I almost didn’t have time to make this lovely challenge for the february Daring Cooks, but thanks to the lousy weather I had to stay at home today instead of going to Belgium… So I guess that was a lucky coincidence to otherwise nasty weather…
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.
Michele had already done the groundwork and provided us with the two challenge recipes, which were homemade pitabread and hummus, as well as a few other recipes that I all chose to make, with the exception of the preserved lemons. I love lemons; I truly do but somehow preserving them seems… wrong… Maybe I should just give it a try at some point, I might be surprised but for this challenge I chose to skip those but made the rest. I wanted to make an eggplant dip as well, but guess what, my supermarket was all out of eggplant and I didn’t feel like chasing half the city in search of eggplant so I decided to skip it altogether. In total I made 4 recipes; the pita, the hummus, the cucumber raita and the falafel.
Since the pita would take the biggest amount of time due to the necessary rising etcetera I started there and well, was everyone’s dough so incredibly sticky?? The bread turned out beautifully so nothing wrong there, but it was sooooo sticky I could barely lift my hands out of the dough! Try to knead something that doesn’t want to leave your hands!! I managed somehow but I was sort of covered in sticky dough up to my elbows… Not to mention the flourbag and various other tools…lol.. O well, it got less sticky once it had risen. I then transferred the first four to the oven and while the recipe said 2-3 minutes (really??) that was surely not even enough to make them go from raw to the next stage, so I left them in. I didn’t actually time it but it must have been a good 15 minutes that they had to bake before puffing up and getting a nice light tan. Not sure if I did something wrong, but whatever the time in the oven; the final result was delicious!!
Making the hummus was pretty straightforward although I couldn’t find any tahin. I previously had a jar but since that was finished I hadn’t bought a new jar and it is not something they have in the stores here, so I chose to go with peanut butter instead. And that works fine; it’s a slightly different taste but still quite delicious. I did not add the full qty for the lemonjuice as I thought that was really too much.
Next were the falafels; again very easy to make although I was afraid that they would be too salty. I tasted the mixture after having added the salt and thought it was very very salty, but once fried it was actually quite good and delicious so maybe the frying takes away some of the salty flavor. I don’t know and as long as it tastes good, who cares?
Last but not least was the cucumber raita; instead of dicing the cucumber I grated them very coarsely and left to leak in a colander for a while. I made this all in the afternoon so when Tom got home the first thing he did was stuff one of the pitabreads with falafel and then put the raita and hummus on top. He totally loved it and he is more of a falafel expert then I am. I have only eaten falafel once and it wasn’t the best but I still thought at the time that a good falafel would be worth it. And well it is!
Love the recipes, so thanks Michele for this wonderful challenge! If you want to make the recipes, here they are!
- 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)
- 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.
- 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 1½ hours.
- 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).
- 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 ¼ inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
- Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, (as stated mine needed roughly 15 minutes to bake) 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
I added some soy sauce (just a little splash) and some sundried tomatoes in there. Even though I did not add the entire 89 ml of lemonjuice, I still thought it was a bit too lemony, so the soysauce and the sundried tomatoes were meant to balance that out a bit. And it worked…
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.
Optional Recipe: Cucumber Raita – Recipe adapted from The Indian Grocery Store Demystified by Linda Bladholm
Prep time: Approximately 15 minutes
1 medium cucumber, peeled and most of the seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (.1 ounce/3 grams) OR use a small pinch of dried cumin—to taste
2 cups plain whole milk or Greek yogurt (17 ounces/473ml)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
fresh coriander or mint, chopped, a couple pinches or more to taste
cayenne pepper or paprika, just a pinch to use as a garnish (optional)
1. Peel cucumber, de-seed, and dice. Blot off moisture with paper towels.
2. Toast cumin seeds for a few seconds in a small, heavy frying pan over high heat.
3. In a bowl, stir yogurt until it is smooth.
4. Mix it with the cumin, garlic and coriander or mint leaves (I used some grated radish instead).
5. Stir in the cucumber and sprinkle with cayenne or paprika, and chill before serving.
*Optional Recipe: Falafels – 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)
1/2 large onion (roughly chopped, about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried parsley (.2 ounces/5 grams)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped OR use a couple pinches of dried cilantro (.2 ounces/5 grams)
1 teaspoon table salt (.1 ounce/5 grams)
1 teaspoon dried hot red peppers (cayenne) (.1 ounce/2 grams)
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin (.1 ounce/2 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder (.13 ounces/4 grams)
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour (1 ounce/24 grams) (you may need a bit extra)
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.