Fragrant Spanish paella, strewn with seafood and sausage. Healthy Moroccan couscous, loaded with fresh vegetables. Garlicky Italian puttanesca sauce, studded with flavorful anchovies and capers.
What knits these seemingly disparate foods and cultures together? In a word: the olive. The food of the Mediterranean is united by the fruit of the olive tree, and the oil that is the basis of so many of the region's culinary specialties.
This is healthy cooking, with an emphasis on vegetables and grains, rather than meat, and on such straightforward, flavor-building techniques as roasting and braising. Then, too, there's a wine-friendly, "small plate" tradition of dining in the region—from Spanish tapas and Italian antipasti to Greek mezze—that's totally in tune with the way many people want to eat nowadays.
Across the entire Med Rim region, there exists a huge trove of different foods and flavors to explore, from the delicate, fragrant cuisine of Morocco to the hearty, rustic specialties of Southern France and Portugal—enough menu variety to keep customer interest high for years to come.
Some of the next wave Mediterranean specialties to start experimenting with now:
Portugal—Seafood stews; pork with clams; caldo verde (a hearty kale-and-potato soup with sausage); salt cod
Spain—Paella; gazpacho; tapas; tortilla (a kind of baked omelet); flan
Provence and Southern France - Piperade and ratatouille (savory vegetable stews); salad Nicoise; bouillabaisse (seafood stew); pissaladiere (similar to pizza)
Italy—Polenta; caponata (eggplant relish); marinated tuna and swordfish; gnocchi (potato or semolina dumplings); bagna cauda ("hot bath" of anchovies and olive oil, as a vegetable dip or dressing); cannoli and cassata (a rich Sicilian dessert)
Greece—Avgolemono (egg, rice and lemon soup); souvlaki (skewered meat); moussaka (eggplant casserole) and pastitsio (baked pasta); mezze (dips and other nibbles); baklava
Middle East (Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt)—kibbeh (cracked wheat, often stuffed with lamb); foul (stewed fava beans); tabbouleh (cracked wheat salad); fattoush (pita bread salad); kebabs
Morocco—Couscous; mezze; kefte (meatballs); flatbreads; tagines (meat and vegetable stews); pastilla (a fragrant pie filled with poultry and raisins)