Saturday, August 4, 2012

Middle Eastern/Mediterranean Mezze

Middle Eastern flavors are so rich in the essence of the place. I have never been there but have enjoyed many of the foods from that part of the world. I love the deeply steeped tradition of the food. The Mediterranean has similar mystique to me and I can even boast one trip to Italy! Here elements of these cultural cuisines come together for interesting mezze.

 Grapes--this is a good time for domestic grapes

Goat Cheese--find a good one from the market (try the farmers' market)

Olives--from your market olive bar, these ought to be the briny olives

Caponata (kind of like Italian salsa)
1 large or 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1-inch to 1 1/2-inch thick lengthwise slices
Olive oil & salt
1 sweet pepper, roasted
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup capers
1 lemon, juiced and zested

Preheat the broiler in your oven. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet. Rub 1/2 tsp olive oil into each slice of eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Place the pepper on the baking sheet as well. Broil the eggplant and pepper until the pepper is uniformly charred and the eggplant is beginning to blister. Remove the pepper to an enclosed space (I use a recycled yogurt container with a lid). Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Peel the cooled pepper and cut it into 1/2 inch pieces. Place 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan and place it over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the onion and 1/4 tsp salt and saute until the onion is translucent and a little brown. Add the eggplant, pepper, garlic, and tomatoes and stir to thoroughly combine and heat through. Stir in the vinegar, capers and lemon juice and zest. This may be made ahead of time and served at room temperature.

VEGAN NOTES: This dish is vegan.
GLUTEN NOTES: This dish is gluten-free.

14.5 oz can chickpeas (drain, place in bowl of water, rub to release skins)
1 Tbsp olive oil
7-8 olives
1 small lemon, juiced and zested
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp cumin
Scant 1/2 tsp salt

Place the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to break up. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the hummus is smooth. Scrape the sides down a couple of times during the processing. Chill before serving. If possible, make the hummus well ahead of time so that the flavors have a chance to marry. Adjust seasonings prior to serving.

VEGAN NOTES: This dish is vegan.
GLUTEN NOTES: This dish is gluten-free.

Lemon Roasted Almonds
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup roasted almonds
1 lemon, juiced and zested
Sea salt

Place a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to evenly distribute it on the bottom of the pan. Add the almonds and saute, stirring frequently, until the almonds are warm throughout. Add the lemon juice and zest and saute until the pan is dry. Remove the almonds from the heat and toss with the sea salt. Remove to a plate to cool completely.

VEGAN NOTES: This dish is vegan.
GLUTEN NOTES: This dish is gluten-free.

Lebanese Grilled Flatbread

Funny--I posted this recipe a couple of weeks ago and then made it again yesterday with a slightly different variation of the recipe. I am not sure but I think that I like this one better. It is crispier, uses less flour, and has a higher ratio of oil to flour and water.

2 cups/10 oz all purpose flour
1 cup/5 oz whole wheat flour (you could use all all purpose, but whole wheat adds a nice flavor)
2 Tbsp sugar/honey
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
½ cup warm water
½ cup oil
1 egg, beaten

Stir the yeast, flours, sugar, and salt together or proof yeast in the water if necessary. Beat the wet ingredients together to emulsify and then stir into the flour mixture to form a rough dough. Kneed the dough for a couple of minutes. There is enough oil in the dough that it has never stuck to the kneeding surface in my experience. Form dough into a circle and cut it into six pieces. Allow the dough to rest, covered, for about ten minutes. Roll out each ball into a 1/8-inch thick round. Cook on a griddle pan or frying pan, which has been preheated over medium heat, until the dough blisters and begins to bubble. Keep cooked breads in a clean dishtowel until you are ready to serve them.

It was interesting to me to learn that in many parts of the world people cook their everyday bread without the oven concept that is so familiar to us in the States. Grilling bread does not produce the lift or “oven pop” that an oven brings, but does produce a lovely, and relatively quick, flatbread that pairs nicely with just about anything. Leftovers make great lunch pizzas the next day.

VEGAN NOTES: Use egg substitute of choice or make your own by combining 1 cup potato starch, 1/2 cup corn starch, 1/3 cup soy flour, 2 Tbsp baking powder, and 1 Tbsp xanthan gum. To reconstitute an "egg" measure 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp of this mix into a saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it smells toasty. Combine with 1 Tbsp water and 1 tsp soy lecithin (a little extra element I learned from Crescent Dragonwagon's "The Cornbread Gospels"). Mix into the recipe as you would an egg.

GLUTEN NOTES: Use all-purpose flour substitute (you can make your own by combining 2 parts rice flour, 2 parts potato starch, 1 part millet flour, and 1/2 part tapioca flour) and be sure to weigh this because it is denser than the all purpose flour--you will probably need only 3 1/4 cups or so but I have not weighed this for precision. Add 4 tsp xanthan gum with the flour. Be sure to use gluten-free baking powder.
© Katherine C. Otterstrom, August 2012

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