Snapshot: Mediterranean

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.

Hummus is typically made from chickpeas and tahini, or sesame paste, with various other spices… ours was a bit heavy on the turmeric.

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, bΓ©chamel sauce instead of ricotta, ground lamb providing protein, and a flavor profile including not only parsley and oregano but also cinnamon and nutmeg.

Gazpacho-Β 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.

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18 thoughts on “Snapshot: Mediterranean

  1. Wow! You really did the whistle-stop tour of the Mediterranean in one meal! If you want to learn more, check out Elizabeth David’s work – a real adventurer of the post-war version, she spent years living and travelling around the region. Her books provide lots of history, recipes, anecdotes and flavors – true classics in the genre.

    • Thank you so much, ck. I just looked her up, and she sure seems like an amazing woman with some great works! πŸ™‚ Always appreciate more quality food literature, so a huge thank you for this! πŸ™‚

  2. The tagine looks so fragrant, for me there can never be enough spices. It all looks wonderful and right on the money. A friend if mine often brings in Avgolemono that she makes (her dad is Greek) and that wonderful punch of lemon juice and garlic is gorgeous through the silky broth with egg, mmm-mmm. Love the baklava too, I’m also quite partial to rose water & orange blossom pastries too!

    • I’d never had Avgolemono until we made it- how awesome that you have it all the time! Love that you said there can never be enough spices… the first thing out Chef told us that day was to season and flavor the dish as you think it should be… and then add that amount again πŸ˜‰ The bold flavors are incredible. And baklava is just darn fun to make to me. Have made it several times before, but this was the first time to make it in class. One of my classmates said it tasted just like his (Greek) Grandma’s… I’ll take that! πŸ™‚ Rose water and orange… mmm.

  3. I so admire your baklava! I’ve made it many times however it’s never a pretty site. 😦 Bravo to you Deb, your food is always beautiful but that baklava makes me want to reach into my computer and grab a piece.

    • You’re cute, Karista! I’m sure your baklava tasted perfect. And judging from everything you create and post, I’m betting it looked beautiful as well πŸ˜‰ All that said, if I could send you a piece through the screen… you’d have sticky fingers already. Thank you so much for following along my journey. And I’ve been craving cilantro pesto for several days now- I should just make some already.

  4. Deb, I love your blog and your story is so inspiring. I am applying to Escoffier and hope to start in July. Your journey to culinary school sounds so much like the thoughts and feelings that I’ve had for many years, I am a dietitian and through experience have found that I just am not truly happy in a clinical setting – I actually worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction for a little over a year and thought your name sounded familiar! I would love to pursue my passion for food and cooking just like you did. Your photos are beautiful and your writing is great, thanks for letting us share your journey!

    • Trisha!! You have completely made my day. My week! Congratulations for choosing to make a change (isn’t always easy) and I’m thrilled to hear you’re applying to Escoffier! It has truly been everything I expected and more. I hope a July start date works for you. Culinary training will be finished for my class then, but I’ll be starting Pastry in August, so we’ll have plenty of next door kitchen time I’m sure πŸ˜€ Maybe I’ll be able to trade you a pastry for some ‘real food’ occasionally. It’s a small world that you worked at SMH in GJ. I miss the valley, but not the hospital work at all. It’s tough to do something each day when you aren’t truly happy. I am so glad you are coming this direction, and your background knowledge as a dietician will doubtlessly help you tremendously. Thank you for following along this journey, and thank you even more for letting me know! Please feel free to contact me with anything I can do to help you, anytime. πŸ™‚

      • Thank you so much and I look forward to meeting you in person! I can’t wait to go back to school (never thought I’d say that!) I feel the same way about missing the valley, I hope that living in Colorado again will allow me to visit that area soon, check out the new hospital construction, and visit some past coworkers that I miss! And, by the way, I’ll make a trade for something sweet any day!

        • Hehe… I know what you mean about getting back in school: didn’t realize I could LOVE school so much. Never loved all the other quite like this πŸ˜‰ Definitely will be great to meet in person, and I’m sure everyone in GJ would love for you to visit!

  5. The whole meal looks fabulous. And aren’t you lucky you got to use lamb for the tagine instead of goat? I’ll eat either, but my preference is definitely for lamb. Thanks for sharing – again!

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