Mezze refers to food that comes to the table before the main course — Middle Eastern hors d'oeuvre. The main meal usually contains meat, but mezze consists of fresh vegetables, bread and olive oil. We started with zaytun musabbeh — spiced olives from Lebanon. In my mind you can hardly go wrong with olives - I always gravitate to the olive tray at parties — and this salad was an olive-lovers dream. Sureyya used marinated olives bought from the olive bar at PCC. The recipe contains pomegranate juice, and Sureyya also added fresh pomegranate arils. She showed us how to open the pomegranate by removing both ends and peeling carefully like an apple.
When she made the taboulleh, she added paprika to color it, as well as ground cumin and crushed red pepper. It was served Turkish style in crisp leaves of romaine lettuce. (Do you see the pomegranate seeds in there?)
|Bean salad with tahini sauce|
|baba ghannouj and khoubiz|
I was most impressed with the baba ghannouj. Traditionally, eggplant for this dish is grilled over charcoal, imparting a smoky flavor. Sureyya roasted one eggplant in the oven, and grilled the other eggplant on the gas stove burner over very low heat until it was black and completely soft. She peeled off the blackened skin and chopped the eggplants by hand. The result was a smoky and fabulous dip. To go with the dip she made Khoubiz, flatbread from Jordan. The bread was very simple to make, and tasted amazing.
I'm sorry to say the photos of our dessert, holwah tamar or stuffed date sweetmeats from Iraq, were too blurry to use. This was simply dates pureed in a food processor, mixed with chopped blanched almonds, rolled into balls and rolled in either toasted sesame seeds or shredded coconut. Very simple and delicious.
Sureyya has graciously allowed me to share her recipe for olive salad.
Zaytun Musabbeh (Spiced olives from Lebanon) serves 6 to 8
- 1 lb. pitted green olives or marinated olives
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice (or more to taste)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 firm tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup fresh red or green pepper, chopped
- Place olives in a bowl (rinsing the brine is optional) and chop into small pieces.
- Add the dried spices to olive oil and then rub into the olives by hand.
- Add the rest of the ingredients except for the tomatoes and peppers.
- Add the tomatoes and peppers just before serving.
- Instead of olives you can use one of the following: potatoes, cucumbers, roasted eggplant, beans such as chickpeas or kidney beans, or mushrooms.
- Add chopped walnuts to the salad.
- Add fresh pomegranate arils.
- If tomatoes are out of season, use 1 tablespoon of tomato paste or red pepper paste.
The winner of the cookbook giveaway is Courtney. Courtney, please send me your address and I'll send the book to you. Congrats!