Mezze, tapas, hors D’oeuvres, appetizers – all are meant to whet your appetite. Frankly, they are often my favorite part of the meal. A good restaurant or host knows that these set the tone for what’s ahead. The better, more exciting they are lets the diner anticipate what is yet to come. Are the appetizers more formal or casual? Are they eaten with a fork and knife or your fingers? Many things come into play here and often I am happy to have a meal of just the starters. Truly, some of these dishes are often the most creative on a menu and when combined with a salad or soup one can easily have enough to fill one’s tummy.
The other day I served my friends a mezze lunch. These are middle eastern appetizers that are meant to be the beginnings of a meal often followed by grilled meats or other courses. In my case I am so happy just to combine the different salads, cheeses, nuts and pastries that anything more is too much. Mezze are a simple, fun way to entertain. Creativity is key here as is a variety of tastes and textures. And since most foods are served at room temperature there is no last minute cooking which is great for the host!
This is what I served:
Feta Pastries, Baba Ganoush, Hummus, Muhamarra, Olives, Turkish Salad, Israeli vegetable salad, feta and goat cheese, fresh Grilled tandoori bread and zatar (a middle eastern spice mixture composed of thyme, sesame seed, sumac and salt often used to dip bread in. I love it!)For dessert we had mint tea, kadaif and dates with walnuts and pistachios.
We could have had more. We could have had less. Whatever-it was fun and good. Easy and Quick. And you too, could do it! Keep in mind that the olives, cheese, dates and nuts, and the bread from Diyar International Market in Aurora are all purchased ahead. You could buy some of the salads, too but since this is a food blog I will give you some recipes. (sorry, Diyar has no link. This is a great place onParker Road if you live in Denver. They are baking almost all the time which means you walk out with giant, hot bread that must be eaten on the car ride home. They give you so much though that you will have plenty for your meal. And ethnic groceries are a passion of mine so you will hear more on these later!)
Feel free to add falafel or tahini or pickles. There are zillions of eggplant recipes. In fact there are just a myriad of items to add to this meal. But keep it simple and easy. That way you make a great host with the ability to greet your guests with open arms. And that my friends, is what mezze are all about.
3 eggplants (Charred until the skin is black over a grill or a gas flame.)
4T olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Chopped parsley to taste (up to 3T)
And feel free to add plain yogurt or mayo or tahini if you would like this creamier.
Slice your eggplants open and drain the juice. You just want to scrape out the flesh which I find works very well with a spoon. Try not to get the charred particles into the eggplant. Put into food processor with garlic. While motor is running pour in oil and lemon juice to blend this into a puree. Add other ingredients as you see fit. This is an absolute fave of mine because of the smokiness of the eggplant and because I love garlic. Everyone must have a taste because even if you are not an eggplant fan, you will like this!
Muhammara (a Roasted red pepper and walnut puree with pomegranate syrup)
1 ½ slices old or toasted whole wheat bread
3 red peppers roasted and skinned
1 c walnuts
3 cloves garlic
1-2T pomegranate molasses (not juice! This is thick like molasses.)
Juice of ½ lemon
6-7T olive oil
Siracha hot sauce to taste (not authentic for this but it works!)
Put all ingredients in food processor except olive oil and hot sauce. Blend until a puree forms. With motor running slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a smooth paste is formed. Add your hot sauce to taste. This can be served with pita or romaine leaves.
Israeli Fresh Vegie Salad (There are zillions or recipes for this so feel free to improvise. Israelis use more peppers, cucumbers and lemons then anyone I know. I don’t think I ever saw a lime!)
2-3 ripe tomatoes or leave them out
½ -1 cucumber (I like the baby cukes or the European ones)
1 pepper, red or green
1-2 garlic cloves
2T chopped mint, dill, parsley , cilantro or a combo
1 lemon juiced and with grated rind
Salt to taste
Chop your veggies. Israelis seem to like little chops. I like bigger. Whatever you decide just keep them about the same size. Stir in garlic, scallions, herbs and lemon juice.
Hummus with Tandoori Bread
For hummus recipes, go to https://thisishowicook.com/tag/hummus/.
That is it. It is a weekend. Have your friends over. Have some mezze. Have some FUN!