The Mediterranean spans the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa, and the food is as diverse as the cultures. Twenty-one countries with their own unique dishes, bursting with character and flavor, line the Mediterranean Sea. Here are just seven destinations and a few of their mouthwatering culinary masterpieces.
1. Italy and Sicily
Italy is a prime destination for a Mediterranean cruise. You can travel along the peninsula trying the different regional cuisines and take an excursion in Sicily for the sweet ricotta filling and fried pastry of a cannoli. In Naples, taste the most authentic pizza you’ll ever have. Find fresh pasta at every turn, and pair it with a focaccia bread still warm from the oven. Venture out to Cinque Terre, where you’ll find a beautiful seafood platter to pair with local wine. Most importantly, don’t forget to try the limoncello.
Morocco is home to the soul food of North Africa. With port cities all along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coast, you’ll find fresh seafood wherever you go. Try the sweet mint tea with fresh bread dipped in the best olive oil you’ve ever tasted. Travel to the Atlas Mountains outside of Marrakech where you’ll find creek-side cafés cooking tajines of lamb and apricots. If you’ve never paired chicken with sugar, try the chicken pastilla; you won’t soon forget it.
French cuisine has a reputation for decadence and elegance that you typically see reserved only for fine dining in the U.S. Breakfast at any café in Paris consists of buttery, flakey pastries and strong coffee. Ratatouille, a Provencal dish that originated in Nice, is perfect for a chilly evening. The blend of stewed vegetables in a tomato-based sauce is warm and comforting. Pair it with another staple of Nice called socca, a chickpea flatbread, and you’ll have a well-rounded taste of France.
What is Greek food without olives, feta cheese, rice and tzatziki sauce? You’ll find each at every dinner table in Greece. Carnivores will enjoy the tender gyro meat made from a combination of lamb and beef. Vegetarians can add falafel, spiced chickpeas mashed into balls, a popular dish also found in Middle Eastern cuisine. The beautiful shores of Santorini are also known for fava beans. It may not sound like much, but it makes for the perfect appetizer.
When you think of Spanish cuisine, you likely start to dream of tapas. While that is certainly a staple in Seville, you cannot discount the paella, a decadent dish designed to serve family-style and typically containing a selection of seafood options. When you travel to Barcelona, you have to try the amazing artisan cheeses and cured ham. Pair any of these with a glass of sparkling wine and you’ll have an authentic Spanish culinary experience.
Turkish food is primarily rooted in Ottoman traditions and very similar to popular Greek dishes. Meat kebabs, stuffed grape leaves, rice and spiced ground beef are staples of Istanbul. If you travel away from the capital city, you’ll find regional dishes and traditions. Mezes, for example, is served at the start of a meal. It consists of small plates with hot and cold foods, usually consisting of meat and salad.
Bread lovers will be more than satisfied to eat like a local in Egypt. Aish Baladi, a fluffy bread made of wheat and barley, is used as a utensil at the Egyptian table. Koshary, a common street food, is typically made up of rice, pasta, tomato sauce, chickpeas, lentils and fried onions. Together, they form a delicious mixture of flavors and textures. If you want to experience more of the history of ancient Egypt, try the Ful Mudammas, a dish that is said to date back to the Pharaohs. It has a fava bean base, served with eggs and pita bread.
Wherever you travel in the Mediterranean, you’ll find that food is the heart of the culture. It’s at the center of every gathering, and everything is prepared with only the best of ingredients. When you fall in love with a dish, be sure to learn how it’s made and bring it home with you.