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. You can download a PDF with the challenge details and other helpful information here. Michele really did her research and provided lots of optional recipes in addition to the required homemade pita and hummus. Thanks so much for your hard work, Michele!
This challenge was nice as you could do the minimum or get really creative and it could be done in advance for leisurely entertaining. Of course, I didn't plan correctly and there was nothing leisurely about my experience. I started at 4 p.m. Saturday before last and didn't finish until 8:30 p.m. I mean why would I want to spread the work out over several days when I could exhaust myself cramming it into one action packed night? :) Thank goodness Jeff allowed me to change plans and came to me. I'm not sure what I would have done with all the food without him. 16 pitas for one girl?! Even with his help, I was able to take leftovers to a Superbowl party Sunday, eat them all week and STILL have 3 pitas left as of tonight (2/13).
My pitas were mostly pocket-less. Those with pockets were significantly lighter and more enjoyable, even though the others still tasted good. I'm not sure why so few puffed. I used the same methodology throughout but it must be some technicality. I will definitely try pitas again with a quarter or half of the recipe. I have a feeling getting the pitas to puff takes practice. Do any other Daring Cooks have tips? If so, please share them!
As for the hummus, it was a bit raw for my taste between all the lemon juice and the garlic's bite. The hummus also needed more extra liquid than in past recipes. I love making my own hummus but I'll probably stick to the basic recipe I have scrawled in a notebook somewhere in my room or this AMAZING cilantro-lime hummus.
The provided Cucumber Raita recipe was enjoyable; I always had wondered what went into it. I'm certain I'll revisit it perhaps amping up the cumin since I love it so much. Cumin is about to be my first non-baking related spice to have ever used up, which seems like a milestone in the kitchen.
I also served cubed feta, a simple salad with roasted beets and a pearl barley salad loosely inspired by this complicated and wonderful Eggplant Barley Salad. The roasted beets were very fresh and bright with the zest of one lemon, juice of half a lemon and fresh parsley; I thought of this simple recipe when I threw them together. For the pearl barley salad, totally trying to remember now as I was lazy and didn't outline promptly, I cooked the pearl barley and set it aside to cool. While it was cooling, I sauteed ground lamb in water, then set it aside to drain. Next I added onions, cumin and coriander to the same pan and sauteed until the onions were translucent. Finally I combined everything together with some freshly chopped parsley, quartered and seeded cherry tomatoes and, when I realized I omitted salt, some crumbled feta to compensate. It could use some work but it wasn't a bad variation and it took a LOT less time.
As for the three leftover pitas? They are so going in the freezer for the moment. Don't get me wrong. It was a great, tasty challenge but I have mezze fatigue. I'm certain I'll be back to them sooner rather than later though as they are fun to put together and make a healthy, portable meal.
Why I felt the need to put silverware in everything is beyond me since, hello, the joy of mezze is scooping up food with the pita and eating with your hands.