Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Mezze

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The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Micheleof Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

This month's Daring Cooks challenge was fairly simple as challenges go.  We were required to make pita bread and hummus for a mezze, two things that I've been interested in making but never actually done so.  I've been a big fan of chickpeas for awhile now and have been eager to use them any way I can in cooking.  I'm actually a little ashamed I haven't tried them in hummus yet.

 For the pita bread, I went half whole wheat flour.  I like the flavor of goods using the whole wheat more than just plain white flour.  Plus it makes me feel like I'm eating healthier and if I feel like it then I am healthier.  shh...don't mess with my delusions.  They keep me happy.


I tried to make my pitas roll out nice and round but it was really a lost cause.  Some came close to being round.  Most of them ended up with wonky shapes.  I think one of them looked like a hand.  I baked them on my pizza stone (I love that thing).  Most of them didn't puff up like you expect a pita to do.  I got a few that did but for the most part they were a little flat.  That didn't affect the taste though.  They were delicious, soft, and not tough like store bought can be.


When the pitas were done, I got to work on the hummus.  After the soaking and cooking of the beans, it is really rather quick to make hummus.  The only change I made was using peanut butter instead of the tahini.  I looked at buying some but the price was too much for the amount you got.  Since I always have peanut butter in the pantry and it was an allowed substitution, I went ahead and used it.

Let me tell you...I am in love with hummus.  It's so creamy and lemony and nutty and...well just plain good.  Whether it is on pita bread, in a sandwich,  or on crackers, I love it.  And it last for a long time too.  For my mezze, I served the pita bread and hummus with homemade pickled okra, and halloumi cheese (my favorite cheese ever!).  Together it was a perfect combination.  Many a dinner since I made the hummus has been this combination or some variation.  Its quick and very tasty.  I've also take the hummus to work many times.  One coworker says I'm weird because I keep coming in with strange foods!  I can't eat anything 'normal'.  He's more of a pizza and hamburger guy.  If only he knew how good some of these foods really are!


To see more mezze by the Daring Cooks, check out the blogroll here.

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)


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.


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) use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start and add more to taste

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.


8 Treats for Charlie:

Audax said...

homemade pickled okra, and halloumi cheese WOW they sound delicious and they look wonderful also. Don't worry about your coworker its your tastebuds that matter not his. Would love to have some of your mezze. Yes I went with peanut butter also but added a drop of sesame oil. Cheers from Audax Sydney Australia.

Jenn said...

Hmm I dunno if I could do the pickled okra (not a huge okra fan), but I am definitely drooling over that halloumi cheese - Where did you find it - a Middle Eastern market? I would love to try some!

ap269 said...

I agree, this mezze challenge was really YUMMY. Homemade pickled okra - that sounds interesting!

Jo said...

Great job on your challenge and everything looks so delicious.

Rochelle said...

That cheese looks great! I've never had it but I'll be looking for it now! Great job on the challenge :D

Michele said...

Thank you so much for cooking along with me this month. Wow! Your food is just fantastic. I love the halloumi and the pickled okra sounds amazing. I like to use whole wheat flour in my baking as well, and I think your pitas look so yummy!

Jaime said...

looks great! fun challenge

TeaLady said...

this was a fun challenge. I've made pita/hummus before, but liked these recipes better. Your pitas look just fine to me.

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