Fresh Fridays 
April 4, 2014 
  Vol. VI, No. 7   
Several small plates of food including olives, meats, and seafood.

The Mediterranean Diet encompasses the culinary traditions of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Not surprisingly, a geographic area spanning more than 2,500 miles from east to west and more than 500 miles from north to south contains an immense diversity of ingredients, flavor combinations, and cooking techniques. But one of the wonderful similarities among culinary traditions of the region -- from  meze in Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East to the tapas of Spain -- is the custom of sharing small plates in the company of friends and family.


Rosamond Man describes the array of textures and flavors found on the meze table in her book The Complete Meze Table: Delicious Food from Greece and the Middle East:

Delicious mezes make their appearance at every café, in every house, on many a street corner. They can be anything from a small nibble of toasted pumpkin, marrow or melon seeds to a whole array of salads, pulse dishes, eggs in a multitude of forms, dips with a myriad spices, vegetables -- stuffed and unstuffed, tiny kebabs, mounds of olives -- from minute and gleaming black to enormous and pale green, speckled with crushed coriander seeds and finely chopped garlic: a mass of colour, tastes and textures but all chosen to complement and offset each other.*


While an array of small plates makes up meze tables in private homes as well as restaurants and cafes in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, Claudia Roden describes how traditional tapas appear only in restaurants and bars in her book The Food of Spain:

The world of tapas is complex. The simplest are the tentempiés -- nibbles such as olives, fried almonds, fried peppers del Padrón, bits of cheese, slices of jamón, sausages. Standard tapas include potato omelets cut into little squares, croquettes, baby eels sizzling with garlic, fried squid, prawns fried with garlic and parsley, small deep-fried fish, grilled blood sausage, chorizo cooked in wine or cider, boiled octopus with potatoes, meatballs in a sauce, mushrooms with garlic, oxtail stew, chickpea and bean stews, and empanadillas (little savory pies).**


Not only do mezes or tapas offer an opportunity to try many different dishes in a sitting, they also provide an opportunity to share and savor food with friends or family, and to relish in a delightful combination and range of temperatures and textures. Small plates are a non-intimidating way to try new foods and expand your palate. So find a seat at a tapas bar, or serve up some marinated olives, grape leaves, and shrimp at your next party, and enjoy sharing delicious foods in a relaxed setting with your friends.


*Rosamond Mann, The Complete Meze Table: Delicious Food from Greece and the Middle East, London: Ebury Press, 1986, p. 7.

**Claudia Roden, The Food of Spain, New York: HarperCollins, 2011, p. 148.


Click on a photo or recipe title below to link to the full recipe:
Recipes in this Issue
Spinach Fatayer
Contemporary Greek Meze
Shrimp with Feta
Stuffed Grape Leaves
12 Great Ways to Use Radishes.

Man drawing cartoon people on glass.

Do you have a favorite tapas restaurant? Does your family set out a meze table at holidays? Share your favorite recipes and ideas for small plates on the Oldways Forum
Oldways Bookstore.

The Book of Tapas.  
Simone and Inés Ortega offer simple recipes for authentic tapas in The Book of Tapas.

Claudia Roden, The Food of Spain.  
Explore the full range of Spanish cuisine with Claudia Roden's The Food of Spain.  
Spinach fatayer. Spinach Fatayer            

These small spinach pies make a beautiful addition to a meze table. Tuck leftovers into lunch boxes, or enjoy them as a light afternoon snack.   


Recipe and photo courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar

This is an easy and delicious way to assemble a lovely appetizer or light meal. Use local, seasonal vegetables to put your own twist on it.

Recipe courtesy of FoodMatch, photo by Tom Moore    

This preparation is an easy and flavorful way to serve shrimp. Serve as-is for a small plate, or add potatoes or brown rice for an entree.

Recipe by Koula Barydakis and Bill Bradley 
Tray of wrapped grape leaves with an orange serving spoon. Stuffed Grape Leaves             

Tender grape leaves wrapped around seasoned rice are a traditional dish found throughout the eastern Mediterranean region.  


Recipe by Diane Nemitz  
Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.   

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        



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