Wow, this was some Daring Cooks challenge, and worth every second. Ever have a tapas at a Spanish Restaurant? Well, this is a Middle Eastern version of a tapas called a mezze. It consists of homemade pita and loads of dips, spreads, condiments, and meats. I was initially going to do a My Own Mezze aka not your typical mezze, trying different ideas with Middle Eastern flavors, ones that I came up with all by my little ole’ self.
After mulling it over a bit, I decided to go with the grain and make tried, true and traditional mezze fare. I’ve had the pleasure of gorging on/at a mezze before, but it’s been a while, so I was looking forward to making some of these mezze goodies myself.
The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make a mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.
My mezze is pretty much fercocked. One would ask, where are we? I chose goodies from Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, and god knows where else. Let’s just call it a ‘traveling’ mezze. Take a bite of one thing; and you’re in Turkey! A bite of something else and now you’re breaking plates in Greece! I know the cuisine in those countries is very similar, but each country lends its own nuance to the dishes.
Alright, enough with the goofiness. Fercocked or not, everything in my mezze was yummy, and below is a list of everything I made:
- Cashew Hummus (Recipe below. I use cashew butter or paste instead of tahini, and toast the cashews before grinding them.)
- Muhammara – Roasted red pepper, toasted walnut, pomegranate molasses dip.
- Homemade Pita
- Cucumber Raita (Recipe below. Similar to tzatziki, but with toasted cumin seeds)
- Herbed orange marinated green and black Greek olives
- Shish Taouk – Chicken kebabs with garlic, lemon and spices (minus the traditional garlicky mayo like dip I knew nothing about) Recipe below.
- Roasted red onion and cherry tomato kebabs with Za’atar seasoning – which I forgot to cook/roast as you can see in the photos!
- Fattoush – The Middle Eastern version of a Panzanella salad, using pita ( I brushed the pita with garlic oil before toasting it in the oven)
- Tabbouleh (Tabbouli, Taboule, Tabouleh, Tabuli..there’s like a gazillion ways to spell it)
I know, not very creative, but SO worth NOT being creative! This is manna x 100 on a table! My mezze is small and basic compared to most mezze(s), but of course you can double and triple everything for a crowd. I think everyone should host a mezze at least once in their life; I mean, who doesn’t love warm pita with just about anything in it or on it? Speaking of which, who doesn’t love making pita from scratch? I’ve made pita before, and in fact, used this recipe before, so I knew beforehand it was going to be a success.
The thing is, I almost wish there hadn’t been so much success, since I’d have more to write! My pitas puffed perfectly, my kebabs grilled beautifully, my dips/spreads were creamy and flavorful, and even the olives rocked. The tabbouleh was lemony fresh parsley goodness, and the fattoush salad was a burst of freshness with a garlicky pita crunch. Well, after my macaron disaster, I needed a boost of glitch-free, problem-free fare. Oh, one of my Lowel Ego Lights broke; there you go, A major problem. OH, and I forgot to cook the tomato red onion kebabs before photos! Why do I suddenly feel satiated?
I forgot to cook the tomato red onion skewers! I didn’t want to be late to this challenge, so I just left them uncooked for photos! They’re first marinated in olive oil with Za’atar, salt and pepper for several hours, then roasted (400 F) on a baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning once half way through, or grilled to desired doneness.
Now I’m writing just to make room for all of these mezze photos, so excuse the pointless rambling.
So, I split the pita recipe in half, and now I wish I didn’t because I ended up with 8 pita pockets, thinking that was enough for 2-4 people. Well, it is, but we wanted MORE. I’ll definitely be making these forever. Trust me when I say that homemade pita always beats the crap out of the stuff you buy at the market in plastic bags.
Then again, isn’t that the case with everything edible? Well, I have to admit, there are some packaged sweets out there that beat the crap out of homemade, so, I’ll leave it at that.
Finally, for those who have inquired, I used THIS recipe for the Muhammara. However, I changed it a bit. I used fresh roasted red peppers instead of the jarred, reduced the 3/4 cup of oil to 1/2 cup, added a teaspoon of smoked paprika, and an extra 1/4 cup of bread crumbs.
Okay, I think I have enough room for my mezze photos, so I’ll finish by urging you all to check out the Daring Cooks Blogroll to see the amazing mezze spreads other Daring Cooks came up with (some have desserts like baklava!). For the recipes for falafel, pita and a few of the sides, click HERE.
I hope your Mezze is a-mezze-ing!
Cucumber Yogurt Dipping Sauce (Raita) adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm
- 2 lbs cubed chicken breast or cubed boneless thighs
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced or shredded
- 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- a handful of crumbled feta cheese
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- about a medium handful of fresh cilantro or mint leaves, chopped,
- cayenne pepper or paprika, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)
- In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except the chicken. Pour into a ziplock bag along with chicken cubes. Allow chicken to marinate for 2-24 hours, turning occasionally, in the refrigerator.
- Place chicken on the skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes to 24 hours, first) about 5 pieces on each skewer. Grill (or sear in a hot oiled pan) for 8-15 minutes (depending on size of chicken cubes) or until done, turning them during cooking.
- Peel the cucumber, then seed and dice, or shred with a grater. Blot the moisture off the shredded or diced cucumber with paper towels,making sure it's dry before adding to the yogurt mixture.
- Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.
- In a bowl, stir yogurt until smooth. Mix the yogurt with the cumin, minced garlic and cilantro or mint leaves.
- Stir in the cucumber and feta, and sprinkle with cayenne or paprika. Cover and chill before serving.
- 1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight and cooked (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
- 2 lemons, juiced (3 ounces)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- a big pinch of kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons cashew paste aka cashew butter OR use peanut butter or any othernut butter; feel free to experiment! (1.5 ounces)
- additional flavorings of your choice
- Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
- Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and puree in food processor or mix well for a chunkier hummus. Adjust the seasonings to taste.