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Daring Cooks do Mezze

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 MANDATORY recipes for this challenge were the Pita Bread and the Hummus.  I chose to make the falafel and cucumber raita suggested by Michele as well.

This was definitely a messy challenge…

I started with the 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

Directions:

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.

The pita bread was definitely the most challenging part of this for me…

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)

Directions:

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.

Beautiful!  Very successful but I was disappointed that they did not stay fresh the next day and when I tried to reheat them in the in paper towel, they went very hard as they came out of the microwave… :-(

Next up, falafel.

Recipe from Joan Nathan and Epicurious.com

Prep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight OR use well canned drained chickpeas (7 ounces/100 grams)

1 large onion

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried parsley (.2 ounces/5 grams)

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried cilantro (.2 ounces/5 grams)

1 teaspoon table salt (.1 ounce/5 grams)

1 teaspoon dried hot red peppers (cayenne) (.1 ounce/2 grams)

4 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon cumin (.1 ounce/2 grams)

1 teaspoon baking powder (.13 ounces/4 grams)

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1 ounce/24 grams) (you may need a bit extra)

tasteless oil for frying (vegetable, canola, peanut, soybean, etc.), you will need enough so that the oil is three inches deep in whatever pan you are using for frying

Directions:

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.

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 feel free to mash this up as smooth as possible by hand.

3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or 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 375 degrees (190C) 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.

6. Drain on paper towels.

All together now:

The raita somehow was not photographed but you can see it in the picture below:

Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm

Prep time: Approximately 15 minutes
1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed

1 teaspoon cumin seeds (.1 ounce/3 grams) OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste

2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt (17 ounces/473ml)

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

fresh coriander or mint, chopped, a couple pinches or more to taste

cayenne pepper or paprika, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Peel cucumber, de-seed, and dice. Blot off moisture with paper towels.

2. Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.

3. In a bowl, stir yogurt until it is smooth.

4. Mix it with the cumin, garlic and coriander or mint leaves (I used some grated radish instead).

5. Stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with cayenne or paprika, and chill before serving.

Tasting notes:

1. The falafels definitely needed some more texture – perhaps panko crumbs on the outside before frying?  Apart from that – great flavour.

2. The raita was a bit watery – I used kefir yoghurt when I probably should have used thicker, Greek-style.  The flavour was definitely there though.

3. Love the pita and was so excited that they worked out but would like to know how to keep them fresh – any ideas?

5. The hummus was great – and it was a good reminder of how easy it is to make – should do it more often!

Thanks Alicia and Yvonne for testing it out!


Don’t forget – you have until tomorrow around noon to get your recipe ideas using lemon zest in to me for this week’s Blogger Secret Ingredient challenge. You could win a $25 Chefscatalog giftcard!

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57 Responses to Daring Cooks do Mezze

  1. penny aka jeroxie February 14, 2010 at 06:43 #

    Brilliant. Good job sweetie! I found the pita the hardest as well and the longest! I like the look of your falafel. Looking forward to the next one now :)

  2. Conor @ HoldtheBeef February 14, 2010 at 08:14 #

    Great work, Mardi! I made felafel yesterday but I used the dry mix from a packet. They were tasty but I really should make it from scratch, I’m sure there is no comparison. I’m so impressed by you guys making pita too. In summary, you seem to have made a plate of greatness :D

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 15, 2010 at 08:13 #

      A plate of greatness, yes but one that took all day…. Sometimes those dry mixes can be ok too!

  3. French Cooking for Dummies February 14, 2010 at 08:40 #

    We used to have a wonderful homemade falafel place in the neighborhood… I haven’t had falafel since it closed :( Yours look amazing, I’ll definitely give your recipe a try!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 15, 2010 at 08:12 #

      Véronique – c’est tellement facile! Mais je mettrais une croûte de panko si tu en as pour donner un peu plus de texture…

  4. Nicole @ Making Good Choices February 14, 2010 at 08:52 #

    Okay, I have mastered hummus, but I need to make all of those other things. yum looks so good…and my kitchen looks as messy as that on a daily basis. looks so delish!!

  5. Lauren February 14, 2010 at 11:32 #

    gorgeous spread, Mardi! And why not make the stale pitas into chips? I haven’t even checked to see how mine held up…

  6. Lauren February 14, 2010 at 11:34 #

    ok, just checked… made my pitas friday and they’re still good. I have them in a ziplock bag in the microwave (which is broken so we pretty much use it as a huge breadbox)

  7. Laura in Paris February 14, 2010 at 12:32 #

    Great recipes! Reminds me of my sojourn in the Middle East.

  8. Jenn February 14, 2010 at 13:45 #

    Beautiful! SO jealous of your beautifully fluffy pita breads, and that falafel looks to die for! Despite our very flat pitas, they did not last long enough to even know how they would have tasted the next day :)

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 15, 2010 at 08:10 #

      Yes but Jenn yours were gluten free so you had that added challenge… I thought they looked amazing!

  9. K a b l o o e y February 14, 2010 at 15:00 #

    Looks marvelous and tasty. Moochie loves hummus and we’re eating healthier now, so we should make some together. Falafal looks incredible.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 15, 2010 at 08:09 #

      Moochie would definitely love to help you make these dishes – especially watching the pitas balloon up in the oven!

  10. Tasty Trix February 14, 2010 at 16:22 #

    I am loving the header and the clean look of your site!! Great job with the pitas! As for keeping them fresh, the only thing I think you could do long term is freeze them. Whatever you do don’t put them in the fridge. But that’s definitely the kind of baked good that goes stale pretty quickly when it’s fresh and made without yucky preservatives and things. Also to reheat them the next day you could toast them lightly – that’ll give a freshening kick!

