Every week, Garden Educator Jacqui Roytman holds a cooking class with students in the Spring Creek Afterschool Program. Sometimes they make homemade ingredients like butter and other times they cook up delicious chocolate desserts. For their latest lesson, Roytman taught her students how to make a quick and easy Greek dish—Gigantes Plaki. This recipe, which translates to “Baked Giant Beans,” uses the following ingredients: parsley, celery, oregano, sugar, salt, canned tomatoes, beans, dill, carrots, and cinnamon.
Roytman walked around the classroom handing out chopping boards, child-safe knives, and carrot peelers. “First we need to prepare the vegetables,”Roytman said. Each student was given a task, some were asked to peel the carrots’ outer layers, while others were asked to finely dice the parsley, garlic, celery, and dill.
While the students prepared the ingredients, Roytman turned on her electric skillet and poured a few table spoons of extra virgin olive oil into it. She then asked the students who had finished chopping the garlic to help her pour the ingredients into the skillet. Setting it to a light simmer, the rest of the students lined up to add their vegetables, the canned tomatoes and lima beans were the penultimate ingredients to be added. The final step was the seasoning, which included a few tablespoons of salt, sugar, oregano, and cinnamon.
Roytman placed a lid over the skillet and set her timer for 15 minutes.“While the food cooks, let’s play a game. I am going to place various types of seasoning on top of your tables. I want you to tell me what seasonings you can identify, which ones you like and dislike,” Roytman announced.
Many of the children were surprised to see so many different colors. There were containers filled with bright yellow powder (turmeric), deep red grounded herbs (cayenne), and even black seed-like (Nigella seeds) seasoning. “Try smelling and tasting these ingredients, are any of them spicy or sweet,” Roytman asked.
Nine year-old, Sienna James discovered a new seasoning that she loved—Star Anise, which is a star-shaped ingredient. “I imagine that if we add some of these spices, like the Star Anise or cayenne powder, to the Gigantes Plaki it would taste even better,” she said excitedly.
Once the food finished cooking, and the students voiced their opinions about the various seasonings Roytman presented them with, it was time to serve the delicious Greek dish. “Aside from learning how to cook and serve food, it is important that we also learn etiquette. When serving food, it is always polite to wait for everyone to be served before eating. Also, elbows off the table,” Roytman said as she handed out bowls filled with Gigantes Plaki and slices of pita bread.
All of the students admitted they have never tried Gigantes Plaki, and they were happy to say that the dish was a pleasant surprise. “I really like dipping the pita bread into the Gigantes Plaki’s sauce. It tastes really good. My favorite ingredient in it, is the carrots,” said nine-year-old Danielle Carter.
Photos by Amanda Moses