We all love dessert. In fact, we’re genetically motivated to seek out foods that are sweet. K. Dun Giﬀord, the founder of Oldways, wrote in The Oldways Table, “We have a hardwired ‘aﬀection for confection,’ and we use hundreds of words and phrases of sweetness in our daily language.” Think of terms of aﬀection like “sweetheart,” “my sweet love,” and “sugar pie,” and our use of the term “sweet!” to express excitement, enthusiasm, or the opinion that something is just plain awesome.
Most desserts in the Mediterranean (and in most traditional diets) revolve around the natural sweetness of fruit, and giving your dessert a Mediterranean twist is a great way to make your desserts both delicious and healthy. Despite our natural aﬃnity for sweet foods, the CDC reports that 76% of Americans do not eat enough fruit. Reaching for a pear or a handful of grapes is the simplest way to indulge your sweet tooth, but there are so many ways to incorporate fruit into your favorite treats.
Fruits are incredibly versatile, and they play well with other foods and ﬂavors! They pair beautifully with so many of the other elements of a Mediterranean Diet: nuts, whole grains, herbs and spices, and even olive oil are fast friends with nectarines, strawberries, dates, and pomegranates. Add a little dark chocolate or a nice piece of raw milk cheese, and you’ve got a seriously decadent treat.
Here are a few of our favorite, simple, fruit-based Mediterranean desserts:
- A simple fruit tart with crème fraiche or yogurt
- Dates or ﬁgs stuﬀed with goat’s cheese or ricotta and topped with nuts
- A few slices of raw milk cheese with a fruit spread on whole grain crackers or bread
- Grilled pineapple with strawberries and fresh mint
- Biscotti (try Avocado, Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti) and a cup of tea or decaf coﬀee
- A scoop of fruit sorbet or gelato topped with walnuts
- Poached pears with cardamom and labneh (strained yogurt)
Fruit-based desserts aren’t the only treats you’ll ﬁnd in the Mediterranean, and if you love to bake, there are plenty of light, ﬂavorful cakes and cookies you might enjoy. Take our recipe for Pain D’Epices, for example – this French spice bread made with whole rye ﬂour and honey is fragrant, ﬂavor-packed, and irresistible.
In fact, cakes of this sort, often made with rye or whole grain semolina are popular all over the Mediterranean. Yotam Ottolenghi, chef and author of the book, Jerusalem, writes, “Some cakes have coconut in them; some have yogurt; some bakers prefer ﬂavoring them with citrus syrups, others with ﬂower blossoms; some use sugar and others honey. In any case, the moist yet light texture and the aromatic ﬂavors are what it’s all about.”
Whether you’re trying a new ﬂour like rye or buckwheat, a new spice like fennel or cardamom, or new fruit such as quince or rhubarb, the ﬂavors of the Mediterranean have a lot to oﬀer your palate and your fondness for sweets. For more recipe inspiration, visit our website or check out a few of our favorite books.
Caroline Sluyter, Whole Grain Stamp Program Manager