  11. Alicia February 14, 2010 at 17:01 #

    It was a very tasty evening – I love falafel and I was so impressed with your delicious spread all from scratch … plus a backdrop of “Come Dine with Me” was added culinary entertainment!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 15, 2010 at 08:08 #

      Alicia – glad you enjoyed them – I am happy to cook for you anytime! And yes, CDWM is always good for a laugh!

  12. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best February 14, 2010 at 19:51 #

    The hummus and pita looks so good!

  13. Divina February 14, 2010 at 20:16 #

    Great job Mardi. There were a lot of components for this Mezze but you’ve done beautifully.

  14. Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz February 14, 2010 at 21:14 #

    Yep, it was messy. But everyhting you did looks good. I threw my pitas in the freezer so no idea yet if they will come out dry later.

  15. Taste Traveller February 15, 2010 at 03:54 #

    Your pitas look lovely! Well done, I’m very impressed! :-)

  16. Diana@Spain in Iowa February 15, 2010 at 10:42 #

    LOVE the new place Mardi! I definitely need to get my butt in gear and move over to WordPress!! Great job on the pita and falafels!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 15, 2010 at 11:29 #

      Thanks Diana – you should definitely do the WP switch – Rachael and I can give you some pointers and of course, there’s @vinoluci!

  17. Heavenly Housewife February 15, 2010 at 11:17 #

    What beautiful pitas you made, and delicious mezze. I only wish i could help you eat it.
    Hope you had a great valentines day.
    *kisses* HH

  18. Biz February 15, 2010 at 11:28 #

    That pita bread looks amazing!! I’ll have to give that a try – thanks!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 15, 2010 at 11:32 #

      It was definitely much easier than I thought Biz. I would recommend making half the quantity though since it made 16 pitas!!!

  19. lo February 15, 2010 at 17:00 #

    What a great job on this challenge!

    Did you use fresh or canned chickpeas for the falafel? Have heard that fresh are better/give more texture… but have never tried them myself.

    I’m afraid I have to concur with you on the pita bread. Ate a leftover piece of it today with some leftover baba ghanouj… and it was disappointing. Gotta love the lack of preservatives in homemade pita, but there are definitely trade-offs!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 15, 2010 at 17:08 #

      I used canned chickpeas for both hummus and falafel. Just didn’t have time to work with dried ones…

  20. Dawn@CocinaSavant February 15, 2010 at 21:43 #

    our homemade pitas didn’t last long either unfortunatley, but it was a nice challenge! i think next time we may try to freeze them and see how it goes, or something else so all that hard work doesn’t go to waste! your mezze looks great!

  21. Megan Gordon February 16, 2010 at 03:00 #

    Wow, Mardi! This looks amazing (and time consuming!) I’m impressed with the flatbread–I don’t often tackle yeast breads/treats, but I’ve actually wanted to start with pizza dough so you’ve inspired me here. I LOVE hummus and falafel. Looks like a feast.

    And the site looks GORGEOUS! Congratulations!!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 16, 2010 at 18:11 #

      Thanks Megan!
      The pita is definitely do-able – if I can get it to work, you surely can!

  22. Mr. Neil February 16, 2010 at 09:01 #

    Well it may LOOK messy, but it tasted yummy.

    The lemon hummus was a nice change.

    And while the pitas only lasted a couple days, they were good while they DID last… ;-)

  23. Lisa February 16, 2010 at 09:33 #

    Wow..your mezze looks great and your pitas turned out perfect,,definitely worth the work! Nicely done!!

  24. Natashya February 16, 2010 at 12:22 #

    Great job on the challenge!
    I assume you used canned chickpeas for the falafel if they needed more texture. You will find that the dried work better for falafel.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 16, 2010 at 18:09 #

      Yes but I like the moist interior… I think a crispy coating of breadcrumbs might work too…

  25. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction February 16, 2010 at 13:19 #

    You did an awesome job with the challenge. I especially love the homemade pita! Beautiful!

  26. Fuji Mama February 16, 2010 at 17:14 #

    YUM! What a fabulous challenge! These are some of my favorite foods. I’m thinking I need to try the falafel recipe–so many that I’ve tried are way too dry, and I like my falafel nice and moist!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 16, 2010 at 18:08 #

      I think made with canned chickpeas and coated in panko, they would be right up you alley!

  27. Lisa February 17, 2010 at 10:28 #

    What an absolutely stunning mezze! Your pitas, falafel, and hummus look fantastic. I’ll just assume your raita looks amazing too ;D Now i need to go check out your macarons..uhh..macingtons..so clever! OH, also, great that you posted a mouth watering mascarpone cheesecake option since I have a lot leftover from the ‘hmm hmm’ lol

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite February 21, 2010 at 17:35 #

      Thanks Lisa – I am surprised you have a lot of marscapone leftover from the “hmmm hmmm” since I followed the recipe and it only JUST made enough!

  28. Cat February 18, 2010 at 23:55 #

    i will be honest and say that we have two of alford and duguid’s cookbooks – i love the stories that accompany their recipes and the lush photographs – sort of a travel narrative/cookbook combo – but i’ve never actually cooked or baked from any of their recipes. need to revisit them . . .

  29. Michele February 21, 2010 at 17:30 #

    Thank you so much for cooking along with me this month. Your food is gourgeous and it looks delicious! I love you whole blog and am looking forward to browsing through your posts.

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