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October 17, 2011

A Feast Worthy of the Mediterranean

By: Morgan Davis

            The rain couldn’t keep all of the participants away during our second Cooking Matters cooking class last Wednesday, October 12th.  Just minutes into this lesson, everyone was discussing what dishes they had cooked in their own kitchens this past week.  We definitely have some budding home-chefs in this class!!
Any great meal should have a great theme.  After observing how capable this particular group was during the first class, I knew it would be safe to give them a little more of a challenge.  So this week’s menu was inspired by the flavors and techniques of the Mediterranean.  It’s no secret that the Mediterranean diet has been touted for the wonderful health benefits gained from consuming whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes and the healthy fats found in olive oil and fish.
I was like a proud parent watching as my participants jumped right in and used the skills they learned last week-- they expertly chopped the veggies that went into the baked falafel patties.  Shariff learned the difference between whisking and stirring as he whipped up a cool cucumber yogurt sauce for the delicious, protein and fiber-packed falafel.  Next, Janell introduced the group to bulgur -- a hearty and healthy whole grain that was used in our tabouleh.  Tart lemon juice and fresh parsley were the finishing touches for this refreshing cold salad. 
Smoky smelling roasted eggplants were removed from the oven just in time to make baba gahnoush.  The soft, flavorful eggplant pulp was blended with tahini, onion and garlic -- the perfect dip for our spiced pita chips.  Our last dish was something you might find in any Greek household.  We prepared Horta (warm greens) by two different methods.  I showed the class the more traditional way of lightly sautéing both mild chard and bitter turnip greens in olive oil and sprinkling it with lemon juice while Janell had everyone roll up their sleeves to try another method.  Sharrif, Sara, Bridgette and Doug each took some earthy kale or collards and learned how to literally massage the leafy greens until they were tender enough to enjoy in an invigorating salad complete with honey vinaigrette.
Everyone felt pretty good about digging in to our anti-oxidant packed bounty.  I can’t wait to see what kind of culinary challenges our cooking class participants will step up to next week!

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