In life, as we all know, people will influence you and your choices; enter on stage my dear friend, sister, and partner in quacking, Soty. Soty is an amazing woman from an amazing family and as a consequence she’s also filled with amazing ideas.
One of such ideas was to start a virtual women’s group dedicated to studying the book of Ruth. Now we have a wonderful group we fondly refer to as The Ruthies. The Ruthies are real, we’re honest and we’re committed to following God’s given purpose for all aspect of our lives. The name ‘Ruth” derives from a Hebrew word meaning “friendship” and it is just so apt because we have formed strong friendship bonds in our little Ruthie community.
As if her first idea wasn’t good enough, Soty just had to make it even better by assigning each Ruthie a practical task all geared at:

A. Bringing to life some of the culture and experiences that the biblical Ruth must have experienced, and

B. Taking each Ruthie outside of our comfort zone so much so that she begins to question her sanity (I might exaggerate a tinsy weensy bit but I am in thespian mode right now); basically she wanted us to dig deep and find an unusual expression of something innate in each of us. And this is how I got assigned the interesting task of recreating a Moabite Mezze.

  

 The first time she suggested it I was hopping around in excitement like a goat high on hemp leaves. I mentioned rather hastily how I happened to have some of the key ingredients in my pantry and how it would be an easy breezy exercise.

Well, after the hemp wore off and reality was in acute focus, I stopped hopping and started shaking in trepidation. What on earth was Shrak? Tabbouleh? Thank God at least I knew what hummus and falafels were; this is not to say I had ever considered making the latter from scratch.

Ever the helpful ducky she deluged my inbox which links to various Middle Eastern Mezze meals/recipes whereupon I feigned dyslexia. Yep! If I can’t read it, I certainly won’t be able to follow the recipes, right? The ploy didn’t last long and I had to get down to business.
I knew immediately that I wasn’t making Shrak; a flat bread, from scratch. Hadn’t I spied all manners of flat breads in the shops? One of those would have to do thank you very much! I also knew I wasn’t going to soak fava beans and chick peas over night in order to make falafels; with two toddlers, a company and home to run, school runs, Lagos traffic and everything in between, I wasn’t about to attempt culinary suicide.

Was the biblical Ruth suicidal? NO!! So why should a Ruthie of 2015 be? Anyway so this is how the idea of a modern Mezze took form. It may seem sacrilegious to the good people whose diet I was inspired by but I didn’t skimp on flavour and wholesomeness which MUST count for something, right?😀

Here’s how I navigated my way through my mezze.

I invited two unsuspecting friends and cute little angel over to mine and laid the spread before them. It was well received given the fact that they had never ventured near such food before; they preferred some of my offerings over others which I thought was very fair.

  

So on the menu we had; Falafels, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, “shrak” hummus and loads of freshly sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots and plum tomatoes. For dessert we had a nice classic white cake which had absolutely nothing to do with a traditional mezze but seemed like a nice way to cap off the whole affair.

Falafels

Ingredients

200 g Fava beans rinsed and drained
200 g Chickpeas rinsed and drained

3 Chopped shallots/spring onions

2 tbs Chopped basil

2 tbs chopped parsley

2 tsp Chilli (you can add more or less but I wanted mine to have a bit of a kick)

1 tsp Salt

1 egg beaten

3 tbs vegetable oil

As I researched the recipe, I realised that it was really a vegetarian version of a meatball! Both in preparation and sort of final outcome. You could flatten it to a patty or leave it as little orbs; I preferred the latter.

The “How To”

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan and sautée the onion and garlic over a low heat for 5 mins until translucent and softened.

Add the sautéed vegetable and all other ingredients into a food processor until you have homogenous mixture. Take out the blade and carefully form the mixture it balls. I would suggest balls about the size of golf balls. I let mine rest in the fridge overnight before prepping them for my guests when they arrived but you could leave them for half an her and them fry.
You might be tempted to fry them in more oil but please don’t! I attempted it and I watched in complete horror as my felafel disintegrated. Shallow frying is the only way!
Add the remaining oil to the pan, then fry the falafels on a medium heat for 3 mins on each side, until golden brown and firm. Place on paper towels to drain and serve.


Shrak

I was in complete cheat mode for this. I simply went to my neighborhood store and bought some flat bread! Easy peasy lemon squeezy! It acted as a great vehicle for all the yumminess spread out on the table.


If you want a great recipe for making shrak from scratch then check here. Good luck! 😄

Babaganoush

Ingredients

1 medium sized eggplant

1 lemon (juice)

3 cloves garlic minced

2 tbs tahini (paste made from sesame seeds)

1 tsp salt

Fresh parsley (2 tbs chopped)

Fresh basil (1 tbs chopped)

Olive oil for roasting

The “How To” 

Turn on the broiler of your oven and position a rack at the top of the oven. Then slice your eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds, sprinkle with salt and place in a colander in the sink to drain any excess liquid. After 10 – 15 minutes, rinse slightly and then pat dry between two towels.

