A Lebanese Meze Feast
Meze are the traditional small plates served at the beginning of every proper Lebanese meal. When done right, meze are a feast for the eyes and the appetite. For many, it’s the best part of the meal, which based on Chef Ghassan Farra’s modern take on meze, is no surprise.
Wash escarole thoroughly then blanch in boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain well, squeeze out extra liquid and coarsely chop.In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat andsauté the chopped onion and garlic slices until golden. Add the escarole and fresh coriander and sauté for 10 additional minutes. Let cool then refrigerate until ready to serve. Separately, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and brownthe onion slices. Remove chilled escarole and top with onion slices.
Strain the chickpeas reserving the liquid. Place chickpeas and garlic in a food processor and blend to a fine paste. If needed, add some of reserved liquid to thin the mixture. Add the tahina, olive oil and lemon juice and blend further. Season with a touch of cinnamon and salt. Separately, brown the minced lamb in a touch of oil until slightly crispy. Top the hummus with the lamb and drizzle with olive oil. Finish by garnishing with toasted pine nuts.
Cover the eggplant with foil and place in pre-heated, 350° oven. Roast for one hour, or until soft. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. While warm, remove skin and mash with a fork, mixing well. In a separate bowl, crush the garlic cloves and mix with parsley, olive oil and 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Add to eggplant mixture and blend thoroughly. Separately, place the saffron in the hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and add to the yogurt with remaining lemon juice. Drizzle over the eggplant mixture before serving and garnish with pomegranate seeds.
To make the stuffing, mix the spring onion, tomatoes, mint, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and rice together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. On a clean surface, place the vine leaf flat and add 1 tsp. of stuffing to the center of the leaf. Fold the edges over like a spring roll and roll tight. Repeat process until stuffing is used. If vine leaves are too large, cut in half. Save any liquid from stuffing. In a pot of simmering water, carefully place the stuffed grape leaves one at a time. Add the reserved juices from the stuffing and enough water to just cover the leaves. Place on medium heat and cook until the liquid is totally absorbed, about two hours. Cover with two ceramic plates, which will keep the vine leaves intact while cooking. Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate. Serve cold.
Place walnuts in food processor and crush. Add the breadcrumbs and ½ cup of iced water to make a paste. Set aside for 20 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix the chili paste, tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, orange blossom, olive oil and cumin. Add to the walnut paste and blend to form a soft mixture. Garnish with almond slices and serve cold. All Recipes are courtesy of Ghassan Farra, Owner of Gustronomy. Ghassan will be joining us again in November as we galavante to Dubai.