Most Mediterranean “breakfast foods” are just a sampling of foods eaten regularly throughout the day. In Turkey, for example, people often eat a small bowl of savory soup for breakfast. In Israel, you might have ﬂatbread dipped in olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar (a Middle Eastern dried herb mix), and fresh cucumber and tomato salad. In other words, vegetables and savory ﬂavors are not oﬀ the Mediterranean breakfast table.
A typical Mediterranean work-week breakfast is quick and light. Aside from the standard coﬀee or tea, there is great diversity in everyday breakfast foods across the Mediterranean. Here are a few examples:
- Lebanon: leftover grains, usually bulgur or barley + milk + cinnamon + honey + fruit
- Spain and Italy: toasted bread + soft cheese + fresh fruit or freshly squeezed fruit juice
- Greece: paximadia (bread made from whole wheat, chickpea, and barley ﬂour) + olives + cheese
- Syria: tahini yogurt with chickpeas + pickles + sliced radishes
- Morocco: fried egg in olive oil + soft cheese + olives + ﬂatbread
On the weekend, breakfast (or brunch) is an opportunity to gather with friends and family, relax, and enjoy a larger, traditional spread. A typical Eastern Mediterranean spread would add a variety of soft and hard cheeses, hummus, fresh olives, pickled vegetables, and ful medames (cooked fava beans) to the basic ﬂatbread and olive oil, for example. In Morocco, you might have shakshuka (eggs poached in tomato sauce) with semolina cakes and sweet mint tea.
The variety of breakfasts in the Mediterranean can be overwhelming. The Oldways 1-2-3 breakfast plan, inspired by Mediterranean breakfasts, breaks down this meal into three categories: whole grains, fresh fruit or vegetables, and a source of protein (eggs or yogurt, for example) to make things easier. Eating something (even a small portion if you’re not feeling hungry in the morning) from each of these categories will energize you and ﬁll you up until lunch. Try out some of these Oldways breakfast recipes:
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- Muﬃn Pan Frittatas with whole wheat toast
- Chickpea Hash & Eggs with bulgur (if you’re feeling ambitious)
Or, go savory and warm up some leftover soup, Turkish-style!
Lara Bertoia, Mediterranean Foods Alliance program manager