>> Sunday, February 14, 2010
I have really enjoyed this challenge. I love Middle Eastern food and almost any Mediterranean food in general, therefore I was really excited about the mezze. Michele, this month's host, says: "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". So this was really a multiple challenge, because it involved various dishes. The essential part of the challenge involved preparing pita bread and hummus, which I had never prepared before. That's good for me, I need to be pushed every now and then. D. knows a lot about it...
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.
For my mezze, besides the compulsory pita bread and hummus, I prepared roasted red peppers and falafel, both having starred at my table a number of times previously. I'm really hooked on falafel. And I'm not usually a chickpea lover (I'm in love with chickpea flour though), but the flavoring of falafel really gives me a kick. And they are easy to make, you can prepare a lot and freeze part of them for later use, which is very practical when you have kids... or even unexpected visitors. I was planning to prepare dolmades too, but I couldn't find the time to scout for grapevine leaves... they're nowhere to be found in my neighborhood. I'm giving you 3 recipes here, for pita bread, hummus and falafel.
Pita bread, 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
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. You can use dried chickpeas or canned boiled chickpeas, but I prefer to soak them and cook them myself.
I didn't use the recipe Michele provided, but the one I usually prepare, from the book Tamasin's Kitchen Bible, by Tamasin Day-Lewis (ambitious name for a book, don't you agree? But I quite like it. And yes, she's Daniel Day-Lewis's sister)
The challenge's recipe included some all-purpose flour too. It's true that the crushed chickpeas mixture can ooze some liquid, but I prefer to drain them a little bit after crushing. Or dry them thoroughly on paper before processing them. And if you don't want to drain the crushed chickpeas, you can also add some chickpea flour, then you keep the falafel gluten-free. In fact I added some this time, that's why my little balls have such a light color, they are rolled in chickpea flour.
The preparation is really easy: first grind the cumin and the coriander seeds in a mortar. No need to grind them to a powder. Then put all the ingredients together in a food processor or mixer and grind them to a grainy pulp. Don't expect it to be smooth. Take walnut-sized pieces with a spoon and form them into balls. I rolled the balls in chickpea flour to absorb some of the moistness.
If you're not going to eat all the falafel at once, you can freeze them at this point. I use ice cubes trays for this.
Heat the oil and fry the balls in batches; brown them thoroughly and drain on kitchen paper. They're delicious dipped in tahini sauce, but that was another failure, because my last tahini paste had gone into my hummus... am I badly organized??