The 2010 February Daring Bakers 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.
What is MEZZE? Also called meze, or mazza in most Arab countries, mezethaki in Greece, qimiyya in Algeria or adu in Tunisia, it is simply a selection of small dishes such as meat, poultry, seafood and vegetable appetizers typically served with beverage. A mezze meal can range from a simple snack to a whole feast. Similar to the Spanish tapas, the Italian antipasti or the French hors d’oevres, mezze are part of the relaxed eating style of the countries along the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.
This challenge has two mandatory dishes: PITA BREAD and HUMMUS. The rest of the mezze dishes will be up to us. I had my first “real” mezze feast two years ago in Greece at a local restaurant in Athens. It was an amazing array of flavors. In our own city of San Diego, we frequent a favorite Turkish restaurant which serves homemade mezze dishes.
I wanted to recreate the experience but with Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras all being celebrated this weekend, I decided to prepare a simple MEZZE FEAST FOR TWO as preValentine celebration. In addition to the homemade pita bread and hummus (I made olive hummus and roasted red pepper hummus), I served Greek tatziki (yogurt and cucumber dip), zaton was lemons (olives with lemon), lahama mashvi koftas (beef and lamb koftas) and kadin budu (deep fried lamb meatballs). This feast could easily have fed more than 2 people. But the beauty of this culinary spread is its flexibility. Hot dishes can go with chilled dishes, spicy can be mixed with mild and meat and seafood dishes can be served alongside vegetarian delights. Not to mention that most recipes can be prepared in advance, served chilled or at room temperature.
Here is the recipe for pita bread and hummus provided by our host.
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.
Notes: To make olive hummus, I just added 1/3 cup of black olives to the above recipe. If you want a roasted pepper one, just add 4 pieces of roasted pepper and then run in the food processor.