At the beginning of your journey through the Mediterranean Diet, some menu items or foods at the grocery store may be unfamiliar. But don’t pass them up just because you do not know what they are. This handy Food Glossary of the Mediterranean Diet will help you during your first steps.
Arborio Rice: It is short-grain starchy rice. It is excellent for creamy risottos and rice pudding.
Arugula: A salad green with a peppery, mustard flavor. In some countries, it is called “rocket.”
Baba Ghanoush: Roasted eggplant, mashed and mixed with lemon juice, tahini, and spices. It is a typical Middle Eastern meze starter, often served as a dip.
Bocconcini: Small mozzarella cheese balls the size of a quail egg.
Bruschetta: An Italian appetizer. It is made by drizzling olive oil on toasted bread and topping with various accompaniments like tomatoes, basil, garlic, eggplant, and cheese.
Caponata: A Sicilian cooked vegetable salad dish consisting of eggplant and other vegetables like celery, tomatoes, capers, herbs, and spices.
Couscous: A kind of pasta that looks like gorse ground grain. It is typically enjoyed as a side dish for stews and other foods in North Africa.
Falafel: A dish of the Middle East. It is made from ground chickpeas (or fava beans) mixed with onion, herbs, and spices. It is then shaped into balls or patties and deep-fried (nowadays, many prefer to bake them for an even healthier version).
Fattoush: It is a Levantine salad made with toasted pieces of flatbread combined with various vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes.
Feta Cheese: A white Greek cheese made of sheep milk or a mixture of sheep and goat milk and cured in brine. It is a crumbly aged cheese used as a table cheese. It is served in many ways, like in salads or as an appetizer drizzled with olive oil and oregano, spicy feta spread (tyrokafteri), baked, or grilled appetizers. It is also used in cooking phyllo-based pastries, notably in spanakopita (spinach pie) and the tyropita (cheese pie).
Feta is a product of a protected destination of origin in the European Union. According to the relevant legislation, only cheeses made in the traditional way and particular areas of Greece can be called feta. Everything else has to be marked as “white cheese.” Similar white, brined cheeses made traditionally in the Eastern Mediterranean and around the Black Sea and other countries, often of cow’s milk (partly or wholly), are sometimes also called feta.
Gremolata: A Mediterranean sauce commonly made with fresh chopped herbs (basil, parsley, or cilantro), citrus zest, and fresh garlic.
Hummus: A dip or spread made from chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. It is popular in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, where it is often served as a meze starter with pita or toasted crusty bread.
Melitzanosalata: Roasted eggplant, mashed and mixed with olive oil, lemon, bell pepper, garlic, onion, and parsley. It is a Greek dip (similar to baba ghanoush), often served as a meze starter with pita or toasted crusty bread.
Meze or Mezze: An array of small dishes served as an appetizer or meal in the many Mediterranean and the Middle East areas.
Mujaddara: A popular Arabic dish made of lentils, rice, sautéed onions, and spices.
Paella: A classic dish of Spanish cuisine. There are different versions of this ancient dish:
Paella Valenciana (made with rice and a variety of ingredients like vegetables, beans, chicken, rabbit, olive oil, saffron, and spices)
Paella de Marisco (made with rice and seafood),
Paella Mixta is a combination of the two aforementioned.
Pasta e Fagioli: A traditional Italian soup made with pasta, beans, and vegetables.
Pesto: The original and most famous version of the dish originates from Genoa, Italy (Pesto alla Genovese) and consists of crushed basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt, cheese, olive oil. It is typically used on pasta.
There are many variations, traditional and modern; a paste made of greens, peppers, tomato, olive oil, and other ingredients.
Pita or pitta: A yeast-leavened ﬂat bread typical in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The most widely known versions include the interior pocket (Arabic, Syrian, and other names) and the pocket-less versions like the Greek pita used to wrap souvlaki and gyro.
Ratatouille: A French Provençal vegetable stew that combines zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, peppers, olive oil, and herbs.
Tagine: A slow-cooked North African stew, named after the conical clay pot in which it is cooked.
Tahini or Tahina: A condiment made from the ground sesame seeds. It is served by itself or used in several Eastern Mediterranean dishes like cakes, spreads, salad dressings, hummus, and baba ghanoush.
Tapenade: A French Provençal spread, most commonly made from puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, and anchovies. It is generally eaten as an appetizer with bread or crudités or as an ingredient in other recipes.
Tzatziki: A Greek and Turkish yogurt sauce mixed with cucumbers, olive oil, garlic, salt, and other optional ingredients such as dill, mint, or lemon juice. It is generally served as an appetizer, side dish, or condiment in the Greek souvlaki wrapped in a pita.
Eat Mediterranean Food is a personal blog and recipes website dedicated to Mediterranean cooking and lifestyle. The readers assume full responsibility for consulting a qualified health professional regarding any health conditions and concerns before starting a health program or diet or lifestyle changes.