Monday, February 15, 2010

Daring Cooks Challenge:Hummus, Pita, Grilled Chicken, Falafel, Tzatziki etc.

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.

The challenge is to prepare a Mezze table including, but not limited to, homemade Pita bread and Hummus. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes served all at once. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the meal. I loved this challenge and enjoyed trying new recipes. Hummus is one of my very favorite things.

Pita Bread
Somehow, I am missing a picture of a pita bread...that's strange!

Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
- 2 teaspoons regular dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 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)
- 1 tablespoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons 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 (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 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.


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 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
- 2 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)

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.

Middle Eastern Grilled Chicken

For the marinade

* 1 cup plain yogurt
* 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
* 1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

* 8 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)

For the sauce

* 1/3 cup plain yogurt
* 1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
* 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves, or to taste

* 1 small red onion, sliced thin
* 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 tomato, minced
* 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly
* 6 whole-wheat pita loaves


1 cup Greek-style (2% or nonfat) yogurt*
1 cup 1/4-inch cubes English hothouse cucumber
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus additional for drizzling
2 tablespoons chopped shallots

Mix Greek-style yogurt, cucumber, dill, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, shallots, and 3/4 teaspoon crushed aniseed in small bowl; season tzatziki generously with salt and pepper. Chill.

My Favorite Falafel

1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
Chopped tomato for garnish
Diced onion for garnish
Diced green bell pepper for garnish
Tahina sauce
Pita bread

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, 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.

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, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.

5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees 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. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.


  1. Those grilled chicken are calling me! I baked some chicken few days ago similar to your marinade. I had extra garlic sauce and yogurt that i need to use up so i used them as marinade but baked. Yours look way grilled! Wish i could!. The falafels look delicious! Great job on your mezze spread!

  2. Oh dear! Everything looks so good that I'm drooling over here. I want it all, especially the hummus:D

  3. A veritable feast! Well done indeed. The falafel is calling me.

  4. Evertyhing looks so delicious! Love the look of your falafels! I would love to pop into yours one evening for a nice meal - and I would happily invite you to mine :)
    Pozdrawiam goraco!!! Anula.

  5. Super :)
    Bardzo lubię takie tematyczne zestawy obiadowe. Sama niedawno robiłam falafele, zasadzam sięna kuczaka podobnego do Twojego, w jogurtowej marynacie.


  6. I love falafels, but I've never made them. That grilled chicken looks fantastic too!!!