Authentic Recipes from the Real Mediterranean Diet

risi e bisi

These recipes will take your taste buds on a trip to historic Crete, romantic Venice, sunsoaked Cyprus and eclectic Cairo. Recipes like Herb-Crusted Sea Bass and Risi e Bisi might remind you of Nonna's cooking. Explore less well known foods of the Mediterranean as well to introduce your kitchen to a new world of flavor.

01 of 21

Zucchini Patties with Herbs & Feta (Kolokythokeftedes)


Greeks nibble on these popular zucchini patties as a meze in tavernas while waiting for their main courses to arrive. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

02 of 21

Italian Rice & Peas (Risi e Bisi)


This risotto-like combo of rice and peas is made with a very cool technique that infuses the dish with one of the great tastes of spring. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

03 of 21

Mashed Legumes with Onion, Capers & Radicchio (Sympetherio)


Radicchio, capers and onions brighten up this mashed lentil dish. Sympetheros means "father of one's son- or daughter-in-law," probably implying the "marrying" of different legumes in one dish. It's a meze served all over Greece. This recipe is inspired by the version Dimitris Mavrakis serves at his restaurant Kritamon in Archanes, near the spectacular Knossos archaeological site on Crete. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

04 of 21

Egyptian Falafel with Tahini Sauce (Taameya)


The Arabic word taameya translates to "tasty little bits." This version, made with fava beans, which are plentiful in the Nile delta, is thought by some to be the original falafel. (Recipe adapted from Zooba Restaurant.) Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

05 of 21

Wild Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs


Spring brings a lush carpet of blooms to the hills of Cyprus and sends food-loving foragers out hunting for wild asparagus. Cooked with eggs and potatoes, it's a simple scramble that's often served as one of several small plates at dinner. You can find wild asparagus in the U.S. as well; otherwise, shop for stalks that are as young and tender as possible. (Adapted from Munevver Gurel.) Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

06 of 21

Slow-Cooked Lamb with Lemons & Pomegranate


A long braise in the oven yields fork-tender results for a tough cut of lamb. Cinnamon, oregano, garlic and lemon infuse the lamb shoulder with Mediterranean aromas, while a final scattering of pomegranate arils provides a burst of color and crunch. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

07 of 21

Shaved Artichoke Salad with Shrimp


Venice was built on saltwater marshes in the 6th century, and many local crops like the city's Sant'Erasmo artichokes, have a delicate taste of the sea. For this healthy salad artichokes are sliced thin--a great use for a mandolin if you have one--and served raw. When paired with the sweet-salty shrimp the combo evokes the flavors of the lagoon. For tender and tasty results, buy the smallest, freshest artichokes you can find. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

08 of 21

Herb-Crusted Mediterranean Sea Bass


This whole fish smothered with herbs and buttery breadcrumbs is simple enough to let the flavor of the Mediterranean seafood shine through. If cleaning and prepping the fish for this sea bass recipe isn't your thing, most fish counters at larger markets will do it for you. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

09 of 21

Braised Greens with Lemon & Fennel (Yahnera)


These healthy braised greens are a flavorful side to add to your plate. If you prefer, instead of the croutons, you can add potatoes to the pan with the leeks, onions and fennel and cook for about 10 minutes before adding the greens. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

10 of 21

Egyptian Tossed Salad


This crisp blend of vegetables is offered as a topping or side at Zooba, the Egyptian street food restaurant in New York City. We made it a stand-alone salad to stuff into pita with taameya (Egyptian falafel--see Associated Recipes) or serve with just about anything else. (Recipe adapted from Zooba Restaurant.) Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

11 of 21

Bulgur Pilaf with Eggplant, Pepper & Tomatoes (Hondros me Melitzanes)


On Crete, this pilaf is often made with xynohondros, or cracked wheat simmered in soured goat's milk. A sprinkling of feta pays homage to that flavor. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

12 of 21

Vegan Black-Eyed Peas


Two Cypriot specialties--good olive oil and fresh lemons--lend sunny flavor to this simple bean dish, served as a side in Cyprus. Chard adds a hearty touch. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt, or nondairy yogurt to keep it vegan, for a meatless meal. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

13 of 21

Hawawshi (Egyptian Hot Beef Sandwich)


This hawawshi--a hot sandwich that's a favorite Cairo street food--is filled with ground beef, vegetables, herbs and spices and adapted to be made in a home panini press. If you don't have one, cook it in a skillet over medium heat with another skillet on top, weighted down with a few 15-ounce cans. (Recipe adapted from Zooba Restaurant.) Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

14 of 21

Purslane, Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Mint


Purslane is a nutrient-packed green with a bright, lemony flavor and delicate crunch. Many gardeners in the U.S. consider it a weed, but Cypriots use it to make refreshing salads. If it isn't growing in your own yard, try calling a local vegetable farmer, who might be pleased to give some away, or you can order it from or Watercress makes a peppery substitute in this simple salad recipe. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

15 of 21

Traditional Greek Tahini Dip


Super creamy with the nutty flavor of sesame seeds, this homemade tahini sauce recipe is a popular way to begin a meal in Cyprus. Serve with crudités and pita. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

16 of 21

Lemony Samphire


Called sea beans in the U.S., samphire is crunchy seaweed that adds brininess to dishes and can be eaten raw or cooked. Look for it in gourmet markets or fish markets or order online at Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

17 of 21

Egyptian Lentils, Rice & Pasta (Koshari)


This kitchen-sink of a vegetarian dish was most likely invented in Egypt in the mid-1800s when Cairo was a major multicultural trade port, which could explain the similarities to Italian spaghetti as well as the Indian rice-and-lentil comfort food khichdi. Three toppings--a spicy tomato sauce (shatta), crispy onions and a garlicky vinegar (dakka)--are added to the koshari before serving, but in Cairo most people like them in separate bowls so they can season their bites one at a time. (Recipe adapted from Zooba Restaurant.) Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

18 of 21

Venetian Spice Cookies (Bicciolani)


The intense blend of spices in these cookies is a tip of the hat to Venice's history as a conduit for the spice trade between Europe and the Far East. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

19 of 21

Fried Asparagus & Squash Blossoms


Fritto misto, mixed fried foods, is a typical Italian nibble. Be sure to salt the asparagus and blossoms as soon as they're out of the oil so that the crystals will stick to the food. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

20 of 21

Sweet & Sour Rabbit (Rabbit Saor)


Here rabbit (or chicken) is cooked in the style of sarde in saor, a classic dish where sardines are fried in olive oil, mixed with onions and raisins sautéed in the same flavorful oil and then finished with a jolt of vinegar. Juniper berries add a woodsy essence. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

21 of 21

Barley Rusks (Dakos)


Malted barley grain is mainly used to brew beer and whiskey but is used here to give the barley rusks a sweet, nutty flavor. Look for it at home-brew stores or order it online, along with malted barley flour. Top these crunchy toasts with tomatoes, olive oil and feta, or serve them alongside dips like taramosalata and tzatziki. For breakfast, do as Cretans do and crumble them in a bowl and top with yogurt, fruit, nuts and seeds. Source: EatingWell Magazine, March 2020

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