Saturday, August 9, 2008
First Thursday: Vegetarian Mezze Platter
I wasn’t planning to Smackdown this month. In light of Michelle’s (MS Thursday Night Smackdown) recent difficulties, I decided to bust out the cookbook, in this case Classical Turkish Cooking by Ayla Algar and the fresh veggies. Michelle’s blog is a hilarious description of her tribulations with her cookbook collection. Haven’t read it? I suggest her post on the Morimoto’s fish noodles. This all said—I hear she is on a break, so this might not actually get posted there, but hey, who cares?
This month the plan was for brightly colored fruit and veg. (More on the mixed results of this later.) In addition, I was to tackle some ingredient hereto uncooked by me. Somehow I decided I would make a mezze platter. I blame the new fangled digital television for moving me towards this stupid decision. Rudy Maxa was standing in a sun-bathed restaurant in Turkey picking out lovely veggie items for his “small dish” platter. The picture was so clear, and as things are going, eating Turkish food is the closest that I will get to the land of Ataturk for decades. (Promise this is not an add for digital tv.)
Mezze is served prior to the meal or as the meal items. I made 6 dishes: squash blossom dolmas, stuffed peppers, potato salad, beet salad, zucchini fritters, and green beens. Think about it: 1 is a salad, 2 side dishes, 3 boring, 4 or more items is platter-like. This also means that the meal preparation required some amount of swearing, much stopping and a couple of calls to some sort omniscient being. Part of the fun, no?
I wanted highly colorful and new, because I love to follow the rules. First for the new, squash blossoms. My mother used to dip them in chickpea flour and fry them. But, I am avoiding frying. But, this cookbook had a recipe for (mezze 1) Squash Blossom Dolmas that was basically braised rather than fried. The most common dolma to Americans is made with grape leaves, so the flower idea as exciting. The recipe called for the blossom to be filled with rice, currants and pine nuts. The result was delicate and nice. In terms of new, this was a success.
Onto the colorful…I used this same filling for stuffed peppers, as suggested by the book (mezze 2). But, here was my first leap of faith gone wrong. I was sure I had a red pepper in the deep recesses of the fridge. Without this sweet lovely, I stuffed a slightly pink Hungarian pepper. This substitution turned a pedestrian dish into a test of one’s fortitude.
It was this point in food preparation that I realized that while I was supposed to create highly colorful food, I had managed to make summer’s bounty paler. Once cooked the pepper was a dark yellow/ taupe. The brightness of the blossom was mostly tucked in to keep the filling in place. The next two dishes further proved that colorful would not be mine. I planned to make a potato salad (mezze 3) with red onions, but when push came to shove the red onion was no where to be found. (The vegetable in question did pop up long after I finished cooking.) To make things worse, the recipe called for me to top the white potatoes and white onions with egg. More white.
I had hopes for the beets. But, in the end, I grabbed the palest pink beets.(mezze 4) I planned to make beets with yoghurt, but how many pale dishes can be on one platter? So, I went with another recipe titled unsurprisingly “beet salad.”
Then, I had misplaced hope for my zucchini fritters (mezze 5); but really if you think about it, the skin is but a tiny amount of the total volume of zucchini, so voila, whitish zucchini fritters. Finally there were the green beans. There was no possible way that I could make these pale, right? No, they were green. But they were to be cooked in onions and tomatoes. The whole lot was delicious was definitely a muted tonality. (mezze 6)
So how did I counteract the edible paleness? I added a colorful chopped salad, put it on a colorful platter on an even more colorful cloth, and then shot it in bright summer light. Voila, pale mezze turned into sunny, happy mezze.
(I should say despite the color deficiency, the food was delicious. The recipes were easy; and the delivered what they promised. I love this cookbook and can’t remember why I haven’t used it in so many years.)
NB: I do not post published recipes so please look up the recipes at your local library, bookstore or friend's house.
Labels: Blog Event