Your essential Mediterranean diet grocery list
- September 25, 2020
Ready to try the Mediterranean diet? Head to the grocery store and stock up.
Here are seven essentials, according to Julia Collin Davison, executive editor of books at America’s Test Kitchen, which recently published “The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook.”
Use it for “cooking everything from your fried egg in the morning to starting a super stew [in the evening],” Davison says. It’s also a great base for non-dairy sauces, like fresh vinaigrettes and herb-packed pestos. And you don’t need to buy the most expensive imported oils: California Olive Ranch ($10.79 at FreshDirect.com) was the winner of a recent Test Kitchen taste test, defeating brands that cost twice as much.
“Legumes are a huge part of the Mediterranean,” says Davison. While gourmets often espouse dried beans, she says that the Test Kitchen actually found that canned beans, in addition to being more convenient, actually tended to taste better, cook more evenly and were most consistently fresh compared to their dried counterparts, which can sit on store shelves for years. Her favorite is cannellini beans because of their versatility: Use them “in a soup, a dip [or] a salad.”
In recent years, the concept of the Mediterranean diet has expanded beyond Greece and Italy to include the vibrant cooking of Middle Eastern countries bordering the “Great Sea.” “There are some killer spices that gussy up the dullest of ingredients,” says Davison. Her favorites include “tangy, floral” sumac, the earthy spicy blend ras el hanout and Aleppo pepper flakes, which pack a “subtle, fruity heat.”
Trade your Tabasco and sugary Sriracha sauce for this North African hot sauce. “It’s a thick, thick paste, it’s not vinegary — it has cumin, coriander, caraway [and] fresh — not dried — chilies,” says Davison. She loves whisking it into sauces or rubbing it on meats and fish before cooking. “Kalustyan’s makes a killer one,” she says, referring to the Indian specialty-food store in Murray Hill (123 Lexington Ave.; 800-352-3451).
“You can use them for a lot of things, whether for a soup, breakfast porridge or salad,” says Davison. Try everything from freekeh to farro to wheat berries, but Davison recommends barley in particular because it’s easy to find, has a familiar flavor and cooks fairly quickly. “It’s an American standard,” she says.
“A few of them chopped can really transform the flavor of things,” says Davison. Toss some Kalamatas or Cerignolas into a salad or sauce to liven things up. If possible, buy them from the olive bar — not canned. “They’re fresher and a little less salty,” Davison says. They’re also great to put out as little snack before dinner, especially if you tend to eat late.
Try adding fresh mint to yogurt with a bit of lemon for a refreshing sauce for fish and meat; add whole leaves of flat-leaf parsley to salads — and toss in a sprig of rosemary at the end of cooking soups and stews for extra flavor. You can also dry your own rosemary (inset) in the microwave by nuking it for a minute or two, wrapped in a paper towel. “If you dry it yourself,” says Davidson, “if just has so much more flavor [than store-bought dried herbs].”
Through Thursday, The Post is a publishing a special series on the Mediterranean Diet. On Thursday we will look at dining-out strategies on the diet.