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Mezze Menu for Any Occasion

January 15, 2011

Sometimes I throw “dinner parties” when I feel bad about not celebrating major holidays. Other times, I throw them for absolutely no reason. I spend the day grocery shopping, menu planning, cooking, and of course, cleaning up.

Sometimes I play music, sometimes I don’t. and it’s just me, the oven, and some vegetables.

Come dinnertime I shower, change into something ridiculously fancy considering I don’t leave the house. Candle-lighting and cocktails ensue.

By the time we actually dig in, it seems wasteful to be cooking this much food for three people. Luckily, the following Middle Eastern mezze menu was mostly prepared in advance, since the flavors actually intensify with time.


Whole wheat pita

Eggplant pomegranate spread

Lemon garlic spinach

Roasted garlic hummus

Cucumber-tomato-yogurt salad

Butternut squash kibbeh with spinach chickpea filling

Olives, feta, crudités on the side


How to prepare:

  1. If you don’t have chickpeas (you could use canned, but I seriously recommend dried), soak them overnight and cook in a pot of boiling water.
  2. Make the pita dough and give it an hour and a half to rise.
  3. Roast the eggplant, garlic, and butternut squash. Let cool.
  4. Make hummus and refrigerate.
  5. Make eggplant spread and refrigerate.
  6. Sautee spinach, setting some aside for the lemon garlic spinach, the rest for the kibbeh.
  7. Make lemon garlic spinach. Refrigerate.
  8. Assemble and bake kibbeh.
  9. Punch down pita dough, separate into small loafs, and let rise.

10.  Make yogurt salad and refrigerate.

11.  Get olives and feta ready. Cut up raw vegetables.

12.  Set the table. Take the kibbeh out of the oven.

13.  Bake the pita.

14.  Devour.



(I already posted recipes for eggplant pomegranate spread and lemon garlic spinach—the only change I made was sprinkling Mark Bittman’s easy preserved lemons on top of the spinach)

Whole wheat pita (adapted from Claudia Roden)—makes VERY DENSE pita. I thought this was the hollow kind, but apparently not. It’s doughier, more like roti or something.


  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ +1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • Olive oil


  • Dissolve sugar and yeast in water until it starts to bubble (maybe 10 minutes)
  • Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
  • Add yeast mixture and mix with a fork until it becomes a dough.
  • Knead until elastic and smooth.
  • Mix into a ball and put into an oiled bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise for an hour and a half, or until doubled.
  • After dough has risen, punch down and divide into six pieces. Roll them out on a floured cutting board and let rise for another thirty minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350. Put pitas on a floured baking sheet.
  • Brush with olive oil and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy.

Roasted Garlic Hummus:


  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 1 ¼ cups cooked chickpeas, preferably not canned
  • Chickpea cooking water or water
  • 4-5 TBSP tahini
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika and olive oil for garnish
  • Parsley and additional chickpeas


  • Soak and cook chickpeas if you haven’t already. Let soak overnight in cold water. In the morning, drain and bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the chickpeas and simmer until no longer hard, but not mushy. Drain.
  • Roast garlic in a preheated 350 degree oven with a little olive oil and salt until tender and starchy.
  • Put garlic, chickpeas, and rest of ingredients in a blender or food processor (gotta love the Vitamix) and blend until smooth (I like mine slightly chunky). You may need to add more water or scrape the sides.
  • Taste and adjust tahini-lemon-salt proportions. You can also add more spices if you want: sumac, cumin, cayenne, etc.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Pour into a bowl and garnish with paprika, a few chickpeas, some chopped parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Cucumber tomato yogurt salad


  • ½ long cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • Salt, pepper
  • A pinch of sumac or a squeeze of lemon
  • Optional: ground paprika, cumin, etc.


  • It’s obvious. Mix everything together.

Butternut Squash Kibbeh with Spinach-Chickpea filling

(VERY loosely adapted from Chowhound)

Note: kibbeh is traditionally fried, with ground lamb or beef in both the filling and crust. Bulgur is a constant in both vegetarian and meat versions: meatless kibbeh is usually served around Lent. Canned pumpkin is acceptable, but I took it a step further and roasted my own butternut squash. It will taste better—I promise.



  • A large butternut or other winter squash, cut in half and seeded
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 cup fine cracked bulgur
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ sumac
  • Pinch allspice


  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1-2 large bunches of spinach, rinsed well and drained
  • ½ cup—1 cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup cooked chickpeas, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (hey, I like garlic)
  • The rest of the onion, also chopped
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • Pinch allspice
  • Lemon
  • Additional chickpeas and olive oil, plus parsley for garnish


  • Roast the squash in a preheated 350 degree oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until tender: maybe 30 minutes or so.
  • Let cool, then puree the squash in a blender or food processor.
  • Meanwhile, soak the bulgur in hot water until fluffy. Drain.
  • Mix the bulgur, 2 cups of pureed squash, and the rest of the ingredients for the crust in a large bowl.
  • Start the filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet until not quite smoking, then add the onion, followed by the garlic. Sautee until onions are translucent and garlic is golden brown.
  • Add spices, followed by the spinach.
  • Add enough white wine so that the leaves are no longer popping out of the pan, then bring to a boil.
  • Simmer down and add chickpeas and walnuts.
  • When wilted, take off the heat and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
  • Next, assemble the kibbeh. In an oiled casserole, spread about half the crust mixture. Add the spinach. Add the remainder of the crust. Sprinkle with chickpeas, more paprika, cinnamon, and a drizzle more olive oil.
  • Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned. Alternatively, bake at 325 and broil at the last minute.
  • Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. fiz permalink
    January 15, 2011 3:47 am

    scrumptious in every sense of the word! I can imagine what you’ll do with a new fancy kitchen….


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