemon, garlic, and other spices. When not in a spread, chickpeas can also be found roasted with vegetables like eggplant and tomato to accompany grilled meats. The flavor and texture – creamy when boiled, crispy when baked or fried makes it ideal for salads and main dishes alike.
Famous Mediterranean Recipes and low carb alternatives
Italian food is one of the most popular and therefore, widely adopted cuisines in the world. Italians believe in simplicity and respect for good produce so some of the most beloved dishes of Italians comprise just a few simple ingredients, carefully selected and served at their prime.
Italian recipes include:
Amaranth Mushroom Risotto
This recipe is a great fusion of the famous Italian dish and also healthier. Also, amaranth is really easy to prepare. Therefore, the Amaranth Mushroom Risotto is a perfect addition to chicken or fish. Click here for the full recipe
Italian Frittata With Spinach and Chorizo
This Italian Frittata With Spinach Onion and Chorizo is also super easy to throw together and reheats well all week long. Also, it’s delicious cold, making it perfect for back to school or for a quick low carb meal on the go between work and the gym. Click here for full recipe.
Gluten Free Puttanesca Pasta
This is also an updated version of the famous Puttanesca pasta only gluten-free. This fusion puttanesca pasta can easily also be made as a low carb dish for the keto fans. Also, you can simply replace the mung been fettuccine with zucchini zoodles. Click here for full recipe.
Zoodles Alla Puttanesca
This Zoodles Alla Puttanesca is a great idea for a warm salad that makes a completely low carb meal dish. Therefore, it’s a wonderful way to add up on veggies on your day to day routine. Click here for full recipe.
Spanish food is also low in fat, colorful, delicious and adaptable. It’s also very easy to cook, as most Spanish recipes rely on good quality ingredients, cooked simply to bring out the natural flavors in the food. Therefore, the Spanish don’t smother their food in sauces – they have complete confidence that the ingredients will speak for themselves. Popular Spanish recipes are:
- Tortilla Espanola
- Gazpacho or salmorejo
- Pisto – Spanish ratatouille
- Cured meats – jamon, chorizo, salchichón
- Pulpo a la gallega
Stir-fry Shrimp with Garlic and Anchovies
Shrimp with Garlic and Anchovies, what a wonderful combination. It’s also the perfect low-carb dish that can be severed as an appetizer, main dish and even in a cocktail party. Click here for full recipe
Other low-carb alternatives are:
Traditional French food also relies on simple combinations. This also enhances the rich, natural flavors of basic ingredients. Therefore, many French chefs have earned international acclaim for turning French food into haute cuisine and influencing the gastronomic scene worldwide. Food in France has become such an integral part of French culture that it was also added to UNESCO’s world list of intangible cultural heritage in 2010. Traditional French recipes are:
- Crème Brûlée
Avocado Mousse Chocolate
I love the avocado mousse chocolate. Also, most importantly is that the kids love this too. This is also a real substitute and a real healthy dessert choice. It’s also super easy to make the avocado mousse chocolate. Click here for full recipe.
Other low-carb alternatives are:
From the ancient times till today, the culinary tradition was one of the strongest elements of the Greek culture. In the antiquity, bread, wine, and olive oil were the three main things to definitely have on the table during the meal time. Over centuries, the recipes in Greece also evolved and were greatly influenced by other cultures. Some of the most famous Greek recipes are:
- Boiled Leafy Greens (Horta Vrasta)
- Chicken & Lemon Rice Soup (Kotosoupa Avgolemono)
- Chickpea Soup (Revithosoupa)
- Creamy Cheesy Baked Pasta with Meat (Pastitsio or Pasticcio)
- Custard-Filled Phyllo Pastry (Galaktoboureko)
- Fried Greek Cheese (Saganaki)
Low Carb Greek Style Meatballs
Add a Mediterranean twist to your plate and give this traditional Low Carb Greek Style Meatballs recipe a try. This is also a Greek twist on the Italian classic, your family will love these flavor-packed meatballs. Click here for full recipe
Okra in Tomatoes Sauce
This recipe made with small whole okra, fresh or canned tomatoes, and onion. It is also a simple Greek vegetarian dish that will work well as a side or as a light entrée. Click here for full recipe.
Mediterranean Greek Chicken in Yogurt and Lemon Marinade
This Greek chicken in yogurt and Lemon Marinade is another fabulous recipe. The mix of chicken with yogurt is a classic Greek recipe. The lemon adds a great taste, especially for the lemon lovers. Click here for full recipe.
