Spices and herbs are essential parts of the Mediterranean Diet, adding both flavor and a cultural identity to meals. A dish can be transformed into one that is Greek or Italian or Turkish, just by changing the herbs and spices used!
When an Oldways Scientific Advisory Committee met in 2008 to update and revise the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
, one of the biggest changes (from the earlier pyramid) was the addition of herbs and spices. Research has shown that, in addition to flavor and taste, some culinary herbs and spices offer health benefits, especially providing antioxidants -- known to reduce inflammation, one of the first indicators of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Tired of cooking the same things for your winter celebrations? With several holidays approaching, we thought it might be fun (and useful) to extend our popular Mediterranean series, "12 Ways to Use....
" to transform traditional holiday dishes with new and different spices.
12 Ways to Add Mediterranean Spice to American Holiday Cooking!
1. CRANBERRY SAUCE: Add cinnamon or cardamom or candied
ginger to your cranberry sauce.
2. TURKEY: Roast your turkey with a rub of olive oil and add the herbs
of Greece to your stuffing (onion, garlic, oregano, and a touch of mint)
along with sun-dried tomatoes.
3. MASHED POTATOES: Add pesto or olive oil with rosemary sprigs,
sage, leeks or olives and garlic to your usual mashed potatoes.
4. SQUASH: Roast slices of squash with basil, cilantro and oregano and
top with feta cheese.
5. PUMPKIN PIE: Turn the usual pumpkin pie into a savory side dish
by cutting back on the sugar, seasoning it with mint or sage, and
serving with the turkey.
6. LATKES: Try zucchini fritters with yogurt mint sauce instead of
7. CHALLAH: Instead of the usual challah, bake whole grain challah with
za'atar and olives.
8. SMOKED SALMON: For extra flavor, sprinkle with toasted fennel
seeds or Turkish red pepper flakes before serving.
9. BRISKET: Serve Mediterranean style by adding cinnamon, cumin,
coriander, and cayenne pepper, and when cooked, garnish with fresh
10. LEG OF LAMB: Make a Lamb Tagine with honey and apricots
spiced with turmeric, ginger, cumin, cilantro, and cinnamon.
11. PARKER HOUSE ROLLS: Serve sliced whole grain bread, toasted
and brushed with a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, rosemary, thyme
12. BŪCHE de NOEL: Instead of a fancy, heavy chocolate cake, make
a light olive oil cake flavored with saffron and/or the zest and juice of
lemons and orange.
Try one of the recipes below, or explore the many exciting recipes in the books featured in this week's Bookstore.
Click on a photo or recipe title below to link to the full recipe.