Casual cocktail party food has become so generic, you can often expect the same tired appetizers at every gathering: the ubiquitous mini-quiche, the platter of rubbery cheese and under-ripe fruit, and the salty chips with commercial salsa.

Choosing a theme like Middle Eastern cuisine for your next holiday party adds an element of surprise to the gathering. Plus by focusing on Mid East staples such as hummus and baba ghanoush, you can delight your guests with hors d'oeuvres that are both healthful and delicious.

Chickpeas, which form the foundation of the hummus spread, are members of the legume family and are sometimes referred to as garbanzo beans. These cream-colored beans provide a plant-based protein source and are an excellent source of fiber. According to a landmark report on diet and cancer prevention published by the American Institute for Cancer Research, there is robust evidence showing a probable link between foods containing dietary fiber and decreased colorectal cancer risk.

Baba ghanoush is made by roasting and pureeing eggplant. The smooth dip incorporates the flavors of sesame paste (known as tahini), garlic, lemon and olive oil.

Vegetable crudites and whole grain pita slices are the perfect accompaniments to these healthful spreads. To create an authentic Middle Eastern platter, serve them along side a variety of fresh olives.

Middle Eastern Platter


Makes 8 servings.


  • 1 can (10 oz.) chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. best quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • Sprinkling of hot or sweet paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


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  1. Drain chickpeas, reserving the liquid.
  2. In a food processor puree chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, cumin, curry powder, cinnamon and chili powder until smooth. Add enough of the reserved chickpea juices (plus water, if necessary) as needed to obtain a soft, creamy consistency. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and garnish with drizzled olive oil, chopped parsley, paprika and freshly ground black pepper.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
100 calories
5 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat)
10 g carbohydrate
3 g protein
2 g dietary fiber
140 mg sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 3/4 Bread/Starch; 1 Fat

Baba Ghanoush

Makes 8 servings.


  • 3 medium eggplants (around 4 pounds)
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • Pitted black olives (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. With a paring knife, pierce eggplants in several places. Place eggplants on a baking sheet and roast until skins are dark mahogany in color and flesh feels soft, 45 to 60 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle.
  3. Split the eggplants, scoop the flesh into a colander, and press to extract excess liquid. Transfer to a food processor and add tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the lemon juice and salt as needed.
  4. Transfer to a shallow serving bowl and garnish with olive oil, parsley, cumin and pitted black olives. Serve alongside hummus, cut veggies and whole-wheat pita slices.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
100 calories
5 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat)
14 g carbohydrate
3 g protein
8 g dietary fiber
320 mg sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 3 Vegetable; 1 Fat