I am a a lover of mezze, which is defined as “a selection of small dishes served to accompany alcoholic drinks as a course or as appetizers before the main dish in Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Near East and the Balkans.” The word is from Turkish meze (“taste, flavor, snack, relish”) which itself is a loan word from Persian. The serving of mezze is characteristic of all the regions which formerly made up the Ottoman Empire, but in terms of function, mezze are not that different from Spanish tapas. Both make extensive use of New World foods like potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.
Of course, I opt for the vegetarian versions of these dishes, of which there are plenty to enjoy. Cleveland’s Anatolia Café serves a very beautiful platter of vegetarian mezze which includes rice-stuffed grape leaves seasoned with pine nuts currants, and mint; lebni (yogurt dip with walnuts, garlic and dill), tabouli (bulgar salad with parsley and scallions); eggplant in tomato and bell pepper sauce; pilaki (white beans in a spicy-hot tomato sauce); and babbaganoush (eggplant dip with garlic and tahini).
I have resolved to try making the pilaki at home, as well as a similar Greek dish: Giant Beans!
Enjoy with a Sauvignon Blanc!