A good mezze spread should have at least 3 different things to dip pita into!
I like to begin with a simple trio to build the foundation: HUMMUS — A ‘NOT HUMMUS’ — SOMETHING YOGURTY
This is a great way to start! All of these can be prepared ahead of time, and then finished with a flourish of toppings right before serving.
Let’s start with the necessary hero of any MEZZE experience: HUMMUS.
I like to make my hummus EXTREMELY plain, using quality ingredients. I omit the garlic. I started doing this because my husband would often complain that raw garlic gave him headaches. At first I thought he was just being a total dick, but then I googled it and apparently THIS IS A THING. I also used to get complaints from my lawyer friends that their garlic breath the next day did not help them in court. (Just stand further back from people!). THIS DOES NOT COUNT FOR ROASTED GARLIC WHICH IS ALWAYS WELCOME AT THE TABLE.
Anyways, I digress. I am now fine with leaving out the garlic, this can allow me to experiment with punchier or more elaborate flavours for the toppings. I also like to peel my chickpeas. I know this may seem like a real chore but it’s worth it. Put on some relaxing music, take a sip of wine, open that can and GET PEELING. Shucking off the little papery shells that encase the chickpeas will result in a much creamier consistency.
In a small blender combine:
- 1 can of chickpeas (shucked)
- A few tablespoons of tahini (the good runny kind)
- The juice of at least one lemon
- A few glugs of GOOD QUALITY EVOO
- Salt & Pepper
- A splash of cold water —this will also help smooth out all the ingredients.
BLITZ all ingredients until smooth, adding some water or more olive oil if needed. Adjust salt & pepper levels for taste.
I like my hummus extra lemony. Add more lemon juice for more tanginess until the flavour is exactly how you want it!
* For roasted garlic hummus, roast a whole head of garlic for a few hours until golden & caramelised. Squeeze the caramelised cloves in with all the other ingredients.
Bowls are for suckers, always serve your hummus on a plate or platter. Pour out the hummus and using a little spoon, spread the hummus evenly over the plate, creating little grooves in the hummus— these will be little olive oil puddles.
After spooning out all the hummus, drizzle with extra olive oil, more salt, more pepper, loads of lemon zest and a generous sprinkling of Za’atar. Don’t have any za’atar? Don’t worry— Spice & Green will be selling some soon! Until then you can opt for some dried thyme & sesame seeds.
NEXT UP: NOT HUMMUS
My favourite Mid-Eastern non-hummus spread is MUHAMMARA. Muhammara is a beautiful Syrian red pepper and walnut dip with a lot of dynamic flavour, and (with a couple shortcuts) it’s VERY simple and quick to whip up. Below is the cheaters recipe for Muhammara, using jarred ‘fire roasted’ red peppers. When I have more time (or more like when red peppers are on sale) I will blacken and peel them myself; it’s also fun., but it’s time consuming. If you want to do this yourself I would recommend checking out this recipe.
You will need to gently blend the following ingredients:
- 1 can of jarred ‘blackened’ red peppers (if you want to do this yourself you’ll need 2 medium red peppers
- 1 large handful of walnuts, toasted and lightly chopped
- 2 red bell peppers
- A big squeeze of lemon juice
- 1/4 of panko crumbs (approx, or you can also use breadcrumbs)
- Some pomegranate molassas (if you don’t have this on hand, try some honey with fresh pomegranate! you have one on hand right?)
- A sprinkle of paprika, chili flakes and cumin
- A good splash of olive oil
Whizz up all the ingredients. You may need more panko if it seems too wet, this can happen especially with fresh red peppers. Add a sprinkling of salt and you’re good to go. Spoon the muhammara on to a flat plate or shallow bowl and top with fresh herbs, fresh pomegranate seeds if they’re in season, and some more olive oil. You can even finish with a sprinkling of toasted cumin seeds!
For your yogurty component, might I suggest: LABNEH ? Labneh is technically a strained yogurt, it has a less watery and richer consistency than yogurt and isn’t as sour, lending really nicely to both sweet and salty flavours. Labneh is great because as soon as you buy it (or make it?) you’re ready to go! Now you can commit all your time to making it fancy. What will you top it with?
One combination I love is honey, toasted seed, herb. This can any combination you like. Try and choose flavours that compliment your other dips, but aren’t redundant. This luxurious combo pictured here is topped with local clover honey, fresh dill & kalonji (nigella) seeds. PERFECTION.
No mezze spread is complete without pita bread. I like to buy the cheapest— but most authentically Mediterranean looking — pita available and toast them in a frying pan with butter or olive oil. Slice them into triangles and you’re good to go. Just make sure you have a lot! Compliment the pita & dips with plenty of citrus wedge & fresh herbs to enhance their bites, and some extra fresh pomegranate seeds are a fantastic extra consideration.
Don’t forget to serve with, like, 100 salads.