Add a taste of the Levant to your dining table next time you are entertaining. Transcend them beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, so that they imagine sitting in an authentic Arabian cafe. Normally, mezze platters consists of various tapas-style items accompanied by pita bread or “khubz”, but you can decide on the number of appetizers, bearing in mind the number of your guests.
My mezze platter normally consists of chilli & mint hummus, baba ghanoush, marinated olives and baked herb pita. The recipes for chilli & mint hummus and marinated olives have already been published in my previous blogs. Baba ghanoush, like hummus, is a dip made from smoked eggplants, it bears a striking resemblance to another eggplant dip called “mutabel”, however according Arabic food connoisseurs, mutabel is spicier. My version of baba ghanoush can be termed as a fusion of the two.
- 4-5 eggplants
- Olive oil
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 green chillis, chopped
- 2 tsp garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
- Handful chopped coriander
- The first step is to roast the eggplants so that they are infused with a strong, smoky flavor. There are a couple of ways for doing so:
- 1. Roast the eggplants on the naked flame, if you have a gas stove, till the skin blisters and chars. Put them in an airtight container for 10 minutes to steam.
- 2. If you have a charcoal grill, slice the eggplant into half, length-ways, and grill skin side up till dark marks appear on the flesh.
- 3. If neither of the options are a possibility then slice the eggplants into two, length-ways, drizzle with some olive oil and put them skin side down on a baking tray for about 45 minutes or till the flesh turns ochre.
- Note: The closer the eggplant is to the fire, the smokier the taste would be.
- Remove the flesh from the skin and put into a food processor, along with the rest of the ingredients. Blitz for about 2-3 minutes till a smooth paste forms. Add more olive oil if the mixture is still lumpy or grainy.
- Scoop out into a serving bowl and garnish with a splash of olive oil and a few leftover springs of coriander.
Baked Herb Pita Bread
To make the pita, I have experimented with many different dried herbs; they all taste as good. Till now I have tried, dried basil, dried mint and za’atar. Each has a distinct taste of its own and enhances the taste of the otherwise bland pita.
- Round pita bread
- Olive oil
- Dried herb of your choice
- Cut the pita bread into smaller triangles
- Drizzle with olive oil (Note: Avoid putting too much oil otherwise the pita will get soggy. Use your fingers to distribute the oil evenly)
- Add a generous shower of dried herbs to the oil soaked pita bread.
- Lay out on a baking sheet and bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or until brown and crisp.
You can make these baked pitas a day or two in advance and store them in an airtight container.
Place three cocktail or martini glasses in the middle of a platter and fill them with chilli & mint hummus, baba ghanoush and marinated olives. Spread the baked pita all around the base of the glasses. Lying in the center of your serving table will be your exotic piece de resistance.