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 February 2010Â cooksâ€™ challenge was Mezze,Â a bunch of small dishes served all at once as appetizers before a meal, or as the meal itself. Mezzes are traditionalyÂ Middle Eastern. The recipe requirements were making pita bread from scratch, and also hummus. I also made the falafels and preserved lemons as suggested by Michele.
I have to say it was all very very good. I really liked this cahllenge and I think the idea is great for a fun dinner party. On the recipe here are a couple of remarks: I would have cut the salt in half in the falafelâ€¦way to salty for me. Also I baked my falafels, not fried, and they are great. I only took a small jar and made lemon preserves with just 1 lemon so just go with the size of jar you have.
Pita Bread â€“ 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 doesnâ€™t puff up, donâ€™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.
Hummus â€“ 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 youâ€™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 butterâ€”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
1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 Â½ 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.
*Optional Recipe: Falafels â€“ 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)
1/2 large onion (roughly chopped, about 1 cup)
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
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 donâ€™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.
Note: I sometimes prefer to bake these so I can avoid the deep frying. I bake them on a nonstick pad (silpat or the like) at 325F (160C), just until theyâ€™re firm, about 20 minutes.
*Optional Recipe: Preserved Lemons â€“ Recipe from Paula Wolfert and Epicurious
Prep Time: 10 minutes and then up to 30 days
Â¼ cup salt (2 ounces/60 grams)
Optional Safi Mixture:
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
5 to 6 coriander seeds
3 to 4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste, only if needed
1. Special Equipment: 1 pint Mason Jar â€“ Sterilized
2. If you wish to soften the peel, soak the lemons in lukewarm water for 3 days, changing the water daily.
3. Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh, then reshape the fruit.
4. Place 1 tablespoon salt on the bottom of the mason jar. Pack in the lemons and push them down, adding more salt, and the optional spices between layers. Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for the remaining lemons. (If the juice released from the squashed fruit does not cover them, add freshly squeezed lemon juice â€” not chemically produced lemon juice and not water.*) Leave some air space before sealing the jar.
5. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, shaking the jar each day to distribute the salt and juice. Let ripen for 30 days.
6. To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under running water, removing and discarding the pulp, if desired â€” and there is no need to refrigerate after opening. Preserved lemons will keep up to a year, and the pickling juice can be used two or three times over the course of a year.
Put the whole thing together for a delicious sandwich!