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.
This months challenge allowed for lots of creativity. The two mandatory items were the Pita Breads and the Hummus. Even though the hummus recipe was mandatory we were allowed to flavor our hummus; I choose to add fire roasted red bell peppers. The fresh hummus was just delicious with the hand made pita bread. I added a bowl of green olives and raw almonds to my Mezze table along with a balsamic vinegar couscous salad.
I used dried chick peas to make the hummus and I would recommend using them over canned. They bring so much more flavor and almost a different texture than canned. Using dried beans is always cheaper to boot.
- 1 ½ cups dried chick peas, soaked in water overnight
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 2 garlic cloves, pealed and crushed
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp unsalted creamy peanut butter
- 1 ½ tsp sesame oil
- ¼ cup fire roasted red bell peppers, packed in water- drained
Drain the chick peas; put them in a pot, and cover them with water. Boil them for about an hour and a half; once then are tender drain them and reserve about a cup of the cooking liquid.
Puree the chick peas in a food processor fitted with a steal blade. Add the cooking liquid as needed till it develops into a smooth paste. Add the lemon juice, garlic, salt, peanut butter, sesame oil, and red peppers to the food processor. Blend till well combined. Taste and adjust seasons as you see fit.
I had to work in batches, due to the size of my itty bitty food processor.
Pita Bread Ingredients:
- 2 tsp of dry yeast
- 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
- 5-6 cups all purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
Add warm water to a large bread bowl; sprinkle yeast over water and wait for it to become active. Stir in 3 cups of flour; add one at a time. Stir mixture with a wooden spoon for one minute. Let mixture sit for about ten minutes, or as long as two hours.
Add salt and olive oil to mixture, and start to add the flour mixing one cup in at a time.
I used about 5 ½ cups of flour to get the right dough texture. Turn dough out on a floured work surface and kneed for ten minutes, the dough should be smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bread bowl and dry it out. Add some oil and flop dough into the bowl, make sure you spin it around the entire surface is covered in oil. Cover bowl with a clean towel and place bowl in a warm draft free area to rise. Takes about an hour and half to double in size.
After the dough has doubled in size take a cooking sheet or a baking stone and place it on the bottom rack in oven. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Punch the dough down, and divide it in half. Put one half back in the bread bowl and cover it up. Section the other have into 8 equal size pieces.
Roll each piece out to about 8-9 inches; don't stack them and keep them covered.
Place 2 breads on cooking sheet and bake for about 3 minutes, wait for the pita to balloon up. Store pita in a bread basket covered with a towel to keep them warm. Continue to cook the rest of the pitas and serve.
Balsamic Vinegar Couscous Salad Ingredients:
- 4 ½ cups couscous
- 2 cups water
- 1 shallot, finally chopped
- 1/3 cup raisins
- ¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 7 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup hot house cucumber, chopped
- ¼ cup tomato, chopped
- Fresh mint for garnish
In a small bowl combine shallot, 6 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar; mix well and set aside.
Bring water to boil in a medium sauce pan; add one Tbsp of olive oil, and ¼ tsp kosher salt. Add couscous and raisins to water; remove pot from heat and cover pan.
After about 5 minutes take the lid off the couscous and fluff it up with a spoon.
Add the balsamic vinaigrette, and olives. Mix well and store in the refrigerator till you are ready to serve. Garnish serving dish with tomato, cucumber and freshly torn mint leaves.