Suzy Karadsheh, founder of The Mediterranean Dish blog, grew up just a short walk from the Mediterranean Sea in Port Said, Egypt. Suzy comes from a large family that has always embraced good food and hospitality, and at a young age she experienced the vibrant lifestyle and rich ﬂavors of this part of the world.
When Suzy moved to the United States for college in Michigan and began eating in the school cafeteria, she started to miss the fresh foods and recipes of her hometown. She began buying her own ingredients and cooking from memory, recreating the dishes she had learned from her mother back in Egypt. Her Mediterranean Dish blog compiles her favorite Mediterranean recipes and her knowledge of this delicious region. She now lives with her husband and two daughters in Atlanta, GA, where she spends her time working on her blog and at home with her family.
Oldways has long admired Suzy’s recipes and culinary stories, so we chatted with her to learn more about her inspirations, childhood on the Mediterranean Sea, and must-have ingredients. Check out her favorite recipes, and gorgeous food photos below.
Madeleine Cohen, Oldways summer intern
Oldways: What do you consider to be the three most important elements of the Mediterranean diet?
Suzy Karadsheh: I see the Mediterranean diet more as a lifestyle, not so much a diet for the sake of losing weight. I would say the Mediterranean diet ﬁrst emphasizes eating in season, mostly plant-based foods like vegetables, fruit, grains, legumes, or pulses. Secondly, keeping things lean. Lean proteins mainly from ﬁsh, legumes, and nuts, for example. And using olive oil as the main source of “cooking fat. “Perhaps the most exciting part of the Mediterranean diet is the fact that it emphasizes big ﬂavor from natural ingredients like garlic, onions, citrus, fresh herbs, and spices.
OW: How have you seen people in your life beneﬁt from the Mediterranean diet?
SK: At its core, the Mediterranean lifestyle originated in cultures that approach life from a collectivist standpoint. It emphasizes walking life closely with family and dear friends, and this comes with a certain work-life balance requirement. I can’t say I do the whole work-life balance thing so well, but I certainly try. [For more, read Suzy’s article, 5 basics of the Mediterranean lifestyle.]
OW: How would you describe Egyptian cuisine to someone who isn’t familiar with it?
SK: In a few short words, Egyptian food is humble, “poor man’s” food with big ﬂavors. There are Turkish, Greek, Italian, and French inﬂuences on Egyptian cooking. There are also a ton of Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inﬂuences. Growing up in Port Said, Egypt’s main port, encountering people and foods from all these cultures was no strange thing. And I loved it!
OW: What was it like growing up in a family that prized cooking and sharing meals together?
SK: [My mother] worked long hours, from 7:15 AM to 3:30 PM or so. I remember her coming home every day, setting her purse and school papers (to be graded later) down, giving us quick hugs, and marching into the kitchen to begin working on dinner. I am not sure she ever once considered options like carry-out for dinner.
It wasn’t ever a big deal if my dad ran into friends, or strangers, and invited them over for dinner. I remember one day in particular, my dad had met the Greek consul general. … My dad quickly befriended him and he became a regular dinner guest. We later met his family, and the relationship continues even as they have now returned to Greece.
OW: Do you have any family recipes that you love to share?
SK: There are two recipes my mother always made growing up, this Egyptian phyllo meat pie and this stuﬀed zucchini recipe. We are big on seafood, and this quick baked sole ﬁllet makes a frequent appearance on the table! I learned how to make the creamiest traditional hummus (there are secrets behind it). This Kofta Kebob recipe is my take on one from an Egyptian restaurant from my childhood. And as far as traditional salads, I would say tabouli and fattoush are up there for my family!
OW: If you were on a desert island, what three foods from the Mediterranean pyramid would you have with you?
SK: Fish/seafood. Fruit (ﬁgs, if you must know). Olive oil. Can I add wine? Pretty please :-)
OW: What do you miss most about the Mediterranean lifestyle?
SK: I think you can live some of the Mediterranean principles and lifestyle any place you go. But I do so miss leisurely walks on the beach, and loud, big gatherings.
OW: Your Instagram is extremely vibrant and aesthetically pleasing. What tips do you have for aspiring food bloggers and food photographers?
SK: Our goal with The Mediterranean Dish is to keep it a food blog focused on fresh, easy, and quick-cooking Mediterranean recipes. Simple recipes, big ﬂavors. We want to help folks make these recipes, and so we take a tutorial approach showing photos of as many of the cooking steps as possible.
OW: Any other favorite or most popular recipes you’d like to share with us?
These two recipes compete as far as popularity, and they are both absolute faves in my family:
- Quick Grilled Shrimp with Roasted Garlic Cilantro Sauce
- Mediterranean Grilled Chicken with Dill Greek Yogurt Sauce
Of the newer recipes on the blog, these two are fairly popular: