How To Build A Mezze Platter For The Totally, Completely Indecisive

There's an amazing Arab gourmet shop a few blocks away from me in Cobble Hill called Sahadi's. They're almost like the Zabar's of the Northeastern BoCoCa region of Brooklyn Heights-on-Downtown (to be specific). I was there a few days ago to pick up some staples — stuffed grape leaves, fresh hummus, maybe a jar of those crazy little Israeli pickles or some velvety dried apricots — and realized the perfect lunch was staring me right in the face: all of it, a mezze platter.

The mezze platter is an absolute must as far as appetizers at a Middle Eastern restaurant go. You'll get a little taste of what's to come, or get in a serving of veggies before a massive hunk of lamb takes over the whole table.

But for lunch, it's the perfect spread. Not too heavy or too light, frequently vegetarian for those of you observing a certain "good behavior" day of the week, full of varied, bright flavors and often packing something you've never tried before. Here are a few items you will find:

  • Tabouli — salad of crushed bulgur wheat, parsley, chopped tomato and cucumber, lemon juice and za'atar, an amazing herbal-citrusy Middle Eastern spice blend with sesame seeds.

  • Baba ghanoush — a dip or spread made from mashed roasted eggplant, sesame paste and garlic.

  • Kibbe — a football-shaped fried ground lamb patty. Also occasionally served raw, and for great reason.

  • Hummus — a smooth blend of chickpeas, sesame paste and...wait you know what hummus is. Here's how to make it.

  • Stuffed grape leavesbrined vine leaves rolled around rice seasoned with lemon, mint and sometimes ground meat, and cooked with plenty of olive oil.

  • Olives and/or tapenade

  • Feta or goat cheese

  • Brined roasted peppers — self-explanatory, make them yourself.

  • Tzatzikia dip made with Greek yogurt, crushed garlic and chopped cucumber, sometimes spiked with fresh dill.
  • More of a visual learner? We've got a stunner of an illustration for that.

    More Middle Eastern food for lunch on Food Republic: