Saturday, December 28, 2013

Middle Eastern Mezzes: Harissa, Pomegranate Tahini, and Beet & Za'atar Relish

Spicy harissa (top left), pomegranate tahini with smoked paprika, and beet and za'atar relish
Entertaining over New Years? Skip the guac and salsa and make a mezze platter with these crowd-pleasing, beautifully colored, and delicious Middle Eastern-inspired spreads:

Harissa, a smoky and spicy Tunisian hot sauce made from a base of roasted peppers. While it's great as a dip, it also goes very well as a condiment for grilled meat or fish, stir fried vegetables, or even on top of scrambled eggs.

Pomegranate Tahini, combines sesame tahini with Greek yogurt, the tang of lemons, and a hint of pomegranate sweetness.

Beet & Za'atar relish, roasted beets and the popular Middle Eastern spice mix combine with Greek yogurt for a sweet and savory relish.

All of these spreads are easy to make in a food processor or blender. Get the za'atar and pomegranate molasses online (click the links) or visit your local Middle Eastern market. Serve with toasted pita.

Beet & Za'atar Relish

5 medium-sized beets
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons  pomegranate molasses
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons plus more to taste za'atar

1. Follow our method of roasting beets: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim beets and wash them thoroughly. Then dry slightly but while still damp wrap individually in tin foil. Put in the oven for around 45 minutes until a sharp knife easily penetrates the center of the beets.

2. Meanwhile, make the other spreads!

3. When the beets are done, cool, and remove the skins. You can use paper towels if you don't want your hands to become red with beet juice. Puree the beets with the other ingredients.

4. Serve, topped with more za'atar.

Harissa

3 red peppers
1 small can diced tomatoes
medium red onions
3 Thai chilis
4 cloves garlic 
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin 

1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 cup parsley
tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Juice from 3 lemons 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1. Grill or broil the red peppers until they are black and charred. Allow to cool slightly and, if you'd like, remove the skins, by rubbing the peppers with paper towels.

2. Puree all of the ingredients in a large food processor or blender, adding a generous amount of salt and pepper.

3. Serve, topped with chopped parsley.

Pomegranate Tahini

3/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cupparsley, mint, or a combination of the two
2/3 cup Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice plus grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
About 3/4 cup water


1. Mince the garlic cloves and roughly chop the herbs.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the tahini, garlic, herbs, yogurt, lemon juice and zest, pomegranate molasses, and some salt and pepper. Stir well as you slowly add the water. You want to end up with a thick but pourable consistency, similar to honey. Stop adding the water when you reach the desired consistency. 

3. Serve, topped with smoked paprika.

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes for all three spreads.

Makes a lot of each, enjoy the leftovers!

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