Daring Cooks Challenge/Syria: Mezze Table

I was excited to learn about this month's Daring Cook's Challenge: A Mezze Table. Mezze is found throughout Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, and is a form of the more commonly known term tapas (basically, a bunch of appetizers that can constitute a meal). The only part required part of the challenge was to make the hummus (their recipe, no subbing our own) and the pita bread, anything else we added was up to us.

SO! I very busily set to work deciding what type of mezze table I wanted. Since I have big plans for my Greek challenge, I went for Syrian recipes. Syria's national dish is tabbouleh, which works out well, given that one of Greg's favorite foods is tabbouleh (and when I heard "hummus and pita," I immediately thought "tabbouleh"). I also found a recipe called "Batata Harra," which are spicy potatoes. Honestly, I don't know where those potatoes have been all my life. I could eat them every day and be happy (fatter, but happy).

Pita Bread – 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 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
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.
-1.5 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 butter—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 ½ 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.

Batata Harra (from DedeMed)
-6-8 Med/Lg Red Potatoes
-1 Cup Chopped Cilantro
-6 Cloves Minced Garlic
-1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
-1 Tsp Salt
-1/4 Cup Olive Oil

1. Chop the potatoes into cubes. Toss with olive oil and spead on a baking sheet.

2. Cook in oven on 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until tender.

3. In a pan saute cilantro, garlic and olive oil, add potatoes and toss, season with salt and pepper.

Syrian Tabbouleh (from Orange Blossom Water)
Bulgur Step:
-1/4 cup bulgur wheat
-Juice of 2 lemons
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Bowl 1:
-3 bundles parsley (leaves only, discard stems), finely chopped
-1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
-3 scallions, finely chopped
-1/2 white cabbage, finely chopped
-4-5 medium cucumbers, chopped into small cubes

Bowl 2:
-4-5 medium cucumbers, chopped into small cubes

For Last Step (Mixing):
-1/2 cup olive oil (**NOTE: Recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups olive oil, which I thought would be overkill in an epic sort of way. I found about 1/2 cup to be totally sufficient to lubricate the salad without it being oily).
-Lemon zest
-Juice of 1 lemon

1. Soak bulgur in the juice of two lemons, salt, and paprika for at least 2 hours in the fridge.

2. Finely chop the parsley, scallions, mint, and white cabbage in a food processor (trust me here--you do not want to do all that chopping by hand). Chop the cucumbers into small cubes by hand.

3. Chop tomatoes into small cubes.

4. Once your bulgur has soaked for 2 hours, you may add all the ingredients together as long as you are ready to serve immediately! To bowl 1, add tomatoes, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt. Taste to see if you need to add more lemon juice. Serve and enjoy!


Lo said...

Mmm. Tabbouleh! So glad to see that you make yours as an herb salad with a bit of bulgar thrown in for effect (so many tabbouleh salads are overwhelmed by the flavor of the bulgar, which defeats the purpose!)

Great job on the challenge. I love the fact that you went with a Syrian theme. Bet those potatoes would make a great side dish for a lot of different meals!

Rosemary & Garlic said...

I made a potato dish as well, had to come check out yours. There isn't a potato dish around that I don't like, never though of cilantro, will have to try it.

cynnerth said...

I'm so impressed! Your dad would be proud. :)

ap269 said...

I had to check out the potato dish - it sounds really yummy! Also, your tabbouleh looks great. I made one for the challenge, too, but used couscous instead of bulgur. It was great!

Heather said...

Lo: Agreed on the Tabbouleh! It was so much better as an herb-y salad rather than all bulgur. I had no idea until making this that bulgur could be cooked by citric acid alone, but I suppose it makes sense when you think about ceviche. :) Thanks for the kind words! It looks like your challenge went great, too! I would've loved to come over for that meal. :)

Rosemary: The cilantro was fantastic in the potato dish. It was like an herbed spinach, almost.

Ap269: Thank you! Your tabbouleh looked great, too! I highly recommend the potato dish. It would go well with lots of main courses.

Michele said...


Thank you so much for cooking along with me this month. Your food looks so delicious and your pitas are perfect. I love the potato recipe--genius!

Heather said...

Thanks so much, Michele! You hosted a wonderful challenge--it was fantastic and very nummy.

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