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The Flavors of the Mediterranean Coast

The Mediterranean Sea is actually part of the Atlantic Ocean; a total of 21 countries have a coastline on the Mediterranean. However, only a few truly epitomize the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. Having a decent understanding of these countries and their cooking styles can help you have a better appreciation for this way of life.

The recipes in this book are inspired by Mediterranean cooking — specifically, the areas of southern Italy, Greece, Morocco, and Spain. Although you may see some of the same ingredients in many recipes, the flavors used in different countries or regions create entirely different dishes. For example, if you’ve eaten both Italian and Greek meatballs, you know that the two varieties sure don’t taste the same.

Common Mediterranean Flavors by Region
Region Commonly Used Ingredients Overall Cuisine Flavor
Southern Italy Anchovies, balsamic vinegar, basil, bay leaf, capers, garlic, mozzarella cheese, olive oil, oregano, parsley, peppers, pine nuts, mushrooms, prosciutto, rosemary, sage, thyme, tomatoes Italian food is rich and savory, with strongly flavored ingredients. Look for tomato-based sauces and even an occasional kick of spicy heat.
Greece Basil, cucumbers, dill, fennel, feta cheese, garlic, honey, lemon, mint, olive oil, oregano, yogurt Greek cooking runs the gamut from tangy with citrus accents to savory. Ingredients such as feta cheese add a strong, bold flavor, while yogurt helps provide a creamy texture and soft flavor.
Morocco Cinnamon, cumin, dried fruits, ginger, lemon, mint, paprika, parsley, pepper, saffron, turmeric Moroccan cooking uses exotic flavors that encompass both sweet and savory, often in one dish. The food has strong flavors but isn’t necessarily spicy.
Spain Almonds, anchovies, cheeses (from goats, cows, and sheep), garlic, ham, honey, olive oil, onions, oregano, nuts, paprika, rosemary, saffron, thyme Regardless of what part of Spain you’re in, you can always count on garlic and olive oil setting the stage for a flavorful dish. Spanish dishes are often inspired by Arabic and Roman cuisine with emphasis on fresh seafood. You often find combinations of savory and sweet flavors, such as a seafood stew using sweet paprika.
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