Continuing our brief world tour through dinner snapshots… we reach the Mediterranean. As with most areas, there’s no possible way to cover every nuance of a region’s cuisine in one meal; but we enjoyed beginning to explore the most common flavors and ingredients.
Lamb tagine showcases traditional spices including cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin and paprika as well as chickpeas and vegetables. A tagine is a stew originating in North Africa that is usually cooked slowly to render a tender meal from tough, inexpensive cuts of meat. Tagine also refers to an earthenware pot with a shallow base and cone-shaped lid traditionally used to prepare this particular dish.
A new arrival to my limited Mediterranean experience was moussaka. I decided to think of it- correctly or not- in the same family as a lasagna, but with eggplant replacing pasta, béchamel sauce instead of ricotta, ground lamb providing protein, and a flavor profile including not only parsley and oregano but also cinnamon and nutmeg.
Gazpacho- blended raw vegetable soup, served chilled- was kept company by a less popular lemon and egg soup known as avgolemono. Both were light and bright and provided needed contrast to their heavier lamb counterparts.
And last but certainly not least, when buttery layers of phyllo dough meet ground sugary nuts with cinnamon and cloves… and sweet honey lemon syrup… something completely beautiful is born. Baklava. In all its crispy, over-the-top-sweet glory.