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The Core of Mediterranean Cooking

The flavor of a dish is influenced by a lot of factors, starting with the skills of the cook and the tools he uses and up to the boiling, baking or grilling time, the quality of the ingredients, the balance of quantities and flavors and so on. But what really makes food taste the way it should is the added range of spices and aromatic herbs.

Of course, every area has its own trademark flavor, shaped by what the local environment has best to offer, helped by soil and climate particularities. And since the Mediterranean sea isn’t necessarily far away, we’re well accustomed to the specific aromas of its shoreline. But it’s worth looking at the aromatic herbs that blend into the famous Mediterranean dishes.

Basil is one of the mos appreciated spices in the area and its slightly sweet taste is hard to mistake with anything else. It can be used in a lot of dishes, since many ingredients are perfectly highlighted by pesto, sauces, dressings or marinating before cooking. Also, basil is a suitable option for soups or salads, and in the last couple of years it has been used more and more in its raw, fresh form, which makes it more savory. Furthermore, it’s easy to mix and match with other aromatic herbs, especially with parsley, oregano, thyme, sage or saffron, and there’s almost no tomato based dish that basil can’t perfect.

Unlike basil, oregano is more intense when it’s used dry than when it is added fresh and, even if we associate it a lot with Italian cooking (can you even imagine pizza without it?), oregano is the sweetheart-spice of Greece. This spice is a good friend to olives, egg based dishes, cheeses of all sorts, red meats or poultry, salads, vegetables or grains. It’s a great match with basil (so it’s no wonder that oregano, too, is a natural choice for dish based on tomatoes), thyme, garlic and parsley.

Rosemary, also a purely Mediterranean essence, is one of the favorite spices of cooks when marinating meats, vegetables or seafood, especially before grilling them. But his sweet and lightly wooden notes make it  suitable also for sauces and stews. And definitely not the least, it’s an awesome choice for anything about to be baked, because in these circumstances it acts as a flavor enhancer.

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