Mezze platter: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Oven Roasted Eggplant with Feta cheese
Meze, mezze, or mazza is a selection of hot and cold small dishes served as appetizers in parts of the Middle East, Greece, and North Africa. There's a wide variety of mezzes depending on the fresh produce of the region; some of the most well known ones are hummus, tabbouleh, baba ganoush, feta cheeses, fattoush.... all served with freshly made pita/flat breads. Mezzes are appetizers, but they are so tasty and gratifying that for me its better than mains itself. Here I'm doing a twist on two of the most popular one's I'm making a red pepper hummus and oven roasted eggplant with feta, inspired by Ottolenghis Roasted Eggplant.
Tips for making perfect hummus:
It is so easy to make perfectly creamy, smooth hummus at home keeping in mind a few things:
Chickpeas: you can use your own homemade chickpeas (I use an Instant Pot to cook the chickpeas, a pressure cooker will do), or simply use canned chickpeas. Make sure you reserve the liquid from the can or from cooking as we use it to get the creamy smooth texture. Make sure to cook it till its a soft, mash-able consistency
Tahini: this is sesame seed paste; you should be able to find it near the nut butters or in the international foods section of your grocery store.
Roasted red pepper: (for this recipe) again, you can roast your own red peppers, or simply purchase jarred roasted peppers. I've also made hummus using the sweeter smaller variety peppers and they taste equally good.
Food processor: you will need a food processor to blend all the ingredients well and to be able to drizzle some of the extra chickpea liquid and olive oil through the chute of the processor while blending resulting in the smooth and silky finish.
Olive oil: use a good quality virgin olive oil, it will enhance the taste of the hummus.
Tips for or making the oven roasted eggplant with feta cheese:
I have modified this recipe from a basic Baba Ganoush and Ottolenghi's roasted eggplant recipes.
Eggplant: when buying eggplant look for the big plump ones, without any blemishes on the outside.
Grilled or roasted: you could grill or oven roast the egg plant, I halved the eggplants added a little salt, pepper and drizzled some olive oil and roasted them. Roasting them halved also means that your eggplant cooks faster. I used the air fryer, it takes much lesser time. Roasting the eggplants until they’ve collapsed on themselves helps concentrate their flavor and ensure that your dip is silky-smooth. At that point, its easy to scoop out the insides.
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Dried chickpeas: 1 heaped cup
pinch of baking soda
Water: 3 cups
400 gm Jar of roasted red peppers
Tahini: 2 Tbsp
Juice of a lemon
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Cumin: 1 Tsp
Paprika: 1/2 Tsp
Red chili powder: 1/2 Tsp
salt to taste
Virgin olive oil: 1-2 Tbsp and extra for sprinkling
Add the chickpeas, salt, baking soda and water into the Instapot and cook on high pressure/bean chili setting for 40 mins. If you don't own an Instant and you are like me forgetful and decide to cook something last minute and haven't soaked the chickpeas overnight; just add boiling water with a pinch of baking soda to the chick peas and keep aside for half an hour, after which proceed to pressure cook the chickpeas.
When the cooking program ends, let the pressure release manually. Open the pot drain out chickpeas into a colander, reserving the cooking liquid.
Add the cooled chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, roasted bell peppers, tahini, cumin, paprika, chili powder(if using), 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and salt. Process all at a medium speed for 2-3 minutes, scrapping down the sides as needed until creamy. Give it a taste, adjusting seasoning to one's taste.
For a creamier, smoother texture, add a little of the reserved cooking liquid at a time through the chute of the processor, and 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil in the end.
Spoon the hummus into the center of a wide shallow serving bowl, sprinkle a little paprika, drizzle with olive oil and serve with toasted pita bread.
Note: If your prefer, you could roast two fresh bell peppers instead of using store bought. Using tongs, hold each of the bell peppers over a medium flame for a few minutes, turning the pepper when the skin blisters and blackens until charred on all sides. Transfer the charred peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it stand for 10-15mins, then scrape off the charred skin and removed the stem and seeds. You can do this while the chickpeas are cooking.
Oven Roasted Eggplant with Feta cheese
2 large eggplants, washed and dried
one medium sized red onion, peeled and chopped
2-3 Tbsp of Olive oil and extra for Sprinkling
2 green chiles
1 tsp, ground cumin
1 tsp, sumac
50 grams of feta cheese
juice of a lemon.
1 clove of garlic, minced
A small bunch of flat leaved parsley
salt & pepper.
Pine nuts, toasted(optional)
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark . Half the eggplants, brush with oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place cut side up on a baking tray and roast for 45 minutes, until golden-brown. In the arifryer it takes about 20 mins, but will have to do it in 2 batches.
Once the eggplant is cooked, scoop out the flesh, add it to a food processor, along with the all the other ingredients except the feta cheese. Pulse it well, till everything is combined and creamy, now add the feta cheese and mix. Add 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil in the end to get a creamy texture. Check for seasoning, adjust it.
Spoon the eggplant mixture into the center of a wide shallow serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, toasted pine nuts if using and serve with toasted pita bread.