Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mezze Recipes and Links

Here are the hummus and pita recipes, as well as some other things you may consider making.

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.

*Optional Recipe: Cucumber Raita – Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm

Prep time: Approximately 15 minutes

1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (.1 ounce/3 grams) OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste
2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt (17 ounces/473ml)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
fresh coriander or mint, chopped, a couple pinches or more to taste
cayenne pepper or paprika, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)

1. Peel cucumber, de-seed, and dice. Blot off moisture with paper towels.
2. Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.
3. In a bowl, stir yogurt until it is smooth.
4. Mix it with the cumin, garlic and coriander or mint leaves (I used some grated radish instead).
5. Stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with cayenne or paprika, and chill before serving.

Optional Recipe: Falafels - Recipe from Joan Nathan and Epicurious.com

Prep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight OR use well canned drained chickpeas (7 ounces/100 grams)
1/2 large onion (roughly chopped, about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried parsley (.2 ounces/5 grams)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried cilantro (.2 ounces/5 grams)
1 teaspoon table salt (.1 ounce/5 grams)
1 teaspoon dried hot red peppers (cayenne) (.1 ounce/2 grams)
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin (.1 ounce/2 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder (.13 ounces/4 grams)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1 ounce/24 grams) (you may need a bit extra)
tasteless oil for frying (vegetable, canola, peanut, soybean, etc.), you will need enough so that the oil is three inches deep in whatever pan you are using for frying

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, and then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. If you don’t have a food processor, then feel free to mash this up as smooth as possible by hand.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees (190C) in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
6. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I sometimes prefer to bake these so I can avoid the deep frying. I bake them on a nonstick pad (silpat or the like) at 325F (160C), just until they’re firm, about 20 minutes.

Optional Recipe: Preserved LemonsRecipe from Paula Wolfert and Epicurious

Prep Time: 10 minutes and then up to 30 days

5 lemons
¼ cup salt (2 ounces/60 grams)
Optional Safi Mixture:
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
5 to 6 coriander seeds
3 to 4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste, only if needed

1. Special Equipment: 1 pint Mason Jar – Sterilized
2. If you wish to soften the peel, soak the lemons in lukewarm water for 3 days, changing the water daily.
3. Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.
4. Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the optional spices between layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice — not chemically produced lemon juice and not water.*) Leave some air space before sealing the jar.
5. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days.
6. To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired — and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.

Notes from Epicurious:According to the late Michael Field, the best way to extract the maximum amount of juice from a lemon is to boil it in water for 2 or 3 minutes and allow it to cool before squeezing.

Notes from Paula Wolfert:• Located on Morocco's Atlantic coast, south of Casablanca and north of Essaouira, the city of Safi is known for its seafood specialties.• To most closely approximate the flavor of Moroccan lemons, Wolfert recommends Meyer lemons for this recipe. This lemon/mandarin orange hybrid, in season in January and February, has yellow-orange flesh, a smooth rind, and a sweeter flavor than other lemons.

• To sterilize a mason jar for the lemons, place it upside down in a steamer and steam for 10 minutes. Using tongs (wrap the ends in rubber bands for a better grip), remove the hot jar and dry it upside down on a paper towel-lined baking sheet in a warm oven. To sterilize the jar's top, boil it in water for 5 minutes, then remove with tongs.

When you're ready to use a lemon, remove it with clean utensils to avoid contaminating the inside of the jar with bacteria. This way, the remaining contents of the jar will not need to be refrigerated.

Here are two really tasty dips! One is called Dukkah and it's a dry mixture of nuts, seeds and spices. The other recipe is a Roasted Pepper and Walnut Paste Dip. Both recipes are from Claudia Roden's book, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.


1 cup sesame seeds
1 3/4 cups coriander seeds
2/3 cups blanched hazelnuts
1/2 cup cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Put each variety of seeds and nuts on a separate tray and roast them all in a preheated 350F oven for 10-20 minutes, until they just begin to color and give off a slight aroma. As they take different times, you must keep an eye on them so that they do not become too brown, and take each out as it is ready. You could also roast them in a frying pan. Put them together in the food processor with salt and pepper and grind them until they are finely crushed, but be careful not to over-blend them into a paste.

To serve, pour a little oil on small slices of bread and sprinkle with the Dukkah.

Roasted Pepper and Walnut Dip

4 large bell peppers
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
4 cloves garlic
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
pinch of chili pepper

Roast the peppers by turning them under the broiler or in the hottest oven until their skins blacken and blister, then skin them and remove the seeds. Blend the peppers to a paste in the food processor, add the rest of the ingredients, and blend very briefly.

