The Mediterranean Diet, named #1 diet of 2022 by US News World and Report is renowned as both delicious and nutritious. Although the countries around the Mediterranean Sea are culturally diverse, their common enjoyment of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, ﬁsh, and olive oil deﬁnes a healthy and natural way of eating.
An easy way to incorporate the good health and great ﬂavors of the Mediterranean Diet is to top oﬀ your foods with sauces from, you guessed it…the Mediterranean! Sweet, savory, or a combination of the two, Mediterranean sauces are a versatile way of adding zest to your meal. They can also add extra nutrients, healthy fats, and ﬂavor!
From luscious vegetable-based sauces to those that are rich and creamy made with your choice of nuts and fresh herbs…Traditional diets feature all kinds of delicious dips and sauces. The right sauce, in fact, makes all the diﬀerence between a good dish and a fabulous one. Plus, an added beneﬁt to cooking with these mouth-watering sauces is that you may ﬁnd yourself using less salt to boost the ﬂavor of your foods. Win-win!
To give you a Mediterranean sauce sampler, we’ll explore some popular sauces from Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Northern Africa, and the Middle East.
Greece One of the most popular Greek sauces is Tzatziki. A cool and refreshing mix of cucumbers, yogurt, and fresh herbs—tzatziki makes a great topping for a wide range of dishes, including kebabs, falafel, and white ﬁsh! It also makes a great snack food, pairing nicely with a simple serving of veggie sticks, or whole grain pita!
Romesco is a nutty, red pepper-based tomato sauce that is often served with ﬁsh in Spanish cuisine. Since it makes great leftovers, we recommend making extra! Dip toasty whole grain bread into it, or drizzle it over grilled vegetables or pasta. To spice up dinner, we love this recipe for Romesco Chicken, and recommend serving it with a chewy whole grain like sorghum, freekeh, Farro, or quinoa—though feel free to get creative with your favorite!
When you think of Italian sauces, a classic tomato sauce probably comes to mind ﬁrst…But there are so many other tomato-based sauces, too!
Another delicious Italian sauce is Puttanesca. Puttanesca sauce is a great way to turn an everyday pasta dinner into a Mediterranean experience. Originally created in the mid-twentieth century, the dish also has its roots in Naples, Italy. Pitted Kalamata olives are the perfect briny complement to this tomato-based sauce. The olives are smoky and fruity and add wonderful ﬂavor to this Mediterranean classic. Try this Tuna Puttanesca to have a weeknight meal full of nutrients on the table in under 30 minutes.
Tarator is a traditional Turkish sauce made with lemon juice and tahini. Tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds is easy to ﬁnd in major supermarkets and Mediterranean grocery stores, and when refrigerated, it keeps for a long time. Tahini—the star of this sauce, is so important to Turkish cuisine, that Chef Ana Sortun included it in the program book for Oldways 2015 Culinaria in Turkey as part of the essential Turkish pantry. Like Tzatziki, Tarator is delicious on roasted vegetables, falafel, ﬁsh, and meats. Dive deeper into Turkish foods, and learn more from Chef Ana Sortun on our 2022 culinaria to Antalya and Istanbul in March.
Skhug (or zhoug) sauce is the hot sauce of choice in the Middle East, made from chili peppers, cilantro, and various spices. It can be red or green, depending on the color of the chilis. Jamie Geller says everyone has their favorite, and it can be made many diﬀerent ways, but the basic components are always hot peppers, spices, and garlic. In Israel you can ﬁnd it drizzled over pita and falafel.
Chermoula is a North African sauce, very similar to Gremolata. Perfect for vegetables and ﬁsh, it is a mixture of garlic, cilantro, parsley, salt, paprika, cumin, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ version with salmon was the inspiration for the Spicy Salmon on Day 1 of Oldways Make Every Day Mediterranean, a 4-week menu. If this sounds delicious to you, join in on the fun and start the Mediterranean Diet Challenge, it isn’t too late!
Though this is only a small sample of Mediterranean sauces, we hope it inspires you level up some of your favorite weeknight meals!
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