Blog checking lines: 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 are the Pita Bread and the Hummus.
The VARIATIONS ALLOWED are:
1. The pita bread recipe uses all purpose flour – if you cannot digest wheat flour, you may tweak the recipe to use alternative flours.
2. You can flavor the hummus however you’d like, for example, you can use olives, sun dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, etc. but stay with the recipe given. You cannot use your favorite hummus recipe or any other recipe.
3. You can use however many optional recipes for mezze that you’d like – you can make all of them, or none of them.
Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
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)
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.
Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams) -I used the dried ones and all the cooking.
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) - I added 1 1/2 tsp peanut butter. Scrumptious.
Additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste
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.
My two other mezzes were Tzatziki and a Bulgur, Courgette, Mint, Scallions and Coriander salad.
Tzatziki - this recipe I've found in this amazing blog: Kalofagas -greek food and Beyond
500 gr. of plain yogurt, strained
1-2 cloves of minced garlic (depending how garlicky you like it)
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and grated
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill - I coundn't find fresh dill, so I worked with dried one
Splash of Ouzo - Skiped this
Squeeze of lemon juice to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix well all the ingredients.
Bulgar Wheat Salad - I've seen this on TV, at Nigella Lawson show. Then I found the recipe in her website.
250g bulgar wheat
Very large bunch fresh coriander, weight of leaves, without stalks, approx. 50g
Large bunch fresh mint, weight of leaves, without stalks, approx. 40g
6–8 spring onions
1 fresh green chilli
2 small or 1 medium courgette
Juice of 4–5 limes
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Following the packet instructions, cover the bulgar wheat with water and leave to steep as directed.
Chop the coriander and mint. Avoid reducing the herbs to wet mush: it’s better to have the leaves left relatively large. Finely slice the spring onions and deseed the chilli and chop it very finely, too. Take half the courgette and peel it and dice it into very small pieces.
Drain the bulgar wheat in a sieve when it tastes tender and push and squeeze as much water out as possible. Pour over the juice of 4 limes and all the olive oil. Add salt and pepper and toss well, either with your hands or a couple of forks. Reserve a small handful of the chopped coriander and mint and throw the remainder of the chopped herbs, chilli, spring onions and courgette into the dressed bulgar wheat and mix deftly.
Taste to see if you need more lime juice (or indeed anything else). Get the vegetable peeler and shave thin slices from the remaining courgette and scatter these, along with the handful of reserved herbs, on top.
I loved baking those Pitta Breads and enjoyed a lot the mezzes. They were all very good, specialy the Hummus. Thanks Michelle for this challenge otherwise I think i'd never bake my own pittas.