The challenge is to prepare a Mezze (pronounced “mez-ay", although many people seem to pronounce it as "mezz”) Table including, but not limited to, homemade Pita bread and Hummus. If you’re not familiar with mezze, it’s more of a style of eating than a specific recipe or recipes. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes served all at once—sort of like the Middle Eastern version of Spanish Tapas. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the meal itself.
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
2.5 cups lukewarm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a 50-50 combo of AP & whole wheat)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
I had to get a little creative with how to bake these for a couple of reasons. My oven only goes up to 225 and it doesn't hold the temperature as well as one might hope. Secondly, it's a combi unit and only has one shelf, so the bottom rack is really in the middle of the oven. Finally, I don't have a baking stone. I was determined to make it work though and got a lot of good advice from Audax and cuppy. I put a pan of water in the bottom to help keep the temperature, and I kept it on the "preheat" setting the whole time they were baking (which keeps the broiler/grill on).
Next I did the goodies to serve with the pitas.
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 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or use 1 10 ounce can)
2 lemons, juiced
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter
- Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
- 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.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Roasted Pepper and Walnut Dip from veggienumnums.com
4 large bell peppers
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
4 cloves garlic
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
pinch of chili pepper
Roast the peppers by turning them under the broiler or in the hottest oven until their skins blacken and blister, then skin them and remove the seeds. Blend the peppers to a paste in the food processor, add the rest of the ingredients, and blend very briefly.
1 cup thick Greek yogurt
2-3 cloves garlic, minced.
1/2 cup seeded and minced (or grated) cucumber
1/4 tsp salt
Mix ingredients and let sit for a few hours in the fridge. Add salt to taste.
(Click the link to see the recipe.)
This was a fun challenge. I was really worried about the pitas but they actually worked out really well! I used the 50/50 combo of ap flour and whole wheat flour. They were nice and fluffy and even though they didn't puff up as impressively as I've seen some they DID puff enough. The recipe is huuuuuge though, so I think I'll halve it next time.
I used peanut butter in the hummus (I know, I know, it's not authentic that way). I've made it with tahini in the past and I guess I just don't like sesame paste. The pepper and walnut dip was really nice too! The tzatziki and falafel recipes were my own and complimented the other goodies quite well.
I think my favorite part of The Daring Kitchen is the recipes are things I probably wouldn't try otherwise. I HAVE tried to make pitas before but they were hockey pucks of awful horror and went in the trash. I couldn't salvage them. This gave me the opportunity to try again and to troubleshoot some of the issues that I think I had the last time.
Thanks for the challenge Michele!