At Gourmet Gallery we occasionally offer a “Mediterranean Menu” class in conjunction with MClennan Community CollegeC. MCC’s Karen Hix has taught these classes for us, and she returns this week for a 2-class series on Mediterranean foods. Karen is Lebanese and Scottish. Fortunately for us, her Lebanese mother’s cooking expertise (read Mediterranean) beat out the haggis and blood pudding influence her father brought to the union. Thus we have a Mediterranean Menu cooking class by the Scottish/Lebanese- American, Karen Hix. Boy, are we glad!

Her menu will dig into appetizers and salads, main dishes and desserts. No shortage of flavor in these lessons. Below are a couple of recipes that she WON’T be making, some that we have come to love and rely on for our own appetizers classes, parties, and pot-luck events. They are always hits; so, try them even if they seem a little unusual to you.

Baked Pita Chips
Cut split pita rounds into even triangles with a knife or pizza cutter. Place on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt lightly on top of triangles. Bake at 350° F for about 10 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.

Feta Cheese, Roasted Red Pepper and Pine Nut Dip

Ingredients:
6 oz feta cheese ½ c finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ tsp minced garlic Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature Pita chips, crackers or crudités for serving
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced

Directions:

Combine the feta, garlic, sour cream, and cream cheese in a food processor, pulse until the ingredients are just combined. Scrape the feta mixture into a bowl and stir in the red pepper and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, spoon the dip into a serving bowl and scatter the toasted pine nuts on top. Serve with pita chips, crackers or crudités.

Pita Nachos with Hummus and Greek Salsa

Ingredients:
1 serrano chile, minced 2 tsp red wine vinegar
½ c diced red onion ½ tsp salt
1 large tomato seeded and diced Pita chips
½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced 1 ½ cups hummus*
1 T chopped fresh Mint ½ grated aged mizithra cheese
3 T olive oil

Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine the chile, onion, tomato, cucumber, and mint. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and salt and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Arrange the pita wedges on a large platter. Scatter dollops of hummus on top of the pita chips. Spoon the tomato mixture over them and sprinkle with the cheese. Serve immediately.

*Hummus is a dip made from garbanzo beans, tahini paste (optional), and olive oil. There are lots of great recipes for it, or you can use purchased hummus from just about any grocery store. Karen Hix teaches us how to make hummus (a staple at her house) at her next class.

Dates with Prosciutto and Bleu Cheese
We won “Best Appetizer” at the Waco ISD Education Foundation Cook-off this year with this recipe. It sounds weird, but it’s really fabulous!

Ingredients:
24 dates
1 c quality bleu cheese
12 thin slices prosciutto (the best you can find at the market)
Aged, sweet balsamic vinegar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut the date in half and remove the pit. Place a teaspoon of bleu cheese in cavity and pack in slightly. Wrap the date with a thin strip of prosciutto, knotting or criss-crossing it on the top of the date. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven until the prosciutto is toasted and the cheese is warm, about 12 minutes.

(These can be assembled two weeks ahead and kept in an airtight container in the freezer. Remove from freezer and bake per above directions.)