Thanks to the recent closing of my local Border’s store, (40% off everything!) I was able to pick up a copy of Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros, which is now my new favorite cookbook. Though not perfect, it has enough new ideas (to me), originality (to me), and beautiful pictures to warrant my frequent perusing it for inspiration.
Among the recipes that caught my eye were a number of Mediterranean specialties. Unable to decide on just one to try, I decided to whip up several and serve them as part of a Mezze Platter, which is popular throughout the middle east and southeastern Europe as a selection of appetizers, or even a meal in its own right. Traditionally, it incorporates a variety of salads, dips, cheeses, and snack-y nibblings—a culinary sampler, if you will.
The Mezze platter I came up with was a lot of fun to make—although a lot of work. I also found it to be delicious, although my parents–who i shared this meal with—came away with the impression that they were not very fond of Greek food. I’ve learned better than to take their opinions on my cooking personally, as I know their tastes in food rarely seem in line with mine. However, it was worth the attempt to to introduce them to the wondrous culinary traditions that are found around the world, and all the marvelous cuisines that are available for us 🙂
Anyway– I started with making my own from-scratch hummus. I was stupid enough to pay $8 for a jar of tahini in the local supermarket—don’t be foolish. It was readily available in a number of nearby ethnic foodstores for half that price, had I not been too lazy to drive the extra mile to get to one.
I’m going to have to experiment some to get the proportions right—it was a little bit too lemony for my tastes. I also wish the texture had been smoother–another run through the processor for you, hummus! Overall a great effort and a learning experience. I served it with a generous sprinkle of sweet Hungarian paprika over the top, which really added a depth of flavor beyond the lemony nuttiness I had initially.
Other recipes I tried (all from Falling Cloudberries, except for the Cucumber salad, which was my own) were Spanakopita, Koupes, Fried Red Peppers, and a Cucumber Salad. The Spanakopita, irritatingly, tasted exactly like the type you can buy frozen from the grocery store. When you put the time and energy into making something from scratch, it’s a little disappointing to find nothing in the finished product that distinguishes it from something ready-made. Other than that, it was delicious, and I enjoyed the opportunity to play with the filo dough. I think next time I will try to make that from scratch as well…just for the experience. I’m also looking forward to attempting puff pastry, which I imagine is somewhat related.
Koupes are basically fried meatballs. I thought they were delicious, but no one else seemed a fan. The inside is ground beef with various spices and onions, which are then inclosed in a shell of bulgur. When fried, the bulgur turns nice and crispy. Greek women can make the koupe shells out of just bulgur, but I (as a novice) had a bit of trouble getting it to stick together effectively, so I added a little bit of ground turkey to my bulgur to bind things together. This worked great, but did make the outside layer a little bit less distinctive from the interior. Each meatball is given a generous sprinkle of seasalt, which was really what boosted these from simply “ok” to “amazing.”
My favorite, however, was the peppers fried in olive oil. I don’t know why, they just hit the spot. They were sweet, soft, but still a little crunchy…seasoned perfectly with a dressing of garlic, red wine vinegar, and rosemary. I imagine they have a ton of delicious applications—as a side dish, in a pasta salad, on pizza…the possibilities are endless!
So there it is. Overall a good spread (plus the hummus and cucumbers, not pictured). Its driving me crazy that one of the pieces of bread fell over and is no longer sitting up prettily as I arranged it. Oh well.
I definitely look forward to trying more recipes from the lovely book…so far everything has been delicious and unintimidating. I enjoy the little blurbs describing the recipes, as well as the author’s reasons for picking them, and memories of them growing up. Its a very personal, beautiful, creative book. If anyone has it, and has a favorite recipe I should try next, let me know!