Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mezze


 I absolutely love the Mezze platter served in middle eastern restaurants; a bit of this and a bit of that all combined together with toasted pita bread that can be had either as an appetizer or as a complete meal. The first time I had Falafel was in this middle eastern cafe in New York and it was in the form of a sandwich with hot crispy Falafel topped with a salad and drizzled with tzatizki sauce; its a delicious vegetarian meal and while I enjoy the platter, but to date, my favorite way of eating Falafel is still in the form of a sandwich with everything mixed together.

By definition, Mezze is not exactly a specific recipe or recipes but a style of eating with a bunch of small dishes served all at once. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the main meal depending on the combination of dishes. Serving Mezze is actually great for a party or for a close family get together because the dishes can be made in advance and the best way to eat it is mixing it all up together as per your taste.

A Mezze meal usually includes Hummus (Chickpea Dip), Baba Ganoush (Eggplant Dip), Falafel, Olives, some sort of salad/yoghurt along with Pita bread, but can also include Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leaves), Fatayer (Stuffed Spinach Parcels), Kebabs, Feta Cheese and the list goes on.

I usually make Hummus & Pita Chips separately for parties as an appetizer, but when I make Falafel then I always make the accompaniments because it tastes best that way; that includes Hummus, Baba Ganoush, a basic Raita and serve it with store bought Olives & Pita Bread.



Hummus
Hummus is one of those really simple dishes that don't require a lot of exact ratios and I always add more or less according to taste; furthermore the taste can easily be changed by adding different ingredients like roasted garlic, chilli pepper, coriander; pesto sauce etc.

Ingredients:
1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute canned chickpeas (drained) which you don't need to cook) (10 ounces)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
Paprika/Red Chilli Pepper - 1 tsp
Black & Green Olives - Garnish
Method:
1) Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid. Keep a few chick peas to garnish on top.
2) Puree the beans in a blender or a food processor 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.
4) Make an indentation in the center and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with red pepper.
5) Garnish with black and green olives & leftover chickpeas
6) Refrigerate for at least


Baba Ganoush (Dip made with Eggplant) 
Ingredients
Eggplant - 1 (Large) or 2 Medium;  Try to make sure it has less seeds
Yoghurt - 1/4 - 1/2 cup
Tahini Paste - 2 tbsp
Lemon Juice - 1.5 - 2 tbsp
Salt - To taste (1/2 tsp)
Garlic - 2 cloves (minced)
Olive Oil - Garnish
Cilantro - Garnish
Method
Roast the eggplant; this can be done on the stove or on the oven; the best way that I have found of doing this is washing the eggplant, and then pricking it with a fork then wrapping it in aluminium foil and putting it on the stove directly. Turn the eggplant every 5-10 minutes and it should cook in about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant. They should be soft but charred from the outside and give off a smokey flavor; As an alternative you can also roast them in the oven, but that takes more time so I prefer this method.
Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out all the flesh and put it in a bowl. If the eggplants were roasted correctly, the flesh should be easily scoopable. If you want to make the baba ganoush smooth, then add all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. However, I prefer a chunkier texture, so I add half the flesh and process it in a blender and then mash the rest of the flesh into the processed paste so it becomes more chunky. Alternatively, you can just mash it all up with a fork. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings if necessary.
Garnish with olive oil and chopped cilantro.





Falafel
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.comPrep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels
Ingredients
Chickpeas - 1 cup/7 ounces
Dried or Canned – if using dried, they must be soaked overnight and then drained. If using canned, they must be drained.
Onion - 1 large
Fresh parsley - 2 Tablespoons (Chopped) Can use dried, just a few pinches.
Cilantro - 2 Tablespoons (Chopped) Can use dried, just a few pinches.
Salt - 1 teaspoon
Red pepper - 1 teaspoon
Garlic cloves - 4 (Peeled & Chopped)
Cumin - 1 teaspoon
Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
All Purpose Flour -  4 Tablespoons
May need more flour
Oil for frying

Method: 
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.
Falafel made with soaked chickpeas is more coarse & more crunchy but that requires planning in advance; If canned chickpeas are used, they are much more softer, but at the same time, care needs to be taken while processing since it can become quite smooth and the batter will be too soft.
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 mash this up as smooth as possible by hand. If mashing by hand, then chop the vegetables finely otherwise they won't mix together well.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough 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 375ºF (190ºC) 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. Drain on paper towels.

Cucumber Raita
Ingredients
2 cups yoghurt
1 cucumber (chopped)
1 tomato (chopped)
1/2 onion - chopped
Corriander - 1/4 cup (chopped)
Salt - To taste
Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
Garlic cloves - 1 (minced)
Method
Mix all the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning to taste; it should not be spicy like traditional raita, but its more like an accompaniment to the Falafels. Garnish with red chilli pepper on top.

1 comment:

  1. Never had a mezze platter, looks so promising...Yum!

    ReplyDelete