Arrange them on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt. Roast for 5-10 minutes, turning once or twice, until the eggplant is softened and golden brown. Remove from pan, stack the slices and wrap the rounds in foil to lock in moisture for 5 minutes.

Now peel away the skin of the eggplant and add flesh to a food processor.

Also add half the lemon juice, garlic, tahini, a pinch of salt and mix until creamy. Taste the resulting paste and adjust with more lemon juice or salt if necessary. Finally add in the herbs and pulse to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I added a bit of cayenne but this is purely optional.

Could this have been any easier? And it’s a great make ahead dish too!!!



Hummus

Ingredients
425 g chickpeas rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlice minced

2 tbs olive oil

4 tbs fresh lemon juice

3 tbs tahini

2 tbs water

1 tsp paprika

The “How To” 

Hummus is another simple dip akin to babaganoush; although there are flavour and textural differences, they both share the same yum factor.
Add the tahini and lemon juice to a food processor and whiz it around for a minute. Stop the machine, scrape down the sides and who it for an extra half minute. Now add the olive oil, salt and garlic and give it another go for a minute; again scrape down the sides and give it a 30 second burst. Now add half the chickpeas a d mix it for a minute. Scrape down sides, add the remaining and mix for a further two minutes. Add the water last and mix again and there!!!

When serving you can top with olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika. This dip could also be made ahead and stored  refrigerated in an airtight bowl.

At this point, I think it is only proper to whisper a quick prayer for the person who invented the fridge!!!

For the next dish, I had good fun making it. I threw out all recipe books and just basically recreated my own. Why, you ask? Well, I could not find the main ingredient (bulgur wheat) and I was determined to make this dish. And remember, that Ruth would not go into a tail spin over bulgur😀,  so here goes.

Tabbouleh

Ingredients

Fresh, soft flat-leaf parsley (a good fistful – chopped)

mint leaves (chopped; about 2 tbs)

2 limes (juiced) (you could use lemons but I didn’t have lemons)

2 cups couscous

8 cherry tomatoes; halved

4 spring onions, finely chopped

salt and pepper

1 tsp chilli powder

olive oil

Boiling water or hot vegetable or chicken stock

The “How To”

Pour boiling water or stock over the couscous, enough to cover it and let it sit for a few minutes until liquid is fully absorbed. Once absorbed fluff with a fork and pour lime juice over it.

Combine the parsley and mint, couscous, tomato and spring onion in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add a drizzle of olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon. And we’re done!!


Slice up a variety of your favourite vegetables to dip into the hummus and baba ganoush and your mezze is ready!

For the unorthodox mezze dessert a.k.a. the white c. Here’s the recipe:


Ingredients

1/2 cup milk (room temperature)

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

3 egg whites (room temperature)
The “How To”

Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease 1 (10 inch) round cake pan and the line bottom with parchment paper, and grease and flour paper.

Combine the milk and extracts and set aside. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy then gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.
Sift together flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.
Beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form and gently fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes the remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack;

To prepare the frosting simply whip one cup of chilled whipping cream adding 1/2 cup of icing sugar and vanilla halfway through whipping. Ensure that you don’t over whip, once the cream starts to thicken STOP!! It helps to whip in bursts of about 20 – 30 seconds checking the consistency as you progress. Over whipping in this case would yield butter…..which is not such a bad thing if you were after making butter…….😀


Links to recipes that inspired the mezze
Tabbouleh

White cake

Falafels

Baba ganoush

Hummus
FFF Tip of the Day

When whipping egg whites, be sure that the beaters of the electric mixer is devoid from ANY batter/impurities and is clean and dry. The eggs should also be free of ANY impurities or yolk. Failing this the eggs will not whip to stiff peaks and you will be left with a runny mess.

Update – December 3, 2017

If you simply don’t have the desire to make your hummus from scratch or you’re concerned about your sugar intake, check out Positive Heath Wellness. They have amazing recommendations of healthy shop bought, low sugar hummus brands that you just have to see! You can still eat your hummus and have it!!

It was exciting to embark on trip to New York sans lil’uns in tow. The prospects were endless, first of all I didn’t have to worry about inconvenient, unexpected bathroom breaks, nor did I have to schedule my activities around nap times, melt downs and everything else in between. More importantly my meal selections will be devoid of worries about allergies; real & perceived and disdain for anything green.

Summer was in full swing, my brother was graduating from university, everyone was happy; it was the perfect time to eat and be merry! And we did just that!

