By Julie Hartigan of Cooking w/Julie

October 25, 2018

A Taste of the Mediterranean

There’s a reason why Mediterranean vacations are so wildly popular! The diversity of countries, cultures, and cuisines makes it feel more like a trip around the world than just a week or two away. From Greece to France and Spain and even Montenegro, Turkey, and Morocco – there are 21 countries in the Mediterranean; each with its own unique landscape, history, and vibe.

One of the best ways to experience any culture is to try some iconic or regional dishes. And you don’t even have to book a flight to do it! Let’s take a virtual trip through the Mediterranean with a fun little tasting tour.

♥ Greece

This gorgeous white-washed country is filled with history and breathtaking islands, while Greek cuisine features everything from lamb to seafood and so much more. Sure, you’ve probably had plenty of Greek salads and gyros with feta cheese in your day.   But have you tried imported Halloumi cheese yet? This dense, firm cow’s milk cheese from Greece has a unique texture and consistency that prevents it from melting when grilled, baked, seared, or even fried! It’s becoming much more popular on menus here in the US, or try our easy recipe for Grilled Halloumi Cheese and Vegetable Skewers . The combination of fresh vegetables, herbs, and cubes of imported Halloumi cheese will give you a bright and beautiful taste of Greece!

Grilled Halloumi Cheese & Vegetable Skewers

♥ Italy

One thing you’ll always hear from friends who visit Italy is how incredibly delicious the food is there yet how different it is from what we in the States consider “Italian food”. Strong sharp cheeses are used in Italian cuisine both as a garnish and as a key flavor ingredient in a dish. The perfect example of this is a classic Roman dish called Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper). This simple mix of pasta (typically spaghetti or bucatini), a sharp cheese like imported Pecorino Romano or imported Parmigiano-Reggiano and black pepper has only a handful of ingredients yet so much flavor! Another super flavorful cow’s milk cheese that’s often used in Italian Mediterranean dishes is imported Ricotta Salata. It’s perfect to brighten up salads or to top pastas and is made from salted, pressed ricotta that is aged for months for a wonderful crumbly texture and rich tangy flavor. Try a taste of Rome and punch up your cooking with flavorful cheeses too!

♥ Spain

Everyone knows tapas are the name of the game when you visit Spain and the small nibbles are the perfect way to graze your way through a variety of fun flavors and traditional Spanish foods. To give you a sense of the variety, popular tapas include everything from Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce) to Spanish-Style Toast with Tomato (Pan Con Tomate) to garlic shrimp, albondigas (meatballs), salt cod, chorizo sausage, and more. One of our hands down favorite Spanish flavor combinations is imported Spanish cheeses like Tetilla, Mahon, Manchego or Blue Cabrales paired with Serrano ham and Membrillo paste. Serrano ham is similar to prosciutto with a nutty salty flavor, while Membrillo is a sweet-tart quince paste.  The pairing of Serrano and Membrillo is practically the national snack of Spain. Try adding them to your next cheeseboard or enjoy the flavor combination in pretty little tapas for your next party with our Manchego & Serrano Bites. It’s like a tiny taste of Spain to share with your friends!

♥ France

The French Riviera on the Mediterranean is world renowned for its celebrity watching, gorgeous beaches and film festivals. And like every other region of France it’s also famous for the incredible food markets and selection of wines and cheeses! Fromageries abound and nearly every bistro has its own extensive cheese selection on the menu too. Just for fun, why not host a dinner party with a Riviera theme? Start with a Francophile Cheeseboard featuring a mix of iconic imported French cheeses like Abondance, Camembert, Epoisses, Explorateur, or Mimolette paired with crusty baguette and Provencal rosé. Then round out your meal with some classic dishes from the ‘blue coast” or Cote d’Azur such as Salade Nicoise and some Bouillabaisse or Soup Pistou.   Or try making our French Lamb Sliders with Delice de Bourgogne and Fig Jam for a fun taste of France in a party-perfect slider.

French Lamb Sliders with Delice de Bourgogne and Fig Jam

Now that we’ve whet your appetite with a little tasting tour through the Mediterranean, be sure to seek out and sample these dishes and cheeses in your own local culinary adventures!