Food You Can Eat – Meze

Cool food for hot days

Stuffed Grape leaves, felafel and hummus

Like tapas, meze is an assortment of dishes you put out for company. It is also a great summer meal for when it is too hot to cook. For company this is a good time to break out the fancy dishes you keep buying at flea markets and thrift shops. For one or two people, I go the composed salad route. Line a nice dish with lettuce leaves and arrange your meze, drizzle with tahini sauce or lemon and oil. I like toasted sesame oil.

We will build the meal around tabbouleh and hummus. Add some olives, crackers, pita or bread, sliced radishes and cucumbers, steamed green beans, stuffed grape leaves, felafel etc. Marinated mushrooms or artichoke hearts would be really good. Meat eaters might want to add keftedes, greek meatballs flavored with mint, sliced sausage, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, cooked chicken, etc.

We’re going to make tabbouleh and hummus from scratch. Store bought is fine but that is not how I roll.

For about 2 cups of finished salad use:

½ cup Bulgur wheat
1 cup boiling water
½ bunch flat leaf parsley
1 scallion
½ lemon, juiced
salt to taste
allspice to taste
1 tomato
drizzle olive oil
black pepper to taste

In a small saucepan bring the water to a boil, add the bulgur, stir, cover and set aside off the heat. Let stand until water is absorbed. Drain bulgur if necessary. De-stem and chop the parsley. Thinly slice the scallion. Chop the tomato. I have substituted a tablespoon of jarred chopped tomato successfully in this recipe. Add all ingredients to the bulgur, add seasonings to taste and refrigerate. You may be tempted to use a food processor to chop the parsley, tomato and scallion. Don’t. The salad will be too wet. You can make this salad with any grain, leftover cooked rice, couscous etc. I like to make this in small quantities, best eaten fresh, or the next day.


1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked for 8 hours or overnight or all day while you are working
1-2 Tablespoons Tahini
1 large Garlic clove
Juice of 1 lemon plus lemon to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
½ teaspoon cumin plus more to taste

Drain chickpeas and place in a saucepan with water to cover, water level should be an inch above the beans. Cook until soft, about 45 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Toast the unpeeled garlic clove in a comal until soft, this is the best excuse to buy a comal if you don’t have a comal and believe me, you have to have a comal. Dump the chickpeas, tahini, peeled toasted garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender, blend until smooth, adding reserved cooking liquid to desired thickness. Transfer to a bowl add salt and cumin. Taste. Depending on personal preference add more lemon or salt or cumin or tahini. Chill. My friend who makes this for a living sprinkles cayenne pepper on top. She also uses canned chickpeas and raw garlic. I love her anyway. When serving it’s nice to make a little well and float some olive oil with sesame, or pumpkin or sunflower, seeds sprinkled on top or a spoonful of crushed chili peppers in oil. Makes a couple of cups? I forgot to measure but it freezes very well.

Stuffed Grape Leaves*

Harvest your leaves in early to mid-June. Growing up everyone had a grape vine, having one is my way of being connected to my grandparents. Wild grape vines from the side of the road will also work. The leaves should be fairly large and unblemished. Wash and stack in a bowl, pour boiling water over them, let them sit for a few seconds and drain, fill the bowl with cold water and let them swim while you prepare the filling. If you bought leaves, tst tsk, unroll them carefully in a colander and run water over them for several minutes to wash off the brine. You can harvest and freeze leaves, roll them into little bundles, blanch, cool, shake off as much water as you can and pack into freezer bags.

Prepare the filling:
2 cups cooked rice
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
¼ cup sunflower seeds, pepitas or pine nuts, roughly chopped
¼ cup good raisins, roughly chopped
dried herbs, mint is traditional, herbes de provence is my favorite
salt pepper
2 Tablespoons tomato, could be fresh, could be sauce, could be ketchup, ketchup is actually a good choice because it has that sweet spicy flavor profile you want

Saute onion, celery and carrot in a bit of olive oil. Add sauteed vegetables and all other ingredients to rice. Taste, the filling should be pleasantly sweet, spicy and not too dry. Add a tiny bit of water if necessary. Adjust spices if necessary. To roll, place a leaf, shiny side down, with the stem end toward you. Snip off the stem, place a heaping tablespoon of filing in the center of the leaf slightly above the stem edge. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll from the bottom away from you. Place the rolls in a steamer basket lined with a few grape leaves, arranging the filled rolls in layers. Steam about 15-20 minutes until heated through. Makes about 20. Serve hot, lukewarm or cold, with lemon or tahini sauce.

