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 Boy loves Middle Eastern food more than I do, and he certainly knows it better, so I admit I was a little nervous when I took on this month’s challenge. Still, I decided that a meal would be made of it: pita and hummus (the two mandatory dishes), along with tabouleh and (beef) kefta. Although I’d originally planned on also including toasted almonds, The Boy politely declined (luckily, ahead of time), so I just went with sliced cucumber instead. Can’t go wrong with sliced cucumber in our house.
The results? Sheer deliciousness (and, although I didn’t think of it until afterwards, more Meats On Sticks).
I halved the listed recipe, since there were only two of us, and the results were really great. My modification here was to incorporate about a third whole wheat flour (estimations are rough because a lot of flour was absorbed in the kneading).
Lesson learned? Preheat my baking stone for at least 30 minutes (45 would be better) before throwing the dough on it, if I want the cute balloon-y pitas that split open for easy stuffing.
1 tsp dry yeast
1.25 c warm water
1.25 c all-purpose flour
Stir yeast into the warm water, then incorporate flour gradually, stirring as you go. I didn’t count if I “stir[red] 100 times”, but I did stir for a minute or two before letting the sponge rest (about 15 minutes).
0.5 tbsp salt*
1 tbsp olive oil
2-2.5 c flour (combination of whole wheat and all-purpose)
Sprinkle salt and oil over the sponge. Stir in the remaining flour gradually, turning dough out to knead when stirring becomes impossible. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 12 minutes for me, but I’m a sissy). Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, allow to rise. (1 hour for me, but I pamper my dough.)
* Note on salt: I got away with using a pretty chunky sea salt (it was what I had on hand!) but if I’d had it, I would probably use a much finer grain the next time I make this.
Preheat an oven (with stone if you’ve got it) at 450°F. Working with half of the dough at a time, divide into smaller balls (slightly smaller than fist-sized), and roll out to 8-9″ in diameter. (The quantities listed here yielded 9 pitas, if that helps with sizing.)
When hot, bake the pitas for 2-3 minutes, or until puffed into bread-y balloons. Keep waiting dough discs under a damp cloth, and finished breads wrapped in a dry one if serving all together.
1 can chickpeas (12 oz)
1 lemon, juiced (it was fairly large)
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
a big pinch of salt
piri-piri spice mix (if I had to guess, probably a heaping tbsp or so)
Purée chickpeas in food processor. Add garlic. Add everything else, blend, taste, fiddle with spices, blend, taste, repeat.
I’d always read that making your own hummus was super easy, but for some reason I never got over the mental inertia to just try it. I am so glad I finally did, because it really is that easy, and it’s so much tastier than some of the store bought versions and fun!
I glossed over this one without paying attention to portion and ended up with WAY more tabouleh than we needed. Happily, I also had lots of bulghur left, so I could tone it down a little for the leftovers.
1 c bulghur (cracked wheat)
1 c hot water
1/3 c cucumber, chopped (about a quarter of a cucumber)
1/2 small tomato, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 c fresh mint, chopped
1 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tbsp pepper
1 tsp salt
Lesson learned? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but too much garlic. I know, one clove! If I were doing it again, I might try to flavour the olive oil with garlic, but leave the actual physical chunks out. Other than that, however, it was very tasty.
So admittedly these should have been cooked over coals, or at least grilled, but I settled for baking. They still turned out quite well, but a little softer than I’d like. Next time, definitely one for the grill.
1 lb. ground beef (might try lamb next time)
1 medium onion, chopped very fine
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Stir everything together, form around soaked skewers, grill (about 8 minutes to a side for me). Lesson learned? Mince everything smaller than you thought you needed to. Really.
All in, everything was very tasty, and the whole thing was far less work than I’d feared. I don’t know if I’d do it again on a school night anytime soon (the leftovers are a little too garlicky for me to be comfortable eating around coworkers…) but I would definitely make all of the above again.