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These are fun and healthy foods to lighten winter darkness or they can make a fun sort of party menu with light foods of Mediterranean countries, guaranteed to perk you up even in dark northern winters. Brightly colored foods are good for you and these are mostly orange and green.

This menu was inspired by a picture of food set out for the dig workers at an archaeological site. Dig workers are always underpaid (sometimes they pay to be allowed to work!) and they work hard in the hot sun, so the people who organize the digs have to do as much as they can to make the work conditions pleasant. A photograph in Biblical Archaeological Review showed a table set with bowls of brightly colored foods and I have amused myself by trying to figure out what was in them.

These are very simple recipes which you can throw together, using your favorite flavorings. You actually could prepare the beans by soaking them overnight and then cooking them for an hour the next day, but it is easier to just use canned beans, and wash them well first. Most of the amounts here are rather small, about enough for 2 people. You can choose to make all of these recipes if there are many people or just a few of the recipes, if only a few people are joining you. Pick the ones you like and wear your pith helmet! [fuggle26]

Chickpeas and Olives
Chickpea Salad with olives Whisk together:
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of vinegar
salt and pepper to taste.
Stir together with:
1 can of chickpeas (about 2 cups, cooked)
Place around the side of the bowl:
6 or 8 green olives

Millet or Rice Salad
Cook rice or millet according to the directions. I just make it in the rice cooker.
1 cup of rice to 2 1/4 cups of water, OR
1 cup of millet to 2 1/2 cups of water.
1 small sliced onion
1 tablespoon of curry spices, optional, but I really like this.
1/4 teaspoon of salt

Millet Salad with oranges When it is done, stir into the warm, cooked rice or millet:
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of dates, pitted and cut small or use raisins
1 cup of orange or tangerine sections (about 2 oranges, peeled and divided)
1/4 cup of fresh herbs, like parsley
1/4 cup of shelled pistachios

Cooked Carrots with Honey and Cardamom
When my friend lived in Israel, she used to walk out of her house every morning and pick cardamom pods and crush them and put them in her coffee. I still do this by using 4 or 5 pods smushed in a mortar and pestle and then added to the ground coffee in the coffee filter. This recipe uses cardamom to flavor vegetables.
3 or 4 carrots, sliced in coins and steamed lightly, about 10 minutes. While they are still warm, drizzle over them:
1 tablespoon of butter or oil
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of honey
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom (which I buy already ground up)
Toss to mix together.

Fava Beans with Cabbage
Cabbage with fava beans Fava beans are also called Mesdames, or English Broad beans.
Sauté briefly in olive oil:
1 cup of sliced onions
1 clove of garlic, smushed.
4 cups of tasty cabbage, such as Savoy (the crinkly kind)
Add and stir together and heat until warm:
1 can of fava beans (about 2 cups of cooked fava beans)
1 tablespoon of fresh minced herbs such as thyme
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt to taste

White Beans with Red Bits
Stir together:
1 can of big white beans (cannellini or great northern beans), rinsed
1 small jar of roasted red peppers in oil, which has spices in it.

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed (or about 2 cups, cooked)
pinch of cumin
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup of sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, smushed
bit of cayenne or other hot pepper (in the Middle-east they make this really hot!)
salt to taste
Blend all that together, or you can just mash it with a potato masher. It will be lumpy but still good.
Stir in:
1/4 cup of fresh parsley (or any herb that you happen to like)
This is good cold, but it is better warm. See note about Pita bread, further down.

Carrot and Zucchini Salad
2 carrots, grated into thin strips or you could slice them with a carrot peeler.
2 small zucchinis, same as above.
juice of one orange, and a bit of the zest
1 tablespoon of olive oil
pinch of coriander
pinch of cumin
tiny pinch of cinnamon
red pepper, a bit to taste, but it should be zingy
Toss this together. It would be great if you could leave this in the refrigerator for a little while, for the flavors to mingle.

Here are some suggestions for some more substantial foods that go with those, in case that isn’t enough food for you:

Greek Salad
This wasn’t included in the picture, but it goes very well with the rest of these foods.
1 head of cos or romaine lettuce, cut in bite-sized pieces
1/2 of a cucumber, diced
1 cup of cherry tomatoes cut in half, or any tomato, diced
a few slices of a red onion, cut small, don’t use too much of this
Make a dressing with:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice (takes about 1 lemon) or use vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Toss all this together and add:
a few black olives, make sure they are pitted
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled on top
fresh snips of dill and basil on top, if you can find them.

Pita Bread or Pita Bread Chips
This is not wheat gluten free so I can’t eat it, but many people like this and it goes well with the rest of the food especially the dips. Otherwise, you might include celery pieces to use for the Hummus dip, or rice crackers or unauthentic! corn chips, but I often just eat those foods with a spoon!

Laban or Feta Cheese or Yoghurt
I like laban or lebeni (yoghurt cheese) and I make it myself, but if that’s too complicated, just buy some or some yoghurt or any mild white cheese to have on the side.

Sesame Crisps
These are an optional but traditional type of sweet in Mediterranean countries. Sesame crisps come in little packages that look like crackers, and they make a nice finish to the meal.

You could have Mint Tea with this, either cold or hot, and that would be nicely authentic.

Dig in!!

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