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Spreads are one of the defining dishes of the Mediterranean and Middle East. With olive oil as their common binder, they are prepared in all manner of textures, colors, flavors and aromas -- important qualities for the traditional meze table, which is meant to appeal to all the senses. Since they can be served room-temperature, they are easily portable and make low-fat, nutrient- and vitamin-packed lunches. Spreads are delicious accompanied by pita or vegetables or even spooned straight from the package. They also make tasty condiments for gyros and sandwiches and handy pasta, grain and potato toppings. Though hummus and eggplant are the most commonly-known spreads, there are dozens of other options with different ingredients according to their countries of origin. Yogurt-based tzatziki is chock full of cucumbers, garlic and dill or mint. Skordalia puree, bold in flavor, is made from potatoes and garlic; some versions use additional ingredients such as walnuts. Carp roe-based taramosalata is also a timeless meze table staple.

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