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The first meal I ate in Israel consisted of hummus, tahini, and pita bread. Such a simple meal, but made remarkable by the fact that we were sitting on the coast of Caesarea, waves crashing on the rocks, enjoying the night air and the wedding fireworks that were being shot off nearby. There were many other meals I ate during the three weeks I was there, toiling under the hot sun as we dug up pile after pile of pottery pieces, but that’s the one that sticks with me 10 years later.

That’s why I was so pleased to see this month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge. Completely customizable, as long as we created the magic components I mentioned above, hummus and pita bread.

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.

Mezze is kind of like tapas, in that you serve a bunch of small dishes all at once. Everything should be able to be eaten with the hands, either directly or by scooping up with some pita or lavash.

I’ve made pita before using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method and it does turn out very well, but I was willing to give this recipe a shot. I had actually never created a sponge for my bread before, but everything came together easily. I did have problems rolling the dough thin enough with the second half of the dough, but more than half the batch turned out perfectly. The time and temperature called for wasn’t long/high enough in my opinion, and I had to cook my pita for about 8 minutes for it to puff and crisp properly.

The hummus couldn’t have been easier. I already had a can of chickpeas in the cupboard so I just rinsed them, dumped ‘em into my food processor, and whizzed them with the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. We like our hummus thick so I didn’t add extra water while mixing, but swirled on some olive oil for finishing, along with a generous sprinkle of paprika.

Because it was only going to be my husband and I enjoying our mezze, I kept things simple and only created two sides. I wanted a salad to keep the meal a little lighter and fresher, so I used a tomato I had gotten at the farmer’s market to help create a couscous salad. The lamb meatballs are adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe I’ve made before.

Mediterranean Couscous
1 cup couscous
1 ½ cups water or vegetable broth
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Fresh chopped parsley

Bring water to a boil, then add couscous, stir, and let stand covered 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mix together lemon juice through coriander. Fluff couscous with a fork, dump into bowl, add the rest of ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lamb Meatballs
1 lb ground lamb
½ cup dried plums, diced
3 green onions, diced
1 egg
¼ cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to broil and line a cookie sheet with foil.
Mix everything together and form into golfball-sized balls, then place on cookie sheet.
Broil about 10 minutes, turning over once.


  1. WOW those lamb meatballs look wonderful and the pita worked out perfectly. Your introduction sounds so alluring it must of been a special for you. Bravo on an excellent effort. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. Wow, what an amazing experience you must have had! I would love to visit that area someday. Everything you made looks beautiful! Those lamb meatballs and Mediterranean couscous look exquisite – I keep forgetting about lamb as a meat choice and need to make more dishes with lamb -I think I would like to start with these meatballs!

  3. Love what you did with your mezze table (good move to keep things small… I think we got excited and went a bit overboard!!). The meatballs look fabulous!

    Thanks for sharing your food memories from Israel. I know just what you mean when you describe how the simplest of foods create an indelible mark just because of your sense of PLACE. I also think that there’s just something about the air in a new place that makes the food taste all the more authentic and flavorful!

  4. This menu is right up my alley! I’m going to bookmark it. Actually, in the next few weeks (and ongoing for a while) I’m going to be letting people link up to my blog with their international cuisine that matched up with my theme at the time (i.e. Greek food, Italian food, Persian food, French food, etc.). I’m planning to “perfect” what I can from various cultures with the help of the blog world! 🙂 I’ll be sure to check back to this post when it’s time for this cuisine. Hopefully you’ll link up!

  5. Gorgeous and delicious looking mezze. I love how you made it so simple..just happening to have what you needed on hand 🙂 I also love the idea of those lamb meatballs, especially with the plums sweetening them. Fantastic job all around!

  6. Thank you so much for cooking mezze along with me this month. I think your food looks so delicious and I love that the challenge reminded you of your trip to Israel. I am hoping to take a trip there in the next couple of years.

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