In this article, we will help you figure out how you can experiment with regular dishes by including delicious Mediterranean spices and herbs. Get ready to serve an upgraded spread to your guests.
A little bit of experimentation is always welcome in cooking. For instance, many dishes practically beg for a touch of the Mediterranean influence.
By applying the right spices at the right time, you can dramatically change the whole meal. And always for the better, too.
The addition of Mediterranean spices is a learned skill, a threshold most professional chefs cross. These cultures are rich in culinary aptitude when it comes to mixing and blending ingredients.
We even see some of them even host popular TV shows and written cookbooks! Some well known chefs are Yotam Ottolenghi, Giada de Laurentiis, Geoffrey Zakarian, Irini Tzortzoglou and more!
So, by mastering this craft, you’ll too be able to prepare awe-inspiring meals and earn ovations from your family members.
7 Must-Have Mediterranean Spices
Herbs and spices are essential components to any dish. They bring micronutrients, flavor, and aroma. As a result, these spices enhance any meal And you certainly know when they are missing from a recipe.
Mediterranean spices, in particular, carry that authentic ‘zing,’ fit even for something as simple as an omelet.
Moreover, the best thing about them is their affordability. We practically trip on them in the store, and they sport fair prices, too. Plus, many health-conscious folks even take the time to grow such herbs themselves.
I personally love growing herbs in my hydroponic garden during the winter or outside during the warm months. So, the Mediterranean species themselves are an advocate for urban gardening, too.
Hence, any aspiring cook should know how to use these spices. Or at the least, follow our recommendations below.
Nutmeg is an exotic autumn spice made from the seeds of species of evergreen Myristica tree.
These trees are native to Indonesia. Nutmeg is full of antioxidants and has a warm but slightly sweet taste. Generally, it is an excellent addition to confections, puddings, beverages, and even eggnog.
In many mediterranean cuisines nutmeg is grated into savory dishes and sauces. But it is also paired with other warming spices like cinnamon, allspices, and cloves for sweet dishes.
Furthermore, it goes well with all breakfast-centric substances, like cereals, coffee, hot cocoa, warm milk, and even tea. Lastly, nutmeg is no stranger to roasts, either.
Some common recipes that usually require nutmeg are:
- Squash Soups like pumpkin
- Béchamel sauce or other milk based sauces
Thyme is a leafy green herb that is full of antioxidants. Therefore, it can completely transform the taste of your food if you just so desire it.
Thyme is actually native to the mediterranean terrain. It is quite pungent in flavor.
People generally prefer thyme in its dried form. This is because this herb has small leaves, making it convenient to dry quickly.
That process is pretty simple and does not require much effort. So, you can do it yourself. Simply loosen the thyme, bunch the stems together, and hang them upside down in the sun.
Some of the popular dishes that use thyme are:
- Roasted Potatoes with Thyme
- Lemon Thyme Sauce
- Mushroom Pasta with Goat Cheese and Thyme
Sage is a popular herb, most notably when it comes to British cuisine.
However, demand for sage rises in the United States as Thanksgiving approaches. The reason is that most holiday stuffings involve this herb. In short, no roasted turkey is the same without sage.
But in the Mediterranean sage isn’t reserved for the holidays. It is used in meats, seafood, poultry, stuffings, soups, breads, bean salads and dressings. In Italy cooks add it to pasta dishes and a popular veal dish called saltimbocca.
Modern chefs love to use fresh sage in dishes like bean hummus dip and various kinds of sauces. Sometimes, they infuse it with honey, too.
Some of the dishes that go best with sage are:
- Cheese and Sage Stuffed Chicken
- Peas braised in Sage butter
- Chicken, Sage, and Bacon pot pies
- Potato and Sage Galette
We get cumin from the Cuminum cyminum tree, native to Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Cumin is part of the parsley family, which is also a very popular mediterranean herb. Cumin finds frequent usage in Indian, Middle Eastern, North African, and Latin American cuisines. In Mediterranean cuisine the seeds are toasted whole and then ground for stews with couscous.
A common ingredient of spice blends, stews, and curries, cumin is bought as a powder or whole dried seeds.
The widespread usage of cumin began after some excavations in Syria and Egypt. After discovering it, researchers revealed that people used it to mummify and preserve the dead for over 4,000 years ago.
So, it seems ancient Indians, Romans, and Greeks knew what they were doing back then. Later, after European colonization, cumin safely made its way into American cuisine as well.
It is an iron-rich spice that also contains traces of magnesium, calcium, and potassium. Also, if you grind it, the cumin will have a characteristic flavor with a nutty, spicy taste.
Some dishes that go best with cumin include:
- Spice-crusted Salmon with Citrus Sauce
- Chickpea Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette
- Barbeque Rubbed Pork Chops
- Moroccan Vegetable Stew
- Cumin Lamb Noodles with Eggplant
Parsley is amongst the most popular herbs that everyone loves.
The soothing fresh green leaves of parsley are rich in vitamins A, C, and B12. It is also full of potassium. It’s a powerhouse for your health and blessing for the kitchen.
Parsley is native to mediterranean and is heavily used in sauces, soups, dressings, eggs, and more. There are two main types are flat-leaf parsley and curly. The flat-leaf variety is strong in flavor.
Plus, just a pinch of it in your smoothie or juice results in a rejuvenating drink. But of course, people all around the world find many, many more applications for parsley.
Here are some delicious meals featuring this herb :
- Parsley Chimichurri Sauce
- Potato Salad with Parsley
- Stuffed Quinoa Peppers
- Minestrone Soup
Dried basil was regarded as a kind of “secret weapon” in many popular dishes for a long time.
However, recent times have seen a rise in the popularity of this ingredient. Nowadays, people are willing to experiment more using basil in drinks, and desserts.
Basil is usually a part of tomato-based dishes and cooked meats. Also, some purists would argue that it tastes best when eaten raw.
The most famous dish that uses basil as one of the main ingredients is Caprese salad. It is an Italian dish made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, salt, pepper, and lots of fresh basil.
Some other famous basil dishes include:
- Tomato Basil Risotto
- Tuscan Chicken
- Panzanella with Basil
- Tomato Basil soup
Za’atar is a blend of spices that a lot of people don’t know about.
It has a savory, citrusy taste and is quite sought-after as a condiment in Israel. Recently, the US has caught on to the trend of making za’atar a part of everyday meals.
However, sumac is the most important component that gives za’atar that splash of tangy flavor. Finally, it makes a perfect condiment when mixed with olive oil.
To cap it off, here are some famous dishes that use za’atar:
- Classic Chickpea Hummus
- Fattoush with Queso Fresco
- Za’atar Fish and Chips
- Lamb and Feta Frittata
- Aleppo Dill Pickles
Re-inventing things while cooking is indeed a fun experience. More so when it results in vastly tastier meals. That’s why the correct usage of various Mediterranean spices is so exciting. In a nutshell, it can change our view regarding a particular dish.
The Mediterranean herbs and spices mentioned in this guide are ‘top-tier’ choices. So, quickly go through the article and choose your secret ingredient. And soon, you’ll surprise even yourself. At the very least, we guarantee that you won’t regret that decision.