   

      

Rochester is not a bustling city but I felt that it would yield surprising delights. Our first meal there was not memorable at all. We went to a steak house called “Sticky Lips”…..I imagined that It would be like those hidden diners that Guy Fieri uncovers on his show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. I even imagined that we might meet his crew there filming or something. Well no such luck. No crew and no Guy Fieri. But I still had hopes for the food. I mean the place was ok. It ticked all the right boxes for quaint furnishing, classic American bar type set up etc., but the food fell flat. I am sorry, everything on my plate felt dry and under seasoned……..not unlike cardboard……..from my previous post, by now you know how I feel about such meals……

   
 I felt a bit anxious and hoped that there would be some redemption for this city and boy was there ever!

So after the grad ceremony in the morning, the girls (Aile, Osi, Uzzie) and I decided to hangout and have a good “natter”. Our hangout of choice was Carrabas. An awesome little Italian restaurant and grill. I had the Mahi Wulfe which was beyond delicious. The fish was cooked to perfection, the basil lemon butter was sublime and the artichoke hearts and seared tomatoes were to die! I was replete and very happy! Things were really beginning to look up!
  

There was deliciousness all around, the steak, the focaccia, the pizza, the soup, everything was lovely and we all enjoyed our choices.

   
         

Stuffed, pleased and expectant, I returned to my hotel to prepare for the dinner my dad was hosting in honor of my fresh faced, bright eyed, bushy tailed, brand new graduate brother (Lawrence if you read this, you know I love you 😀).

Dressed, and a few selfies after, I was ready to meet my dinner and fellow diners of course 😄. 

  

Dinner was grand; I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was laughter, there were tears as moving speeches were rendered by family and friends. The food lived up to its billing. We had diner at Black and Blue Steak and Crab. This restaurant had just the right ambience, it is modern and urban chic but not in an OTT way. And the food? So fresh and so delicious! 

 

  

The waiting staff were courteous and attentive so I was never tempted even for a moment to rotten fish slap any of them. Having said that, I would have been hard pressed to find rotten fish in that location….

For starters, I had the crab cake. Let me tell you, the avocado lime aioli made this dish! The touch of watercress just added the right amount of freshness and pepperiness without overwhelming the crab.

  
For my main course, I had a beautifully cooked ahi tuna. It was light, fresh and filling all at once. I didn’t want the meal, to end……but you know what they say about every good thing…….
  
We all had very good meals. Everything was beautifully presented and there was not a complaint around the table.

   
         

I assure you that I left in a state of food coma. Complete stupor! But I have NO regrets! None!

After the excitement of all the activities, we decided that Rochester had yielded all it had to offer us and so we packed up and embarked on a road trip to NYC! I was humming with excitement! Although after 6.5 hours I wasn’t  feeling much like humming. We did have one pit stop to be fair…which gave ample opportunities for more selfies 😀 And to fill up on the road trip food of choice – junk food.

   

  
 Refilled and refreshed, we entered New York City (NYC) just before sunset. It was quite beautiful to observe the city bathed in golden glow with Crimson and amber streaks in the sky.

My hotel was right on Times Square; The Westin. You know what that means right? 😀 Let’s just say we trawled the length and breath of the vicinity as much as our tired legs would allow us.

   

   

The absolute highlight of the evening was our shameless stint at Juniour’s. Please, if you love decadent desserts, more specifically cheesecakes, then you absolutely must go to a Juniour’s. I will let the pictures do the talking. 

   
   

  

  

  

  

  I justified my slice of cheesecake by telling myself that I would walk it off…..yeah right! 😂 I fell into bed at 1 am feeling extremely happy and mischievous. I just broke all my mealtime rules and I didn’t care! Liberating!

In the morning, I had breakfast with my dad at the Gourmet New York Marketplace. It’s a tiny little deli, buzzing with activity and filled all sorts of wholesome yummies. I settled fora a chicken Swiss cheese wrap, with a yoghurt and granola parfait (Topped with fresh fruit) and pepper mint tea. 

  
I couldn’t down it all at once. So I saved half the wrap and munched on it later in my room, between, you guessed it! Taking more selfies! 😀

   
   

That was my last meal in NYC as I was scheduled to fly out a few hours after; of course not before a quick traispe around. From the garment district to 48th street (and beyond if I remember correctly). 

I enjoyed drinking in the sites and sounds of the city.  I hasten to add that I could have done without the assault to my olfactory lobes but I guess you can’t have it all.

   
    And then it was all over, I packed up, said my farewells, got in a cab, took my last selfie and prepared for the long journey back home to my hubby and munchkins. But the best part of it all, was that I left feeling like I got a good taste of New York especially since I spent only 72 hours there.