Israel’s food has its roots in both Jewish and Arab cuisine. However, there is much more to this cuisine than where it began. The impact of Jewish immigration is paramount, and also is a reflection of the many different countries where the Jews have lived and the recipes they have developed during their wandering. To sum up, influences from the Mediterranean, Germany, Spain, and the Middle East all form part of the cuisine. Famous Israeli Recipes are:
- Israeli couscous
Shakshuka with Merguez
The Shakshuka is a staple of the Israeli kitchen and therefore, you can find it in almost every Mediterranean cuisine. It’s taking America and the world by storm lately. It is also a custom to eat this for breakfast or dinner. Click here for full recipe
Low Carb Hummus (Cauliflower)
Hummus, this Mediterranean healthy vegan fast food dish, which is also now popular all over America. This dish is also a low carb vegan twist to the original recipe. We replaced the chickpeas with mashed cauliflower, therefore, making it healthier. Click here for full recipe.
Mediterranean Israeli Salad With Avocado in Olive Oil and Lemon Dressing
Israel/Arabic Salad is a Tasty Nutrient Dish. You should also consider adding it to your menu on a daily Basis. This salad contains avocados which also
has a long list of health benefits with its unsaturated fats and nutrients that are known to help naturally lower LDL and also raise your good HDL cholesterol. Click here for full recipe.
Mediterranean Shrimp Veggies Low Carb
A combination of all the good in the world fresh vegetables and also shrimps. It’s so delicious and easy to make. Therefore, you should try this recipe and you’ll feel like you’re on the beach in Mykonos or Tel Aviv enjoying the Mediterranean flavors. Click here for full recipe.
You can find a great variety of mouth-watering dishes in Turkish cuisine, which is also the heritage of Ottoman cuisine. It is also the mixture and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Therefore, it is impossible to fit Turkish cuisine into a short list. However, these are some of the most famous Turkish recipes:
Syrian food has also been shaped by centuries of trade, migration, and invasion. Therefore, the Jewish, Assyrian, Alawite, Turkish, Armenian, Palestinian, Greek, Arab, and Yazidi peoples have all influenced the development of Syrian cuisine, and these diverse influences make for great dishes. Some of the most famous Syrian recipes are:
- Kebab Halabi
- Vine Leaves
The Egyptian cuisine is not very fancy; it is also not as elaborate as French or Italian cuisine and also not as heavy as some of the food in the Arabian Gulf, it also doesn’t rely on a massive amount of spices. It is also very simple, and this simplicity is what makes it very tasty. A lot of the food on the menu relies heavily on vegetables and legumes rather than meats. Some of the famous recipes are:
- Kabab wa kofta (Grilled meats)
- SugoqwaKibdahIskandarani (Alexandrian Sausages and Liver)
- Hawawshi (Egyptian meat pie)
The cuisine of Algeria is influenced by Algeria’s interactions and exchanges with other cultures and also other nations over the centuries. Therefore, Algerian cuisine is typically a mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Mediterranean cuisines with slight European. Famous Algerian recipes are:
- Makroud El Louse
- Couscous Aux Sept Légumes
- Khoubz, Or Khubz, Araby
The history of Libya also has had an impact on shaping its traditional food, starting with its indigenous population “Tamazight” to the different rulers, travelers, and neighbors. Which also all had their great influence. The geographical diversity also had a role in enriching the culture and tradition of Libyan food. Famous Libyan recipes are:
- SharbaLibiya (Libyan Soup)
- Bureek (Turnovers)
- Hassaa (Gravy)
- Zemmeeta (Desert Charter’s Cereal)
- Magrood (Date-Filled Cookies)
- Ghreyba (Butter Cookies)
- Mhalbiya (Rice Pudding)
Tunisian cuisine is also typically the Mediterranean cuisine. Therefore, it’s made up of vegetables, cereals, legumes, lamb, chicken or beef, as well as a plethora of aromatic spices and herbs. Also generous amounts of olive oil. Famous Tunisian recipes are:
- Tunisian Couscous
- Salad Mechouia
- Tunisian Salad
- Lamb a la Gargoulette
- Tunisian Tajine
Moroccan cuisine is influenced by Morocco’s interactions and exchanges with other cultures and also several other nations over the centuries. Moroccan cuisine is. therefore, typically a mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Mediterranean cuisines with slight European and sub-Saharan influences. Popular Moroccan recipe are:
- Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives
- Lamb or Beef with Prunes
- Kefta Meatball Tagine
Moroccan Chard Leaves
The Moroccan Chard Leaves is one of my favorite side dishes. Every time I cook this green dish, I’m surprised by all the flavors blasting in my mouth. This is exactly what I love about the Mediterranean kitchen and especially the Moroccan kitchen. Click here for full recipe.
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