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Rhode Island's Winning Recipe: Peace in the Middle East Soup and Salad

“I think war causes too much suffering in the world. One problem I see is that people often focus on their differences, rather than things they have in common. In the Middle East there have been wars going on for a long time because people often fail to get past their differences. I wanted to create a dish that takes parts of different cultures in the Middle East and shows how they can come together to make a delicious and healthy lunch. The lentil soup brings in many Middle Eastern flavors and is joined by a crunchy Israeli salad stuffed into a pita. My dish highlights things that different regions in the Middle East have in common, and shows that, in the end, everyone is more alike than different.”

Pablo Aizenman, Age10, the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge winner from Rhode Island

Makes 4 Servings


For the Soup:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup dry lentils
  • ¾ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 4 large kale leaves, stemmed and chopped

For the Salad:

  • 1/3 Vidalia onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes or slices
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Juice from ½ fresh lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 large whole-wheat pita breads, cut in half and lightly warmed
  • Optional: Nonfat plain Greek yogurt, as topping


  1. To make the Soup: In a large stockpot, warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the carrots, celery, and onions. Cook for 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and golden brown. Add in the remaining ingredients except for the kale, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the kale and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Remove 3 cups of the soup and puree in a blender. Return pureed soup to the main pot and heat through.
  2. To make the Salad: In a large salad bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Carefully open the pocket in the pita bread half and add a quarter of the salad inside. Add some yogurt in the soup or salad for extra flavor and serve pita and soup together. 

451 calories 18g fat 57g carbohydrates 22g protein

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