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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daring Cooks February Challenge

Happy Valentines Day everyone!

I feel like quite a slacker. From our travels, holiday and final craziness, this is the first post for a Daring Cooks challenge I've actually written, even though I've cooked them for two months! My Daring Baker status is questionable as well. I know, shame shame. But, no more self rebuke. This month's choice may be just what you're looking for this Valentine's day. It provided a nice light romantic meal for Daniel and I to share, and hopefully will be a welcomed addition to your romantic dinner repertoire.

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 best way to describe a mezze is somewhat similar to a meal of Spanish tapas, but with traditional middle eastern flavors and dishes. If you're still looking for a romantic dinner idea, the mezze has some romantic potential as a meal enjoyed primarily with your hands. Some traditional items include not only the pita breads and hummus required by the challenge, but lentil salad, preserved lemons, tabbouleh, fattoush, olives, falafel, cucumber raita, etc. etc. We went slightly untraditional with ours (mainly because we were sticking to what was in the pantry/fridge) and made two different versions of the hummus, a plain and spicy roasted red pepper, lamb meatballs, and imported some Indian flavor in a mango papaya chutney. The recipe suggests that you can substitute any type of nut butter in place of the tahini, but I may suggest you be a little cautious in choosing a nut butter with a particular pronounced flavor (i.e. round one, we used peanut butter, and had peanut butter flavored wasn't bad...went well with the sweet chutney...but the plain version with the tahini was better).

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.
1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 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) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste
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.

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 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
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) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)
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 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.



Audax said...

WOWOWOWOW it looks marvellous love the heart-shaped pita. so cute <3<3<3 It seems like you had fun doing the challenge. Yes I used peanut butter but I added some sesame oil to kill the taste it was much better that way. Love the idea of the mango papaya chutney nice touch. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

Chef Aimee said...

Being Armenian, I am LOVING this mezze idea!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Love the heart shaped pita! So cute!

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite said...

I love the heart shaped pita! Well done!

Abby said...

Homemade pita bread! I'd love to try that, myself.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! I love your homemade heart shaped pita!

Divina Pe said...

Love the heart-shaped pita bread. This is really a romantic meal. Not too heavy yet not too light. There's something really romantic about middle eastern flavors too most especially if you have the ambiance. But the most important part is you spent it together. Congratulations for doing this challenge. :)

Anna said...

Oh, I love that book, and Mezze is a great way to have fun, little bites of delicious food. :-)

Cinnamon-Girl♥ said...

This is an excellent Valentine's meal! It all sounds delicious, even the PB hummus. Those meatballs made my mouth water and I haven't eaten breakfast yet!

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