The must-have ingredients a cookbook author always has on hand for making Mediterranean-style dishes

The must-have ingredients a cookbook author always has on hand for making Mediterranean-style dishes
  • The Mediterranean diet including a variety of cuisines that emphasize flavorful, unprocessed foods.

  • A woman who grew up in Egypt said she cooks healthy meals for her family with simple ingredients.

  • Make tasty Mediterranean food with basic flavor enhancers like cumin, citrus, turmeric, and garlic.

The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best ways to eat for your health — and many of the ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store, according to a woman who grew up eating the diet.

Suzy Karadsheh is the author of The Mediterranean Dish Cookbook, a New York Times bestseller, based on her food blog of the same name. Originally from coastal Egypt, she was raised on home-cooked meals influenced by the culinary traditions of the more than 20 countries that make up the Mediterranean.

On any given day, her family might enjoy meals based on cuisine from Greece, Morroco, Egypt, and beyond. But Karadsheh said most of her cooking is based on simple, accessible ingredients. Here are her typical grocery staples for a Mediterranean diet.

Beans are a cornerstone of simple, wholesome recipes to boost longevity

One essential ingredient in Karadsheh's pantry is something you probably already have at home — legumes.

Beans have become a trendy food, according to Karadsheh, but have been a foundation of Mediterranean meals for centuries. She uses them in a wide variety of dishes such as chickpea salad and Turkish lentil soup.

Their current popularity is in part due to the link between beans and longevity, as they're popular in regions called Blue Zones where people are more likely to live to 100.

Barley and farro are filling and rich in fiber

Whole grains are a common building block of Mediterranean meals, helping to provide a healthy source of carbohydrates and fiber, a key nutrient for digestive health.

Karadsheh said she often has barley and farro on hand to fill out soups, salads, or vegetable dishes. While it's not traditional, she cooks frequently with quinoa too, a good source of plant-based protein.

Olive oil is a classic Mediterranean ingredient

Potentially the most well-known staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil shows up in everything from dips and appetizers to entrees and even dessert or breakfast (drizzled over yogurt and boiled egg for a quick but filling meal).

It's an excellent source of healthy fats and a good substitute for butter for people looking for a more heart-healthy diet.

Seasonal produce is a good starting point for delicious, healthy meals

"I'm a huge proponent of when you go to the grocery store, buying whatever is in season, if it's cauliflower, I'm buying it," Karadsheh said.

Some of her favorites include zucchini in early summer and eggplant in late summer through the fall.

Another staple veggie in Karadsheh's kitchen is carrots, which she often sautés with celery and onions to make a sofrito, a versatile base for building flavors in many dishes.

Greek yogurt is a versatile addition to savory dips and creamy dishes

Many people in the US think of having yogurt for breakfast with sweet toppings like berries, granola, or honey. But Karadsheh enjoys hers with with drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a chopped boiled egg for a savory, filling meal.

"It's going to sound very weird, but it keeps me full throughout the morning because of the protein, and it's very quick," she said.

Greek yogurt is also an easy way to add a creamy texture to dips, dressings, and sauces such as tzatziki.

Frozen veggies are a convenient way to add nutrients

While Karadsheh loves a good farmers market, the Mediterranean diet is all about using what you have on hand, and that includes tapping into your freezer.

"I never wrinkle my nose at the idea of using frozen ingredients," she said. "On the Mediterranean diet, you really don't use ultra-processed foods, but that's not the same as a bag of frozen peas."

Frozen vegetables can be just as healthy as fresh, as long as you're mindful of potential additives like sodium, a dietitian previously told Business Insider.

Simple spices, herbs, and aromatics can build big flavors

Karadsheh said people shouldn't be intimidated by cooking Mediterranean food, since it doesn't take exotic ingredients.

"You could make a lot of what I have of what I make every day with your common seasonings," she said.

A few essentials include basic flavor enhancers like garlic and onions, as well as spices such as cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, and cinnamon.

The latter may seem surprising as a savory ingredient to some people, but Karadsheh said it adds a warm flavor and pleasant complexity to recipes, such as meatballs or stew.

Karadsheh stocks up on fresh herbs, too. Parsley is a particular favorite, and she's also a fan of basil, dill, mint, and more.

Salmon is a staple for high-protein meals

The coastal cuisines of the Mediterranean typically include plenty of seafood, particularly fatty fish such as sardines.

While non-traditional, an approachable variation is salmon, which offers healthy omega-3 fatty acids and can be ready for dinner in as little as 15 minutes, according to Karadsheh.

"I'm a big fan of seafood, and that's always in my freezer," she said.

Citrus fruits like lemon and lime can take your flavors to the next level

Karadsheh said she often adds citrus, such as fresh lemon juice, to a dish to build flavors. The acidity provides a key flavor enhancer that can elevate a simple dish of vegetables, beans, and whole grains by adding an extra layer of complexity.

Read the original article on Business Insider