When in Doubt…Leave it at 350

baking, cooking, and other adventures

Daring Cooks’ Challenge: Mezze February 14, 2010

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.

I was a little excited for this challenge this week.

Do I say that every week? But it is true 🙂

I have always wanted to make Pitas from scratch, but I just have never gotten around to it.  I also wanted to try my hand a falafels, especially since I have never had one.  Which is kinda shocking since back in college Mandi and I would frequent Souvlaki 1-2 times a week.  We would sit at the bar and look out the window and people watch.  Also, we would talk to Mike, the current owner, he is a great guy and one that can always make you laugh with his sarcasm and straight truth.  It has been 6 years since Mandi and I have been back to Souvlaki together, but when I go back to visit I always stop in a get a Gyro and a Pita with Cheese, and without fail Mike always asks about my roommate, Mandi.

For the challenge, the pitas and hummus were the only mandatory thing we had to make.  I decided to make the hummus into sundried tomato hummus.  I also added falafels, chicken souvlaki, and tzatziki.

The tzatziki recipe is one that I use to make at work all the time for the lunch crowd.  It is very easy to make.  The only thing I can’t completely remember is the amount of mint, so I just eyeballed it 🙂

The chicken souvlaki reminded me of the souvlaki that I would order back in college.  It was very tasty.

The falafels, smelled amazing when they were frying up.  It smelled like caramelized onions with a hint of cumin, so yummy.  The taste was fantastic.

All in all, I would have to say that I really enjoyed this challenge and everything can literally be made ahead of time.  Well, except the pitas they taste so much butter straight from the oven and the falafels need to be fried and eaten fresh.  But with the falafels you can make the base the night before.

Pita Bread

Source: Recipe adapted from 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.


Source: Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden, and I also added some things to make a Sundried Tomato Hummus
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)
Additional ingredients for sundried tomato hummus: 3 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 3 oz Sun Dried Tomatoes

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.


Source: Recipe from Joan Nathan and Epicurious.com
Prep Time: Overnight for dry beans and 1 hour to make Falafels

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight OR use well canned drained chickpeas (7 ounces/100 grams)
1 large onion
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon dried hot red peppers (cayenne)
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
tasteless oil for frying (vegetable, canola, peanut, soybean, etc.), you will need enough so that the oil is three inches deep in whatever pan you are using for frying

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, and then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed. If you don’t have a food processor, then feel free to mash this up as smooth as possible by hand.
3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees (190C) in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
6. Drain on paper towels.


16 oz Greek yogurt

1 English cucumber, peeled, grated, and strained of excess liquid

2 garlic clove, crushed, and minced

Handful of mint, minced, 6g

Handful of parsley, minced, 6 g

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tbsp lemon juice


Place all ingredients in a small bowl and mix together.

Chicken Souvlaki

Source: Kevin from Closet Cooking

(makes 4 servings)
1 pound chicken breast (cut into cubes)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1 tablespoon yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 medium zucchini – cubed

1. Combine all ingredients and let meat marinate for 30 minutes to overnight.
2. Skewer the meat with zucchini
3. Cook on the grill or under a broiler for about 4-5 minutes per side.


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