labneh with pomegranate molasses and zough photo by carmen troesser

9 fresh easy Mediterranean recipes to make now

Mediterranean is a broad term, culinarily speaking. You can drag your grocery cart through Greece, Morocco, Italy, Spain, Israel, Syria and Turkey under this delicious umbrella. 

Labneh with Pomegranate Molasses and Zough 
3 to 4 servings 

Labneh is like a mix between cream cheese and yogurt you can use in lieu of either. Pomegranate molasses makes an interesting substitution for lemon juice in salad dressings or cocktails. Together with spicy, herbal zhoug, they are a perfect snack that’s so simple it doesn’t need a recipe.

Just spread about 1 cup labneh in a shallow dish, drizzle with about 1 tablespoon each high-quality olive oil, pomegranate molasses and zhoug (recipe follows). Serve with warm pita bread or pita chips.

I discovered zhoug at Trader Joe’s and use it to add aromatic, herbal heat to just about anything. It’s no more difficult to prepare than a basic pesto.
1½ to 2 cups

¼ to ⅓ cup olive oil
2 sliced jalapenos
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch cilantro (about ¾ cup)
1 bunch parsley (about ¾ cup)
½ tsp. chili flakes
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of sugar

• Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture reaches the texture of pesto. Add additional olive oil until the desired consistency is reached.

spiced carrots atop garlickly lentils // photo by carmen troesser

Garlickly Lentils on Spiced Carrots 
This is a great vegan dish to take to a potluck, or a great base for any protein.
4 servings

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp. chopped mint
1 Tbsp. harissa
1 tsp. honey or agave
3 to 4 large carrots, peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)
3 cups water
1 cup green or French lentils
6 to 8 garlic cloves, minced (about ¼ cup)
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped preserved lemon (or 1 Tbsp. lemon zest and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)

• In a medium bowl, whisk together the parsley, 3 tablespoons oil, mint, harissa and honey. Toss with the shredded carrots and set aside.

• In a medium pot, combine the water and lentils and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. 

• Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin, allspice, salt and pepper, then add the lentils into the skillet and toss. Stir in the preserved lemon.

• Place the lentils on a serving plate and top with the carrot salad. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Moroccan Meatballs
Rehydrated dried apricots add sweetness and texture to these meatballs.3 to 4 servings (16 meatballs)

4 to 5 dried apricots
½ lb. ground chuck
½ lb. ground lamb
¼ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup minced onion
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. chopped preserved lemon 
1 Tbsp. ras el hanout 
1 tsp. kosher salt 
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup herbed yogurt, for serving (recipe follows)

• In a small bowl, cover the apricots with boiling water. Let sit at least 10 minutes to rehydrate, then drain and coarsely chop. 

• In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, ground lamb, cilantro, onion, egg, preserved lemon, ras el hanout, salt, pepper and reserved apricots. Using your hands, mix just until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Be careful not to overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be tough. 

• Form into 16 1-ounce balls, place on a lined baking sheet and refrigerate 1 hour.

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

• Bake the meatballs until the internal temperature is 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with foil to keep warm before serving.

• To serve, spread the herbed yogurt on a platter and place the meatballs on top.

Herbed Yogurt
The perfect complement to Moroccan meatballs, this also makes a great dip for pita or fresh vegetables.
About 1 cup

1 cup Greek yogurt or labneh
½ cup cilantro
½ cup parsley
¼ cup mint
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more as needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add additional oil until it reaches the desired consistency.

eggplant bruchetta // photo by carmen troesser

Eggplant Bruschetta 
Serve this as an appetizer or simple dinner.
4 servings

1 eggplant, sliced into 1-inch rounds
Olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
1 Tbsp. za’atar, plus more to taste
1 baguette, halved lengthwise
1 cup arugula, torn into small pieces
½ cup chopped hothouse cucumber
4 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped mint
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced preserved lemon (or 1 Tbsp. lemon zest and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)
1 tsp. cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup hummus

• Prepare a grill for high, direct heat, or preheat the broiler. 

• Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with the za’atar. Grill the eggplant over direct heat 2 to 3 minutes per side, or broil 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside.

• Brush the cut side of the baguette with oil and grill or broil until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cut into 4-inch pieces. 

• Dice the reserved eggplant into ½-inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine the eggplant with the arugula, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, mint, preserved lemon and cumin. Drizzle with additional olive oil and toss well. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional za’atar. 

• Divide the hummus evenly over the baguette pieces and spoon the eggplant mixture on top. Serve at room temperature.

DIY or Buy
International grocery stores like Jay’s International, Global Foods Market or United Provisions carry these pantry staples, but making your own is easy.

About ¾ cup

4 Tbsp. sumac
3 Tbsp. dried marjoram
3 Tbsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
½ Tbsp. kosher salt

• Combine all ingredients and store in a sealed container up to 6 months.

Ras el Hanout
About 1/8 cup

1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. cayenne
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. coriander

• Combine all ingredients and store in a sealed container up to 6 months.

preserved lemon is a simple recipe with a high return on investment. // photo by carmen troesser

Preserved Lemon 
This is a recipe with a very high return on investment. Ridiculously simple to prepare, preserved lemon is the perfect combination of sharp citrus and salt to complement pasta, cheese and soups.
1 quart

4 to 5 lemons
½ cup kosher salt, divided
5 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf

• Sterilize a 1-quart canning jar or glass container with a tight-fitting lid by washing thoroughly and rinsing with boiling water. 

• Wash the lemons thoroughly and cut ¼ inch off each end. Place the lemons upright on a board and cut so they are almost quartered, but are still connected at one end. 

• Gently spread open the wedges, and sprinkle the lemons inside and out with the salt. 

• One at a time, place the lemons cut side down into the jar, pressing to release the juice. The lemons should be submerged. If there isn’t enough liquid, remove the last lemon and add all its juice to the jar. 

• Add the peppercorns, bay leaf and the remaining salt to the jar, and close the lid. 

• Let the jar sit at room temperature 3 days, turning the jar upside down a couple times each day, then refrigerate 3 weeks, turning the jar upside down on occasion.

• Preserved lemon can be stored, refrigerated, up to 6 months. They will be a slightly firm to a jelly-like texture. To use, rinse under cold water, remove any pulp or seeds, and slice or chop as directed.

Dee Ryan is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine. 

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