Meze (Serbian), mezze (Arabic), and mezé (Greek), are the Eastern Mediterranean appetizers similar to Spanish tapas. Derived from the Persian word maze ‘to taste or snack’, meze consists of plates that are a feast for the eyes. Small bites and dips that are varied in texture, flavor and color, in my native Serbia they are traditionally served with rakija (fruit brandy).
Of all the Slavic nations, the Southern Slavs are the most hospitable…believe me, I’m not partial…and there is no better way for them to demonstrate their warmth and generosity than through an offering of food. Even unannounced guests are treated like family, and there is always more than enough to go around come see my parents’ leftovers sometime! Serbian meze may include pršut (prosciutto), salama, kobasica (sausage), kajmak (clotted cream) and ajvar (red pepper relish). For the sake of this Daring Kitchen challenge and our hostess, I am keeping it vegetarian with Middle Eastern mezze.
My friend Chantal and I spent an enjoyable day baking pita bread and bringing the meze plates together. She has an interesting collection of dinnerware – many choices for the amateur photographer! Just look at those pretty yellow ‘triple bowl’ dishes above. Adorable, and perfect for meze!
In the picture above you will find (counterclockwise from the top): sliced radishes, kalamata olives, walnuts, preserved limes (I just happen to make a jar with Mexican key limes a couple of months ago), hummus with olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika, cucumber raita, hummus again, and pita bread. Feta cheese cubes are in the middle.
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 second plate below (from the top) consists of my favorite dip of all muhammara (I will post the recipe soon), pita bread, potatoes with olive oil and lemon zest, and yoghurt cheese sprinkled with dukkah (a blend of sesame seeds, spices and nuts). Be forewarned: there are healthy quantities of fresh garlic in the dips and falafel. So much so that Husbie and I were able to created enough fumes to ward off the vampires and every disease under the sun for a few days now!
Adapted from Vefa’s Pita Bread, found at Kalofagas
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup warm (body temperature) water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
coarse cornmeal for dusting the dough
vegetable oil for greasing the pan
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. In a smaller blow, combine the warm water, olive oil, yeast, and sugar and let stand for five minutes or until you see that the yeast is active.
Using your hands, gradually add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and knead with your hands until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm spot to rise and rest for about 30 minutes.
Divide dough into six pieces and roll out into 6 - 8 -inch rounds that are about 1/4 inch thick. Dust both sides lightly with cornmeal and poke the surface of your pita breads with the tines of a fork. Stack the dough rounds until you are ready to cook the pita bread.
Place a heavy cast-iron skillet (non-stick pan is fine) and heat to medium-high. Pour a little vegetable oil in the skillet and brush to cover the bottom. Carefully place one pita dough in the hot skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes and turn over when you see bubbles forming in the bread.
Place fried pita breads on to a large cotton kitchen towel and cover. Repeat with the rest of the dough, stacking them as you go. Serve warm with falafel or cut into triangles with the various dips and meze.
adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm
1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
fresh coriander and/or mint, chopped, to taste
cayenne pepper or paprika, for the garnish (optional)
Dice the cucumber. Blot off excess moisture with paper towels.
Add cumin, yogurt, garlic, coriander and/or mint. Chill until ready to be served. Sprinkle with cayenne or paprika before serving.
Serve with falafel (above) or pita bread as part of meze (below).
Yogurt cheese sprinkled with Dukkah
To make yogurt cheese, line a medium sieve with two to four layers of cheesecloth (this depends on the weave: more layers for a loose weave, fewer layers for a dense weave). Place the sieve over a bowl. Spoon 2 cups of plain whole milk or lowfat yogurt on the cheesecloth. Cover with the excess cheesecloth and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, unmold and sprinkle with dukkah. Serve with pita bread triangles.
1 cup sesame seeds I made half a recipe, 1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 3/4 cups coriander seeds I added 2 tablespoons
2/3 cups blanched hazelnuts I used 1/3 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup cumin seeds I used 2 tablespoons 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, sprinkle a little dukkah on the yogurt cheese or pour a little oil on small slices of bread and sprinkle with the dukkah.
For the hummus, falafel and preserved lemon recipes, please go to Michele’s blog.
This post will be submitted to Susan’s blog Wild Yeast, for her weekly showcase of yeasted foods: YeastSpotting!