Ancient Middle Eastern Feast

This menu was made and enjoyed by Middle School students in the first of a series of longer after school cooking classes. The ingredients for the dishes were indigenous to the region of Mesopotamia several thousand years ago connecting the feast to the 6th graders’ study of these ancient cultures.Homemade Hummus with pita chips

Cumin rubbed chicken and roasted grape skewers

Lentil salad with sautéed leeks, onions and garlic

Mixed greens with cucumber, mint, feta and dried apricots with a lemon vinaigrette

Apples with local honey


Makes about 3 cups

2 cups drained well cooked or canned chickpeas, liquid reserved
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste), optional, with some of its oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika, or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1.       Put everything except the parsley in a food processor and begin to process. Add the chickpea liquid or water as needed to allow the machine to produce a smooth puree.
2.    Taste and adjust the seasoning, add more lemon if necessary.
3.    Serve, drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled with a bit more cumin or paprika and some parsley.

Pita Chips

Makes about 100 pieces

8 pita rounds
olive oil
kosher salt

1.    Preheat oven to 350° F.
2.    Slice pita rounds in half horizontally so that you have 2 discs.
3.    Brush with olive oil and cut into 6 wedge-like pieces.
4.    Salt lightly and arrange on sheet trays in a single layer.
5.    Roast in the oven for about 6-8 minutes until crisp.

Cumin Rubbed Chicken with Roasted Grape Skewers

Makes 20 skewers

10 boneless and skinless organic chicken breasts
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch seedless red grapes
2 teaspoons olive oil

1.    Preheat oven to 350° F.
2.    Clean chicken breasts and cut into large chunks.
3.    Combine spices and mix thoroughly to evenly distribute.
4.    Toss chicken with olive oil and spices.
5.    Roast chicken in the oven until cooked completely, check after 5 minutes.
6.    Toss grapes with olive oil and roast in the oven until swollen but not burst, about 8 minutes.
7.    When the chicken and grapes are cool enough to handle, skewer them, alternating ingredients and serve right away.

Note: Because you are working with raw meat, make sure you clean this station completely with a sanitizing solution (4 cups of hot water with a teaspoon of bleach).

Lentil salad with sautéed leeks, onions and garlic

Makes about 4 cups
2 leeks, washed and diced
1 medium onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups green lentils
4 cups chicken stock
water if needed
salt and pepper to taste

1.    In a medium-sized saucepan over low heat, add olive oil. Then add leeks, onions and garlic and sweat until tender, about 5 minutes.
2.    Add the lentils and chicken stock and simmer until the lentils are tender (about 30 minutes). Add water if you need to replenish cooking liquid.
3.    Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mixed greens with cucumber, mint, feta and dried apricots

Makes enough salad for 8 hearty portions

2 heads red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
1 bunch baby arugula
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into quarter moons
1/2 cup mint leaves, washed
6 oz. feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

1.    Toss greens with cucumbers, mint, feta and apricots.
2.    Right before serving, drizzle with honey-lemon vinaigrette. Mix gently.

Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup of dressing

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1.    In a class jar (with lid), add mustard, honey lemon juice and salt. Cover and shake well.
2.    Add the oil and shake until incorporated. Taste for seasoning.

Apples with Local Honey

8 apples from the farmers market
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon water
local honey from the farmers market

1.    Slice apples and toss with lemon juice and water (to keep from turning brown)
2.    Platter apples and drizzle them with honey.
3.    Eat and enjoy!