I’m typing this as I’m sitting at a coffee shop in Palm Springs. Yes, I have a problem not being able to relax, so of course I submitted a proposal to FoodBuzz to participate on their May 24×24, which just so happened to be the same weekend we’d be out of town on a mini vacay with our friends (Fouad, Alleya and their 1 yr old daughter). Because why relax on vacation when you can make an entire feast, in a kitchen you’re unfamiliar with? I mean that just screams, GENIUS! And by genius, I mean, completely out-of-your-mind.

But, I submitted my proposal, and low and behold, it was accepted. So, I was off to plan my Lebanese Mezze. Oh yes, why of course I also chose a cuisine I’d never prepared before. Again, GEEEEEEENIUS!

I feel like I should probably explain what inspired me to choose a Lebanese Mezze for my Foodbuzz 24×24. Doing something like an ‘Ice Cream Social’ or a ‘Peanut Butter Potluck’ would probably seem like more my speed… but SURPRISE, I actually totally love Lebanese food!  See, we’ve been friends with Fouad and Alleya (who are Lebanese) for over 10 years I’ve slowly learned a thing or two about Lebanese cuisine during this time. Mainly I’ve learned that I just love it. And I want you to love it, because it is GOOOOOOOD!!!!

Fouad and Aleya are totally passionate about food! Hello! My kinda people right here.  So inevitably just about all of our conversations turn to food… Whether we talk about the latest restaurants we went to, the newest recipes we’ve tried, or future meals we want to make, we just ALWAYS talk about food! Most recently we’ve been talking a lot about Lebanese food because Fouad is DYING to make a full on Lebanese meal for us.  Um, ok, you don’t have to twist my arm!  All this talk about Lebanese food inspired me to want to make a semi-legit Lebanese meal, FOR THEM! I thought it would be fun if they taught me about some of their traditions and I’ll be the one to actually MAKE the food.  So this meal is my take (hence the semi-legit part) on a Lebanese Mezze.  Which may have you asking what a mezze actually is-GREAT QUESTION (I had the same one in fact!),

It’s basically a variety of small dishes spread out on a table, placed before the guests creating a rainbow of colors, flavors, textures and aromas, all at one time.  It’s like serving food Tapas style, or a bunch of small appetizers you sorta of nibble on as you mingle and chat.  There can be upwards of 30 different types of dishes, both hot and cold, all served at one mezze.  It’s quite elaborate, but yet simple at the same time.  The dishes are often served in a lower rimmed bowl so it is easier to get your hands in and out without crowding other people trying to access the food. Also, flat bread is a staple to every Lebanese meal and can be used to replace the usage of the fork (heck ya, who needs utensils anyway!).  A huge variety of simple and delicious food all in 1 meal, where forks are optional… people…do you SEE why I love Lebanese food?!?!

 Since were on vacation, I didn’t really want to make 30 different items.  Look, it’s vacation, I don’t want to spend my time in the kitchen when I could be laying out by the pool.  But we did try and come up with a table full of different foods… Some we made, some we bought, and all were enjoyed!

Because I’m a bit off-my-rocker, of course I made almost everything from scratch, except the breads and meatballs, those I bought. And that was only because Jon had to talk sense into me and remind me I’m on vacation and need to let some things go! He keeps me sane. I used a combination of my own recipes, some I found online, and some of Fouad’s. I credited which recipe I used next to the menu item. The menu went as follows:

Tabbouleh (Ina’s recipe, which is INCREDIBLE! Try it!)
Pita Bread/Pita Chips
Fattoush (Fouad’s recipe)
Wine braised meatballs and eggplant (recipe below)
Artichoke, roasted red pepper and feta salad (recipe below)
Cauliflower, dried apricots, honey sesame almonds, variety of olives
Homemade Baklava (Started with How Sweet It Is recipe, and added my own ‘flair’)
Lebanese wine (I found itnat our local liquor store (High Times), it’s like a booze warehouse)

We dished the food.

Then we ate.

Of course my plate has a heaping amount of fattoush, which is a delicious Lebanese salad.

One of our favorite dishes was the Tabbouleh. Ina’s recipe uses tons of fresh herbs, and it is seriously amazing!!!!! It’s A MUST HAVE if you’re going to prepare a Mezze.

As we ate, Fouad told me the proper pronunciation of all the dishes. No matter how slowly he sounded them out, I can not say Tabbouleh and I say Fattoush with a drunk Italian accent (whatever that sounds like). After the meal was all said and done and the little girls were in bed, we sat back, poured some more wine and debriefed on the meal.  My friends declared me officially Lebanese.  Which is a huge compliment seeing as how I have never prepared an entire Lebanese meal, let alone served it to cetifiable Lebanese people.

Alrighty… Now onto some of the recipes I sorta made up as I went along…

Let’s start with the meatballs!

I wanted to make kafta, which is essentially ground beef with some herbs and spices mixed and shaped into long meatballs wrapped around a skewer, then grilled. But I got lazy (AKA, Jon reminded me I was on vacation). I decided I’d just buy some frozen meatballs, brown the outside, then braise them in the Lebanese wine I found. They actually turned out SUPER delicious and I will be making them again! I don’t really have a recipe for them, since I just sorta threw them together, but the ingredients and process look something like this:

Frozen mini meatballs (thawed)
Red wine, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Brown the meatballs in a large sauté pan . As they’re browning, in another large sauté pan, sauté the garlic ina little olive oil. After about 1 minute, add wine to the pan, turn the heat to medium, and reduce the wine. Stir occasionally. Use about 1 bottle of wine per 2 lb bag of meatballs (80 mini meatballs). Once the sauce has become a bit thicker, add the browned meatballs, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss in the pan to coat all of the meatballs. Allow them to cook another few minutes, until the meat has absorbed all the sauce. Then plate and serve. I served them with sliced of sautéed eggplant. If you like feta cheese, these would be delicious topped with a chunk or a sprinkling of feta also.

This Artichoke Salad is so easy, it’s embarrassing! But that’s what I love, it’s way easy and way delicious!
1 can atichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
1 roast red pepper, chopped
4 oz feta, cut into cubes

Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and serve. Simple as THAT!

We ended the meal with the most amazing Baklava. Ya, start drooling, it’s amazing!)

So now I’m going to enjoy the last couple days of our vacation… away from a coffee shop, off of the computer, OUT OF THE KITCHEN!