I had the pleasure of being asked to do a cooking class with a group of women on July 18.
They get together on a regular basis but had never had a cooking class together as a group.
The class was held at a beautiful ranch, set on a hill on 70 acres with a lake view. The kitchen was open, with plenty of counter space, a professional style gas range, and had a lovely view of the lake.

They selected the Mediterraean menu which included:

Hummus with Cucumbers and Carrots
Herb-crusted Lamb Chops
Mediterranean Couscous with Spinach
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Peaches

I demonstrated the dishes while the guests observed and then they sampled what I made.  The hummus was
a version I have made many times and can be modified depending on your mood.  Personally, I think it was too salty and I have modified my recipe to start with less salt and add more later.  A pretty dish with a bowl of hummus surrounded by sliced carrots and cucumbers is a beautiful appetizer.   The class enjoyed the hummus with the crispy fresh vegetables and pita chips.  We made the panna cotta next using a fresh vanilla bean.  If you’ve never worked with a vanilla bean it’s an interesting technique and the fresh vanilla bean makes things tasted so good.  The panna cotta had little flecks of vanilla bean throughout it and great flavor.
The couscous dish was next, a simple but complex tasting dish, with the fresh tastes of good cherry tomatoes and herbs, and the tang of the feta cheese.  It was also a colorful and appetizing dish to look at.
Finally, we made the lamb chops so when they were done the lamb could be eaten with the couscous and spinach.  The class was surprised to see that I made my own bread crumbs by cutting the crusts off some Italian bread and pulsing it in the food processor.  The herbs and fresh bread crumbs looked and smelled fantastic.  It was a little tricky making the lamb chops on a stove I had never used, but they turned out fine, tender and juicy with the taste of the crust in every bite.  The hostess invited me to sit at the table, which I did, and we all ate the lamb and couscous.  The panna cotta with fresh peaches was a nice finish to the meal. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did!


2-4 garlic cloves
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1/2 tsp kosher salt (you can add more later if you like it saltier)
1 tsp cumin, toasted
1/3 cup tahini
6 T fresh lemon juice
2 T liquid from chickpeas
1/2 tsp hot sauce or 1/4 tsp cayenne
1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
optional:  add a chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper
For red bell pepper hummus, add a roasted red bell pepper
Garnish with paprika, chopped cilantro or chopped parsley
Serve with pita chips, toasted pita bread, sliced cucumbers, sliced carrots or any vegetable.

Pulse all ingredients in the food processor, adding chickpea liquid to thin as you desire.  Drizzle with more olive oil. 

Mediterranean Couscous

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked couscous
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup red onion (or sweet yellow onion)
2 tsp fresh dill, chopped
3 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add couscous and salt and stir.  Remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  In a mixing bowl add lemon juice, dill, and pepper.  Add a few drops of oil and whisk briskly, then add the rest of the oil.  Add the other ingredients to the couscous.  Serve warm on a bed of raw or wilted spinach.

The couscous was excellent and a perfect side dish for the herb-crusted lamb chops.

Herb Crusted Lamb Chops

2 garlic cloves
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp fresh rosemary
1 T fresh basil
1 T fresh oregano
2 T fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place garlic, bread crumbs and herbs in a food processor and pulse until herbs are finely chopped.  Sprinkly sea salt and pepper on the lamb chops and coat with olive oil (lightly).  Press crumb mixture firmly on both sides of the lamb chops.
Heat grapeseed oil on medium high in a saute pan.  Brown each side of the lamb chops, leaving undisturbed for the first 2 minutes to allow a crust to form.  Place on a baking sheet and finish in the oven for 4-6 minutes for medium rare.