Mezze party platter

Put this tasty Middle Eastern platter together in minutesHaving people over for drinks doesn’t have to be an onerous project. Serving Middle Eastern appetizers called Mezze can be an easy and delicious solution for last-minute entertaining. Many of the tasty ingredients can be kept in your pantry or freezer for spontaneous, stress-free entertaining. You can buy stuffed grape leaves, bright pink pickled turnips (they are delicious), olives, and even canned hummus and baba ghanousch at many good groceries or a Middle Eastern market. You can keep mini pita in your freezer to add to the plate. I added feta cheese, but no one would miss it if you didn’t.

I recommend draining the oil from the grape leaves and then covering them with a bit of fresh lemon. Fresh lemon perks up many canned or pre-made things from the shops and makes them “your own”. Remember darlings, so few people entertain any more, so making an effort these days is always appreciated. Get some wine, beer and bar basics. Don’t forget lots of cocktail napkins. Get good ones, they are everywhere these days. Coloured cocktail picks or fancy bamboo picks are good too, if you aren’t using forks. And if you don’t have a good ice bucket, get one – and plenty of ice. Handsome buckets in aluminum cost a song at a big box store or online. And you’ll want some non-alcoholic mixers too! Have fun – it’s a party! And don’t forget some snazzy music on your iPod or CD player. Keep it soft and sexy!
I like to make my own hummus. It takes only minutes and tastes fresh. It is easy with cans of organic chick peas kept in the pantry. Most people love it.
In a food processor or blender, add:
1 or 2 crushed cloves of garlic
1 can of can of rinsed organic chick peas
Juice of two lemons
½ cup sesame oil
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp chicken stock, preferably organic. Add it slowly to thin the hummus to your taste. It lightens it and does not add calories.
1 tsp salt – or to taste
½ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional)
Blend until smooth
Taste and correct seasoning
Decorate the top of the hummus with a little paprika or some olives.

Baba Ghanoush – Easy Middle Eastern Eggplant Dip

Baba Ghanoush is a snap to make I adore mezze or Middle Eastern appetizers. I delight in the bright flavours full of lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs. If you live in most big cities you can usually pick up the makings of a mezze platter at a Middle Eastern deli or café easily and economically. You serve a whole platter full of Middle Eastern food, even if the meal to follow is French, Italian, or anything but Asian. It is especially good with barbecue.
Sometimes in the summer, if I know there are no really big eaters at my table, I serve lots of mezze and dessert. Everyone is happy!
When there is time I like to make some my own dishes fresh. There are many quick and easy recipes in our archives for dishes like humus.
This is a delicious recipe for Baba Ghanoush, a spicy, smoky eggplant dip. It uses long thin oriental eggplants, which cook quickly. I also use sesame oil — not Tahini or sesame paste; I find the texture lighter and nicer. I always have sesame oil in the house, as do many people. Tahini goes rancid quickly, even in the refrigerator. So if you do not eat it regularly, it is wasteful and pricey.
I like to use cayenne sesame oil, but you can use any good flavorful sesame oil and add cayenne to taste or not. I like a kick, so I add it.
5 oriental eggplants
Sesame oil, with or without cayenne
2 lemons
Good olive oil
Parsley/fresh herbs – garnish
Black olives — garnish
The skin will turn brownRoast your eggplants on a rack 20 minutes or until soft at 350F/180C. The skin will turn brown.
Roll in foil or place in a paper bag for 10-12 minutes
Slice down middle – watch out for the steam
Scoop flesh into a processor or a bowl, if you’re using a stick blender
Puree the flesh
Add 2-3 tbsp sesame oil (1 tbsp. with cayenne if you like things spicy)
Start to add lemon one lemon at time and taste – the amount of juice you will get from lemons varies widely. I like things very lemony and always use two lemons. You may want less, so taste as you go. You Slit open with a knife --watch out for the steammay also adjust the amount of sesame oil to make the paste creamier or less creamy – as all eggplants are different. It will be a small adjustment.
Add salt to taste.
Place your Baba Ghanoush in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish. I like to add herbs and olives. I serve this with toasted mini-pitas or toasted breads. I have even used Indian Nan.
Have a snazzy cocktail party for $30
Baba GhanoushPlanning a cocktail parry for 10 can be snap on a budget. A bottle of good vodka can cost as little as $12 to 14 and make several pitchers of Lemon Drop cocktails. Two dozen deviled eggs, humus, and baba ghanoush, served with olives and mini-pitas are a snappy buffet of after-work noshes. Do not forget lots of ice. This will give you a chic and fabulous $30 cocktail party for 10 with just an hour’s work the night before.
Older, more-established hostesses may want to get a bit more splooshy and add a few more items to the bar or table. But if you are in your 20s or even early 30s, you can be the hostess with the mostest with this simple but chic menu.