Lately my news feed has been flooded with cheese boards and antipasto platters! There seems to be a memo that I had somehow missed saying that Sept was the month for cheese boards!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love cheese boards and antipasto platters, there is so much room for creativity in terms of color combinations, flavors, and presentation and I am all for anything that allows creativity to run wild. Added to that, cheese platters and antipasto platters allow you to enjoy a little bit of everything without going overboard! A win win situation in my book.
So in the spirit of joining the fun, I thought it would be a good idea to share my tips and ideas on how to prepare the perfect Middle Eastern antipasto platter but before I do, I think I need to explain the last word in my post’s title: “Mezze”
In the middle east, breakfast and dinner (remember,Lunch is the main meal here) are usually served in a style called mezze which means a selection of small dishes that are meant for sharing.The word mezze actually comes from the Turkish meze “taste, flavour, snack, relish”, borrowed from Persian مزه (mazze “taste, snack” < mazīdan “to taste”)
Bruschetta “pronounced bru’sketta” is a wonderful antipasto (starter dish) from Italy. Grilled bread is rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil and topped with a variety of toppings that range from humble to luxurious: tomatoes, herbs, cheeses, flaked meat, marinated vegetables, it is really up to your taste and imagination. The only rule is, use something fresh, in season and have fun!
Since I often write about Arabic and middle eastern recipes and try to explain the link between the name and the actual recipe, I have developed the habit of looking up word roots! The noun bruschetta comes from the Roman dialect verb bruscare, meaning ‘to roast over coals’. It is believed that the dish probably originated in ancient Rome, when olive growers bringing their olives to the local olive press would toast slices of bread to sample their fresh-pressed oil.
The most popular form of bruschetta uses a topping of tomatoes, basil and occasionally mozzarella cheese and though this is a heavenly combination, in my book the ultimate tomato-herb combo is tomato, mint and a touch of lemon juice.
As a kid this was THE salad on my mum’s Ramadan table. Fresh juicy tomatoes, loads of fresh fragrant mint, lemon juice, a dash of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. It does not get any simpler than that but try scooping some with a piece of warm pita bread ,the flavors are mind blowing.