A simple couscous salad--couscous, chopped green olives, feta cheese, diced tomatoes, and diced preserved lemons dressed with just a bit of olive oil and sea salt. I used the larger Israeli couscous, but the regular kind would work just as well.

Fried Kasseri Cheese and Lentils dressed with olive oil and the juice from preserved lemons. To fry the cheese, coat 1/3" slices of Halloumi or Kasseri cheese is flour and pan fry until golden on both sides. You can also just melt the cheese under the broiler--omit the flour. To serve, drizzle some fresh lemon juice over the cheese while still warm.

Baba Ghanoush--a fantastic dip made from roasted eggplant. It comes out silky smooth but just so full of flavor. It's sometimes called eggplant caviar.
Here's another chickpea recipe that's very similar to hummus, but more of a fondue since it's served warm.

Split Pea Croquettes and Chickpea Flour Pancakes

Split Pea Croquettes (from Mezze Modern by Maria Khalife)
Note: I had a bit of trouble getting these to stay together during frying, so I ended up baking them at 350F until they were lightly browned.
1 lb. 2 ounces yellow (or green) split peas
1 onion, peeled and grated
small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
6 ounces breadcrumbs
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 medium eggs, beaten
pinch of salt and pepper
flour for coating croquettes
oil for frying

Rinse the peas in a sieve under running water, then place in a large saucepan. Add water and bring to a boil. Once boiled, add the onion and simmer over low heat for 50 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Add the parsley, breadcrumbs. cheese, eggs, salt and pepper, and mix together to form a thick consistency. Knead the mixture and shape into golf ball-sized balls. Coat each ball in flour and fry in olive oil until golden.

Chickpea Flour (or Fava Flour) Pancakes

I based this recipe on Mark Bittman's tortillita recipe. Tortillitas are a Spanish chickpea flour pancake, but I switched up the ingredients a bit.

1/2 cup of chickpea or fava bean flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper
1/3 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup finely diced roasted bell pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, your choice
olive oil

In a bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt and pepper. Add a little more than a cup of water and stir to combine; it should look like pancake batter. Stir in the onions, peppers, and herbs. Put a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and film its bottom generously with olive oil. When the oil is hot, pour in about 1/3 cup of the batter per pancake. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until pancakes are set around edges. Flip, and cook for another 30 seconds or so, until lightly browned. Keep making pancakes until the batter is all used up.

Tabouli and falafels that I baked instead of fried.

Steamed potatoes dressed with a little olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Some olives stuffed with feta cheese, roasted peppers, and radishes.

Here is a recipe for mashed fava beans--it's sort of an alternative to chickpea hummus.

Fava beans, fresh and dried.

Here's a recipe for a very thin cracker bread called lavash. It's easy to make and would be great for dips.

Homemade pita is so much better than anything you can get in the store, but if you do end up with some leftovers, here are two recipes to help you use up that pita. Fattoush is a salad made with pita, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cucumbers--it's completely delicious. And of course, there's always pita chips--so much tastier (and healthier) than fried snacks.

• Here is an online Middle Eastern grocery store that sells spices and other neat products, plus they have a bunch of great recipes.
• Here is the Wikipedia entry on mezze.
• Here is a video that shows how to make the pita bread. Notice the awesome music!
• Here is a video on falafel making.
• Here is a Middle Eastern Cuisine link on mezze including recipes for all diets.
• Gourmet magazine has a recipe for Quick Preserved Lemons.
• Here’s a video on making preserved lemons.


  1. Wow! Fantastic challenge and you have so many great recipes here! I absolutely love Claudia Roden's book and cook so much out of it.

    Thanks for a wonderful challenge, we can't wait to cook up an absolute feast!!!

    Cheers, Emily

  2. WOW you have put so much work into this challenge it is amazing. I think I like split pea rissoles and the tabouli well done. Cheers from Audx.

  3. My kind of eats. My kids like this type of eating. I sometimes call it rainbow night and have different colors represented.

    I love Claudia Roden's book too.

  4. Ciao ! Super challenge ! Thanks for choosing so many different things !

  5. Michele,
    What a wonderful collection of recipes...my mezze table is going to be overflowing!

  6. You've given us a great palate of flavors and ideas to play with. Thanks for a great challenge!

  7. Waiting until the last minute for this challenge, as usual... but looking forward to it! Can't beat a weekend-day of little plates, after all.

  8. Thank you all so much! I can't wait to see what you make!

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