The Mediterranean Flavor Profile

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Obviously, food gives us nourishment – the fuel we need to function, but it’s so much more than that. If we explore the foods we encounter through a lens of culture, time, and place, we begin to understand how regional characteristics have shaped the recipes of any given area.

Mediterranean cuisine is very popular, and it’s really no surprise considering the visual allure and exquisite flavors. When you add in the fact that it’s also good for you, Mediterranean fare becomes a dietary superhero of sorts. Built around fresh, wholesome fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seafood, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, Mediterranean food is healthy enough to be recommended to many people as a good diet for heart health.

Mediterranean cuisine is rooted near the Mediterranean Sea where olive trees grow in abundance. Olive oil, arguably the most well-recognized and popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, is produced, distributed, and exported worldwide there.

Olive oil works well in all kinds of foods, infusing bold and distinct flavor into appetizers, salads, pastas, and other dishes. Because it’s free of unhealthy trans fats and full of flavor, olive oil, used in Mediterranean dishes and found in many of the menu selections at Paymon’s, offers diners a healthy taste of what people near the Mediterranean Sea eat daily.

Thanks to the liberal use of rich spices, the Mediterranean fare is distinctive and flavorful. Here are just a few 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.

Bay Leaves: Bay originates in the Mediterranean area, where in ancient times it was a symbol of achievement. Strongly flavored, just a leaf or two will usually be enough.

Cardamom: Mediterranean cooks crush the pods to release the warm flavor and aroma of this spicy, sharp, and sweet seasoning.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon adds a warm spiciness to Mediterranean soups, condiments, glazes, desserts, and drinks.

Garlic: Garlic is a versatile seasoning that complements most any savory dish. You’ll find garlic in Mediterranean sauces, stews, soups, salad dressings, casseroles, breads, and grain dishes.

Mint: Peppermint and spearmint provide a fresh flavor in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Mint is added to salads, stews, soups, and stuffings.

Nutmeg: Mediterranean cooks grate the whole nutmeg for a strong, cinnamon/nutty flavor in sweets and savories.

Oregano: Oregano grows wild throughout the Mediterranean, where it’s a cooking staple. You’ll find it in Greek and Italian dishes, especially in tomato-based recipes. Mediterranean oregano is also used to marinate meats and seafood before grilling and to season olives, cheeses, vegetables (especially eggplant), egg dishes, grains, breads, casseroles, meats, poultry, and salads.

Parsley: Parsley is used in sauces, soups, meat marinades, dressings, salads, casseroles, stuffings, omelets, soft cheeses, and potato dishes.

Sage: A Mediterranean spice in the mint family, sage has a pungent, slightly bitter/sweet taste and an herbal fragrance.

Thyme: Native to the Mediterranean, this aromatic, pungent seasoning has an herbal, minty flavor and scent. It’s used in many savory recipes and especially with tomatoes and in slow-cooked dishes like soups and sauces.

Turmeric: Mediterranean cooks use turmeric to add a beautiful yellow color, warm, mild aroma, and gingery spice to many recipes.

Mediterranean cuisine, and the ingredients found in the Mediterranean Diet are based on a wide variety of food items found in various regions of the Mediterranean. Paymon’s Mediterranean Café always offers flavorful, fresh meals with bold and tasty flavor profiles. Our many “craveable” menu items will bring you back again and again.