Sunday, February 14, 2010

February Daring Cooks Challenge-Mezze

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Michelle of VeggieNumNums hosted this edition of the Daring Cooks and our challenge was to prepare a mezze table including required dishes authentic pita bread and hummus, but also included as optional dishes, cucumber raita, falafel and preserved lemons. I have Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid's book, "Flatbread and Flavors" and have made the pita bread recipe many times, but have had better luck cooking them on a griddle as opposed to baking them in the oven. I enjoy seeing them puff up and in the oven I don't get that opportunity. For my mezze table, I made not only the pita bread and hummus, but also the cucumber raita and the quick preserved lemons. Thanks, Michelle for such a tasty challenge.

Pita Bread – 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.

To cook the pitas on top of the stove:Preheat a 9-inch or larger griddle or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot,lightly grease the surface of the griddle with a little oil. Punch down dough as above-. When skillet is ready, gently put one bread on the griddle. Cook for 15-20 seconds, then gently turn over. Cook for about one minute, until big bubbles begin to appear. Turn the bread again to the first side, and cook until the bread balloons fully. To help the process along, you can press gently with a towel on those areas where bubbles have already formed, trying to push the air bubble into areas that are still flat. The breads should take no more than 3 minutes to cook. Wrap the baked breads in a towel to keep warm. You may need to oil griddle after about 4 or 5 breads.

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

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 Quick Preserved Lemons


Rosemary & Garlic said...

Looks like a delicious mezze table. I loved the lemons.

tariqata said...

Your pitas look wonderful - I think I may have to try the stovetop method next time I make them.

zurin said...

Congratulations of carrying out the challenge beautifully!!!lovely photos!! and yummy food!!!

chef_d said...

I didn't know that pita bread can be cooked over the grill--will have to try this next time :)

ap269 said...

Wonderful pictures!

TeaLady said...

This was a fun challenge. Have made pita and hummus before, but this hummus was better.

Would not think of doing on a griddle. Good idea.

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