Saturday, February 13, 2010

Amazing Mezze: Daring Cooks February 2010

If you're like me: one of those people who can't answer any question that starts with, "What is your one and only favorite...?", then you will love MEZZE. It's a way of eating, it's a bunch of different tidbits of flavor, it's a party on a platter!
Pita, Hummus, Curry Cauliflower, and Marinated Olives
The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

The word, Mezze, is used in Middle Eastern dining, and usually comes before a larger meal like: Appetizers, Tapas, Dim Sum, Hors d'Oeuvres and Antipasti. There could be as many as 50 different small servings that make up a Mezze course - or just a couple. Very often it will include Pita Bread and Hummus. "Mezze" has become a sort of trendy term to use in restaurant names across the country in the last few years, too.

I was visiting my Mom, Brother, and his wife in North Carolina when I made my Mezze platter for this challenge. We got snowed in for 3 days and luckily I had already bought all the ingredients. Having mezze was a perfect way to sit around, chat, graze,watch the snow fall, laugh, eat some more, play a board game, and nibble some more. The lighting was not so great for photos inside, but you get the feel: cozy, golden and casual.
The Pita recipe is easy, the hummus couldn't be quicker, and the cauliflower takes no time at all. The olives I had added to some spiced up olive oil earlier in the day, so we never missed a beat chattering away even while I was putting the Mezze platter together. There are a gazillion recipes online for different Mezze and even a helpful YouTube video on making Pita right here.

Quote from my Brother - (with a mouthful of Pita and hummus, giving me a big OKAY sign, then..) "Is there garlic in this, I mean it's the perfect amount, seriously good."
Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. 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.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Curry Cauliflower:

Wash and trim Cauliflower. Place buds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle Salt and Pepper, then drizzle with Olive Oil. Place in oven preheated to 350F for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with your favorite Curry or Curry blend and squeeze a fresh lemon over the pan of curry. Toss gently and continue to cook for about 10 more minutes. *Optionally, toss in a few sprigs of fresh cilantro in the last 10 minutes.What would YOU add to this? Got a favorite one? I also LOVE the eggplant spreads.


Lauren said...

Ooo! It all looks so good =D. I'm glad you had such a great time with this challenge!

Anonymous said...

Nice mezze platter. I totally loved this challenge and have some new favorite dishes now!

chef_d said...

Your mezze looks so yummy, i will definitely have to try your curried cauliflower :)

Lisa said...

The curried cauliflower is making my mouth water! Your Mezze looks fantastic - wonderful job!!

AJ said...

Excellent platter. This was one of the best challenges @ DC!!

Khali//Bandit and the Scene Stealers said...

I hope that if I am ever snowed in it is with a chef. Yummy!