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Meze – Part 1


Falafel Pita Pockets with Tahini Dressing

This popular Middle Eastern street food is easy to make and usually eaten as a meze appetizer or lunch. Serve hot, fresh from the pan.

PREP : 25 minutes
COOK : 12 minutes

  • 1 shallot, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas in water, drained and rinsed
  • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2–4 tablespoons canola oil, for frying
  • Tahini dressing
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2–3 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • To serve
  • 4 pita breads
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, shredded
  • 1 large tomato, thinly sliced
  • ½ cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 16 Kalamata olives
  • 4 fresh mint sprigs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the shallot and garlic into a food processor and pulse a few times, until chopped. Add the chickpeas, parsley, coriander, cumin, salt, cayenne, olive oil, and flour, then process to a chunky puree. Add the baking powder and pulse once.
  2. For the tahini dressing, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl, adjusting the water content until you have the consistency you like. Wrap the pita breads in aluminum foil and put into the oven.
  3. Line a plate with paper towels. Make walnut-size balls out of the chickpea mixture, then flatten them into ¼-inch-thick patties. Heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil in a large skillet over medium–high heat until hot. Working in batches, cook the patties for 3–4 minutes, or until well browned, turning halfway through, then transfer to the prepared plate. Add more oil to the pan as needed.
  4. Slice the pita breads in half. Stuff each half with two to three falafels, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, and drizzle with the dressing. Serve two halves per person with olives and a mint sprig.

Cook’s tip : This recipe works just as well with whole-wheat pitas. You can try making your own or buy from a local bakery.


Crispy Sumac Squid Rings with Lemon Yogurt Dip

These squid rings are crispy on the outside and perfectly tender within. Serve them hot as a snack with beverages, or as part of a bigger meze meal.

PREP : 25 minutes
CHILL : 1 hour
COOK : 15 minutes

  • 8 ounces squid tubes, cleaned and cut into rings
  • about 1¼ cups milk
  • 1 cup rice bread crumbs
  • 1½ teaspoons sumac
  • 2 pinches of sea salt flakes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
  • Lemon yogurt dip
  • ⅔ cup Greek-style plain yogurt
  • juice of ½ lemon
  1. Put the squid in a shallow bowl and pour over just enough of the milk to cover. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour to soften.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dip, mix the yogurt and lemon juice together in a bowl. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until needed.
  3. Put the rice bread crumbs, sumac, and a pinch of salt on a plate and mix well. Put the egg in a shallow bowl.
  4. Strain the squid through a colander and discard the milk. Give the colander a good shake to remove any excess liquid.
  5. Lay a large sheet of parchment paper on a work surface and line a plate with paper towels. Dip each squid ring in the egg and then the sumac crumbs, then place them on the parchment paper.
  6. Heat half the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium–high heat. Working in batches, fry the squid for 3–4 minutes, or until crisp and cooked, turning halfway through, then transfer to the prepared plate. Add more oil to the pan as needed.
  7. Serve the squid hot, sprinkled with a pinch of salt, with the yogurt dip and lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Cook’s tip : If rice bread crumbs are not available, use panko bread crumbs instead.


Persian Herb Frittata

This is a classic Iranian frittata, filled with fresh herbs and walnuts. It makes a wonderful meze dish or light lunch served with salad.

PREP : 15 minutes
COOK : 10 minutes

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • large pinch of sea salt
  • large pinch of pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced, to garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the herbs, garlic, flour, turmeric, salt, and pepper, then whisk well.
  2. Heat the butter with the oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet over medium–high heat until foaming. As soon as it stops foaming, pour in the egg mixture, reduce the heat to medium–low, and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the walnuts over the frittata, then transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 5 minutes, or until cooked through.
  4. Using oven mitts, turn the frittata out onto a plate. Sprinkle with the scallion, then cut into wedges and serve.

Cook’s tip : You can make a frittata with most soft herbs, mixed to suit your taste. Basil, tarragon, chervil, and chives all work well.

Authentic dishes from the Middle East

Rukmini Lyer