We hear a lot these days about the healthful benefits of a Mediterranean diet. What we don't hear often enough is how delicious it is! Mediterranean cuisine, loosely defined, is the food of the people residing in close proximity to the Mediterranean sea. Although this area of the globe is home to a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities, the historical connections make for a number of common elements in the foods.
Whether you are looking to get more creative in the kitchen or if you are already familiar with Mediterranean fare, you must make a visit to Blair Mart. Behind this unassuming storefront on Pandora Avenue, you'll find a treasure trove of exotic spices and Mediterranean delicacies. On a recent trip to this delightful shop I scored pomegranate molasses and orange flower water (the latter is lovely sprinkled over sliced fruit or infused in a cocktail), preserved lemons, spicy harissa paste (excellent brushed on grilled meat or fish), and a bottle aged balsamic vinegar. The owner is delightful. He made several suggestions for the use of preserved lemons. For example, dice up the rinds and sprinkle on top of a halibut filet or chicken breast, add them to a salad, cous cous or rice pilaf. Use the lemony brine to jazz up your salad dressing. Preserved lemons add a mellow citrusy kick to your dishes without the accompanying bitterness of lemon pith.
At Blair Mart, you'll also find premium olive oils, Halloumi and sheep's feta, okra and broad beans, fat pearls of Israeli cous cous, lentils, flat breads, hard to find spices (such as saffron and sumac), juicy olives, and pistachios. Behind the deli counter are delectable looking shwarmas, samosas, spanakopitas, hummous and more. Sweet tooths should try the Turkish nougat. If what to buy flummoxes you, ask the owner for suggestions. He is supremely helpful and his enthusiasm is infectious. Ingredients you may have thought of as too exotic will become indispensible in your kitchen. Don't be afraid to branch out. You'll be glad you did!