While the kids around her had lunches packed with PB&J sandwiches, Denise Hazime recalls, her pita with fresh hummus and cucumber slices tucked inside would draw stares – sometimes jeers.
"Back then, there were not as many Lebanese people in Dearborn as there are today," says Hazime, whose parents moved from Lebanon to Dearborn, where she was born and raised. "Most kids weren't familiar with the types of food I was eating." Things have definitely changed in southeast Michigan.
Today, families can find hummus – a blended mixture of chickpeas, tahini paste, lemon and olive oil – at most grocery stores. And Mediterranean cuisine has been hailed from health experts to celebrity chefs as the "it" food.
It's also a mission for Hazime, who now lives in L.A., both on her website, Dede's Mediterranean Kitchen, and in her new book, Idiot's Guides: The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, packed with 200-plus recipes.
When introducing kids to these dishes, she says, it's likely to take more than one try. "Kids' palates are evolving and changing," says Hazime, whose own daughter is 2. Something unappealing today may be a fave tomorrow!
To get a taste, she shared a recipe from her book for baba ghanoush, a spread akin to hummus, but featuring eggplant instead of chickpeas.
- Prep time: 20 minutes
- Cook time: 50 minutes
- Grill top or grill
- Food processor (fitted with chopping blade)
- Medium bowl
- Medium sauce pan
- 2 large eggplants
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper, with ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
- 1/2 medium green bell pepper, with ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
- 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne
- 3 medium radishes, finely diced
- 3 whole green onions, finely chopped
- Preheat a grill top or a grill to medium-low heat.
- Place eggplants on grill. Roast on all sides for 40 minutes, turning every five. Right away, put eggplants on plate, cover with plastic wrap and let cool for 15 minutes.
- Remove eggplant stems and peel off as much skin as possible. (It's OK if it doesn't all come off.)
- In a food processor fitted with a chopping blade, pulse eggplant seven times. Transfer to a medium bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, on low heat, heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add white onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add onions to eggplant.
- Add garlic, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and parsley to eggplant, and stir well.
- Spread on a serving plate; drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil top. Sprinkle with cayenne, radishes and green onions.
- Serve cold or at room temperature. Yields about three cups (a serving is 2 tablespoons).