Homemade Pita Bread Served with Roasted Garlic-Red Pepper Hummus
Feta, Mint and Cucumber Stuffed Peppadews
Roasted Walnut Filled Prunes Wrapped in Canadian Bacon
Pork Skewers with Cayenne, Raw Onions and Greek Yogurt
Olives in Harissa, Garlic and Orange-Lemon Dressing
Pistachios and Metaxa Ouzo
Blog checking lines: 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 started with the pita dough because that was going to take the most time. I had attempted making my own years ago with very disastrous results so I was feeling less than confident about this aspect of the challenge but to not attempt it would be to defeat the purpose of these monthly challenges. We had to use this exact recipe with no changes made to it what so ever.
But first? Some Ouzo of course!
This was a first for me but boy could I get used to having a snort of this on a daily basis. Many people say that it tastes like Anisette or Sambuca and while there is a licorice/anise flavor it's mild and is complimented by other flavor components that come from mastic (an extract from the Greek mastic tree. "A tonic which promotes appetite, and therefore only increases the misery of a hungry man") and badian (Chinese star anise). Ouzo is also much less sweet and has a stronger alcohol taste. Since the 1930's it has been in small batches in traditional copper stills according to a time-honored recipe from Asia Minor. Ouzo is traditionally served with water or on ice as an accompaniment to mezethes. It is also said to have healing properties but what those are I do not know. I put our lovely bottle in the freezer and served it straight up in chilled glasses. This may just be my new favorite aperitif or digestif.
To toast or to say cheers whilst hoisting your glass one might say in Greek "γεια μας" (yiamas) or "στην υγειά μας" (stin iyia mas) meaning "to our health". I also learned that the ever popularized "opa!" yelled after a shot of ouzo has been consumed is not a word that has a specific meaning. It is used as an exclamation of pleasure or high feeling.
Recipe: Pita Bread
Adapted from "Flatbreads and Flavors
by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Note: This is a wonderful dough and the pitas actually puffed and made the pockets like they're supposed to. I should have left mine to bake for a few more minutes but even if you don't get yours to poof the result is still delicious so don't despair.
(2-3 hours from start to finish)
(2-3 hours from start to finish)
2 teaspoons dry yeast (not quick rise)
2-1/2 cups lukewarm water
5-6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of salt2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
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 1 1/2 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.
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.
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.
Then on to the hummus where we had a little more creative latitude as far as adding flavorings of our choice to the basic mandatory recipe. Here's what I ended up making and it was really really flavorful!
Recipe: HummusAdapted from "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food"
by Claudia Roden
Ingredients1-1/2 cups canned chickpeas (1-19 oz can is perfect)
2-2-1/2 lemons, juiced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (I substituted a head of roasted garlic)
Salt to taste
4 tablespoons tahini paste
Flavorings to taste such as:
1/4 cup roasted red pepper strips
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
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.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Recipe: Feta, Mint, Cucumber Stuffed Peppadews
From Vegetarian Times; February 2010
24 fresh mint leaves
24 Peppadews, rinsed and drained
1/2 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cutinto 1/4-inch dice4 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, divided
DirectionsSlide one mint leaf into each peppadew. Fill with one or two cucumber cubes, then stuff 1/2 teaspoon feta. Repeat with remaining peppadews. Garnish with extra mint leaves.
Recipe: Pork Skewers with Cayenne and Raw Onions
From "Meze: Small Plates to Savor and Share From The Meditteranean Table"by Diane Kochilas
Harper Collins; 2003
(4 hours of marinating)
For the marinade:3/4 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf, cracked
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/4 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
4 12-inch long skewers
cayenne pepper to taste
1 red onion, sliced paper thin
3/4 cup greek yogurt
DirectionsCombine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and let the pork cubes steep in the liquid, covered and refrigerated, for 4 hours.
Heat a grill or broiler. Thread the pork cubes onto the skewers.patting dry slightly with paper towels. Grill the pork 4 or 5 inches from the heat source for about 5 minutes per side (for a total of about 20 minutes). Remove.
Place the pork skewers on a platter. Dust generously with cayenne and top with the raw onions. Serve with yogurt on the side.
Recipe: Roasted Walnut-Filled Prunes in Bacon Blankets
From "Meze: Small Plates to Savor and Share From The Meditteranean Table"
by Diane Kochilas
Harper Collins; 2003
(6 hours marinating time)
12 large pitted prunes
3/4 cup dry red wine
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper corns
12 walnut halves
12 thin strips of canadian bacon
3 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed, cut into quarters
DirectionsPlace the prunes in a bowl and marinate at room temperature with the wine and peppercorns for 6 hours. Remove and drain. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a stainless-steel baking pan, large enough to fit the bread squares in one layer.
Stuff each prune with one walnut half. Wrapone strip of bacon around each prune and palce on a bread square. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bacon has crisped and the bread is golden.
Recipe: Olives in Harissa, Garlic, and Orange Lemon DressingAdapted from "Mediterranean Hot And Spicy"
by Aglaia Kremenzki
Broadway Books; 2009
Ingredients14 oz. Olives (green, black, pepperoncini, whatever you like)
(1-2 days marinating time)
1/4 cup roasted red pepper strips, optional
2 teaspoons harissa sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 orange, cut into strips
2 (or more) garlic cloves, quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon fresh rose mary or 1 teaspoon dried
Aleppo pepper, to taste (optional)
DirectionsWash the olives and red pepper strips thoroughly under running water. Drain and press dry on paper towels.
Mix the harissa with the lemon and orange juices in a bowl. Add the olive oil and whisk well. Pack the olives and peppers in layers in a 3 cup jar, placing orange zest and pieces of garlic between layers of olives. Pour the olive oil mixture over them. If the olives are not completely covered, top with a little more olive oil. Seal and set aside at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. Store in the refrigerator. One hour before serving, take out as many as you need and let stand at room temperature. The olives will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.
This last recipe is theonly one that didn't work well although it still tasted great. It's for Greek fried cheese (saganaki) that gets tossed together with lemon juice, capers and oregano right after it comes out of the oil. The recipe I used came from saveur magazine and now after looking at authentic recipes and cooking methods I can now assure you that their recipe was just plain wrong. What I had hoped to achieve were these lovely brown cubes of fried cheese but when the cheese hit the oil the cubes just blew apart. We ate it anyway because hey it's still fried cheese but as you can see from the picture below it did not make for a very attractive presentation. I stll have some of the kefalotyri cheese so I will have to experiment and get back to you with a recipe that actually works.
Thanks to all at the Daring Kitchen for holding these challenges. It's a great way to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to try new things. If your interested in joining in on the fun go over to the site and sign up. It's free and it's only one challenge a month which makes it very manageable to fit into your busy schedule.