*To make these with meat is a huge production and makes an enormous quantity. If you must, buy them from a deli.



    • I do the same.  One thing about Tahini around here is if you buy it in the Asian section of our grocery store it is about $3 a jar less than in the other section (when I can find it).  

      • I am a delicate flower and do not like a) the texture of canned beans and b) lugging cans home from the store!
        I think the asian sesame paste is toasted? So slightly different, I have bought that in the past as well.

  1. Based on how hellishly hot it is, this is the perfect setup.
    This is about the one of the few ways this (sort of ) carnivore can eat vege and not whine as I enjoy all of this.

  2. I like to nibble so this is my kind of meal. I have to confess I’ve never made my own hummus. And I’ve only eaten grape leaves that have a lemony rice in them. But when/if the heat wave breaks I’m up for trying these recipes. 

  3. I actually just made up a jar of tzatziki and stuck it in the fridge to mellow out for tomorrow! I grated half a seedless cucumber and 2 big cloves of garlic into about a cup and a half of plain Greek yogurt, added a dash of garlic salt and a spoonful of lemon juice, then put the lid on and shook it like mad. I love tzatziki. I have gyro meat in the freezer, and pitas, so I will probably do that for dinner in a day or 2. 
    Dinner last night was that feta and tomato pasta I was talking about previously… it’s literally just a block of feta, a couple dozen cherry tomatoes, enough olive oil to coat everything so it doesn’t stick, and some Greek seasoning blend and garlic salt over the top. Put everything into an ovenproof dish, cover, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes all burst and the cheese starts to look melty. Then I took the cover off and popped it under the broiler for a few minutes. Then you just stir it all up, toss it with some pasta (and cut up or shredded chicken, if you like) and there’s dinner. It’s one of the easiest dinners I’ve made in a long time and everyone loved it.

    • @HoneySmacks Interestingly enough, I have never had tzatziki or a gyro in my life. For the tzatziki I imagine it depends on what part of greece you are from. I remember having a convo with my boss who said he loved greek food and then named a bunch of dishes I had never heard of before.

      • @sedevilc I grew up in the Chicago area, so my version of Greek food is definitely a little different from actual food in Greece! I worked in a diner and dated the Greek guy who owned it for a couple of years, and he had never had a gyro, either. He introduced me to actual Greek food… gigantes plakis (giant beans in tomato sauce), boureki, spanikopita, and tiropitas, among other delicious things, but I just never could do dolmas. Something about the leaf just puts me off.

        • I’m the same way about grape leaves, though it’s been quite a while since I had them, so I’d try again sometime. Always loved spanikopita though. In Massachusetts we have tons of Greek pizza shops (my Greek friends have been somewhat baffled by this as pizza isn’t really a thing there), and some have spanikopita and baklava. 

          • @BigDamnHeros mmm… how could I have forgotten baklava?? I’ve always wanted to try making it, but I’ve never gotten around to it. I like to bake, but pastry is generally more fussy than I like dealing with. 
            I just made a “Greek taco” which was a grilled pita topped with crumbled feta, chopped tomatoes, and that tzatziki I made yesterday. The tzatziki is FIERCE. I think I might need to add some more yogurt, tone down that garlic a bit. No vampires here, let me tell you!

          • Wrapping the filling in cabbage leaves is an option or even lettuce leaves, all you need to cook is the rice! Aside from avgolemono sauce, spanikopita and baklava are two things I never want to eat again. It’s so funny, it’s like that ‘no vodka’ stage I went through after getting sick on screwdrivers in high school.

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