Cooking Classes


The February Daring Cooks Challenge - Mezze

I love Mediterranean cooking and I love making mezzes or small plates.  Mezzes would traditionally be served in Lebanon, Greece and Cyprus, Turkey, Serbia, and Albania.

The two requirements for this challenge are to make pita bread and hummus from scratch.  The other items for our mezze is at our own choice.  Sit back and enjoy!

My mezze selections include grilled halloumi cheese with a sprinkle of dried thyme and a squeeze of lemon juice, pickled beets, marinated olives, hummus, roasted marcona almonds, spinach fatayer and meat fatayer, tzatziki and pita bread.  I made my pita bread with 50/50 whole wheat/white flour.

The oven in this house I am sitting is just terrible.  I is supposed to go up to 500F but it keeps shutting down on me.  So the temperature was different for each batch of pitas.  And this is my first try at pita and I don't think it is as simple as it looks.  It is nice to get all puffy but it should deflate and be soft.  Mine was still hard.  Best used for pita chips.

The 2010 February Daring Bakers 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.

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 t regular dry yeast
2 1/2 c lukewarm water
5-6 c 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)
1 T table salt
2 T olive oil

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 - 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.

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.  This hummus can be additionally flavoured with 1/3 c roasted red or orange sweet peppers and smoked paprika, carmelized onions or any other combination you would like to dream up.

1 1/2 c dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/310 ml)
2 lemons, juiced
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 T tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment)

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.

A frozen puff pastry or phyllo dough can be substituted for the traditional dough.
  1. Cut pieces of phyllo pastry into squares about 6 inches square.  Brush one piece with melted butter and then lay another piece over it.  Brush with melted butter.  Continue until you have about 6 pieces.
  2. Place a spoonful of the filling mixture in the center of the pastry.
  3. Roll up all the edges to form a triangle with the centre open.  Brush with butter.
  4. Repeat until you have used all the ingredients.
  5. Arrange the meat pies on a greased baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  6. Serve hot or cold.


(Middle Eastern spiced meatballs)
Spiced meatballs are common in one form or another from Morocco in the west through the Middle East (kefta or kufta), to Greece (keftedes), Turkey (köfte), Armenia (kyufta), Iran (kufteh, or koofteh) and all the way to India (kofta) in the east. All names for these little balls of wonder derive from the Persian verb kuftan, which means "to grind."

4 to 6 servings, or about 20 meatballs
  • Ground lamb or beef, or a mixture of the two -- 2 pounds
  • Onion, minced -- 1
  • Fresh parsley or mint, finely chopped -- 1/2 bunch
  • Ground cumin -- 1 tablespoon
  • Cinnamon -- 2 teaspoons
  • Allspice (optional) -- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and pepper -- to season
  • Oil -- 1/4 cup
  1. Place the ground beef or lamb, onion, herbs, spices, salt and pepper in a large bowl and knead together well. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1-2 hours to allow the flavors to mingle and make the meat easier to handle.
  2. Form the meat mixture into balls, patties or ovals the size of a small egg.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium flame and, working in batches, sauté the meatballs until browned on all sides and cooked through. Browned meatballs can also be finished in a 350ºF oven.
  4. Serve as is or in pita bread as a sandwich with tzatziki sauce.
In Greek: τζατζίκι, pronounced dza-DZEE-kee
Tzatziki is traditionally served as an appetizer and can be left on the table as an accompaniment to foods throughout the meal. The key to great tzatziki is the thick creamy texture that allows it to be eaten alone, as a dip, as a spread, and as a condiment.

  • 16 ounces (2 cups) of thick Greek yogurt
  • 4 to 10 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of diced or grated cucumber (Kirby or "English")
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Prepare all ingredients in advance. Combine oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl. Fold the yogurt in slowly, making sure it mixes completely with the oil. Add the garlic, according to taste, and the cucumber. Stir until evenly distributed. Garnish with a bit of green and serve well chilled.
Yield: about 2 1/2 cups
Add mint or dill: Slight variations include 1-2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh dill and/or fresh mint. Tasty additions!

Grilled Halloumi Cheese

Halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus.  It is very firm and is meant to be grilled so don't worry about it melting all over the place.  You can even grill it on your barbecue.  Marinade the cheese in olive oil and thyme for a few minutes.  Then grill in a hot pan or on the barbecue.  Grill both sides.  When done, remove to a serving plate and squeeze lemon juice over.  Alternatively, you could flame it with a liquor like ouzo.


  1. une assiette bien variée et remplie de saveurs j'adore
    bonne soirée

  2. That plate is my idea of good time! Seriously.

  3. What a beautiful Mezze platter. I am really impressed that you made your own pita bread-awesome. This platter would be perfect served up with a good glass of wine.

  4. I've made pita bread, but not recently. It's so versatile! (And, with children, it naturally helps contain the "mess" from the stuffing...)

  5. I am amazed at all you do, Sarah... so many beautiful things today!!! I love kefta and yoghurt sauce... with lots of hot pepper!!!

  6. Marjie - I should really try it again, now that I have a reliable oven. It was easy enough.

    lostpastremembered - I was just thinking about that and you today. Maybe I should just do one special thing a week rather than blogging about 'everything' I do! I would have time for more detail, like you do! Congrats on your 10,000th visitor! That is amazing.

  7. Whoa mammma.... that looks fabulous!!!!!

  8. I love that you posted a pita bread recipe, I was just about to search for one! No need now :) Sorry the oven you're at isn't the best, thats got to be frustrating. Everything on this plate looks so good, I wish I was sampling it too.

  9. Thanks, Andrea! I love the halloumi and it is so easy.

  10. Oh yum, yum, yum, yum! I used to work at Greek restaurant back in the day... oh man I miss the food. Thanks for the recipes - I can't wait to try them!

    I too have a horrible oven. Some days it takes hours to preheat and other days you set it to 350 and it decides to go to 450 and beyond. Weird! :(

  11. Woah!! Look at you!! Making pita bread! Great job on this challenge!

  12. Thank you so much for participating this month. Your food rocks! I love that you took this challenge and just made so many extra things. What a fabulous meal. I am absolutely drooling over your halloumi--it's so perfectly browned. Yum!

  13. Sarah, mon amie, voilà une cuisine totalement dans me goûts.
    J'adore les mezzés et tout ce que tu as fait.
    A bientôt.

  14. Oooo, I'd happily eat the lot. For a seasame taste when tahina isn't available try adding a little seasame oil to the hummus - it works a treat!

    Hello from down under, Michelle

  15. Never heard of mezzes but reminds me of tapas.
    You make your own pita bread;wow!
    Hope you had a wonderful Valentines Day

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  18. I'm envious of your Grilled Halloumi Cheese. I wanted to fry some cheese but decided against it in an attempt to be "healthy." Maybe next time. :) Great job!

  19. Yes, Sarah, I was also thinking of 'healthy'. It is really difficult in this blogging world to watch the fats and sugars! Oh well, call it all Mediterranean, I say! At least it sounds healthy!

  20. I love what you included in your mezze. The fatayer look delicious - perfectly cooked! The grilled halloumi is one of my favorite things to eat. It looks like this was no challenge for you at all. :)

  21. Great job! Everything looks amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Grilled Halloumi cheese - WOW!

  22. Wow! Very impressive. Everything looks amazing. I love the use of whole wheat flour in the pita. Great job on this challenge!

  23. Thank you all! msmeanie (I doubt you are a ms meanie!) the pita was my challenge especially with my extra challenging oven! I had never done the halloumi or fatayer but they were easy.

  24. Gorgeous mezze! Those fatayer reall caught my eye - am definitely going to try them soon!


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