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Party Perfection: 9 Easy Mezze Dishes

Party Perfection: 9 Easy Mezze Dishes

You’ve sent the invitations. You’ve even cleaned your house. Now, what are you planning on feeding these people?

When it comes to party perfection, few styles fit the bill better than a spread of mezze. Mezze, by definition, suits a gathering — “a selection of plates to accompany alcoholic drinks.” Planning a party surrounded by beautiful Middle Eastern mezze doesn’t even have to be difficult, as you can make most of the elements in advance, leaving you to whoop it up with your suitably awed guests. In this series of videos, you will see just how easy it is to provide a spread of delicious dishes without breaking a sweat.

Your Mezze Party: The Essentials

Here are a few items to really ramp up the authenticity of your mezze spread:

  1. Plenty of pita bread. A big portion of a traditional mezze is dip-based, so having a big basket of pita bread cut into triangles can help to soak it up.
  2. Fresh cut veggies. Raw vegetables are a staple on the mezze table, and are used to scoop dips, or guests can just munch on them.
  3. Olives. Good quality olives are a must for a mezze. Look for several varieties, such as Kalamata, Castelvetrano, Manzanilla, and olives stuffed with garlic or or pimento. Serve mixed together or separately — just be sure to include a receptacle for the pits.
  4. Pickles. While making your own pickles is relatively easy, you’ll do just as well picking up a selection of pickles from your local Mediterranean or Middle Eastern grocery store. Look for bright pink, beet-dyed turnip pickles for a traditional table, as well as crunchy dill cucumbers. A variety of pickled vegetables can help round out your table, and is great for cocktail hour. See below for a quick recipe on how to make your own.

1. The Dips

Hummus

Sure, you could just go to the store and pick up a tub of hummus. But why? Making your own hummus is extremely easy and doesn’t even require a food processor (as demonstrated below). However, should you want a smoother hummus, a food processor is vital. Try flavoring your hummus with extra garlic, chopped cilantro, parsley, or even chilli pepper. Hummus is infinitely customizable.

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Feta & Red Pepper Dip

While feta cheese and red pepper in all their forms make frequent appearances on mezze tables, this dip brings them together in a symphony of yumminess. While you can roast your own red peppers for this particular dip, it’s just as easy to purchase a jar of pre-prepared red peppers from your grocery store.

Baba Ganoush

As legend has it, there once was an elderly, toothless father (the baba) whose daughter had to mash his food, as he wasn’t able to chew it. Step forward baba ganoush, a Middle Eastern favorite consisting of roasted and mashed eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, and lots of garlic. If you’re not willing to spring for a jar of tahini (sesame paste) for your bash, many swear by using peanut or almond butter instead — also a great hack for hummus.

2. The Nibbles

Falafel

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Falafel is to the Middle East as the hamburger is to America. Its popularity knows no bounds, and with its crispy shell and creamy interior, it’s easy to see why. While the idea of frying something might strike fear into the heart of a novice chef, falafel is a great way to get started down the path of all things fried and delicious.

Top tip: Canned chickpeas won’t work for this dish. You’ll need to soak some dried chickpeas overnight for the best results.

Pickled Turnips

No mezze table is complete without a plate of pickles. Having an array of pickles helps ramp up the appetites of your guests, and also goes great with cocktail hour. Try flanking your homemade pickles with a selection of brined goodies from your local Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocery store. The olive bar at some of the bigger supermarkets may also present some great additions.

Marinated Feta

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You’ve probably seen fancy marinated feta at specialty food stores and marvelled at both the flavor and the price. Making your own feta is simple, inexpensive, and doesn’t take a lot of time. Make this a few days ahead of your party and you’ll have an simple, yet elegant, plate to add to your parade of dishes.

3. The Salads

Tabouleh

As any smart host knows, anything you can make ahead will make your party better. After all, who wants to spend all night chained to the kitchen while your friends and loved ones whoop it up? Make-ahead salads like Tabouleh get better the longer they sit, so they’re easy to prepare the morning of (or even the night before) your party. Remember, the key to a great tabouleh is to have a greater ratio of herbs to bulgar.

Piyaz (White Bean Salad)

Another from the don’t-miss-your-own-party range of dishes, piyaz is a traditional Turkish dish that makes a regular appearance on mezze tables. This make-ahead dish also gets better with time, so aim to have this completed the night before and garnish at the last minute. Large beans work well here, so look for haricot, great Northern, or even Greek gigantes beans.

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Roasted Veggie Salad

If there’s ever a time to showcase vegetables, it’s on the mezze table. In a way, creating a mezze spread for your guests ensures that there’s something for everyone, from carnivores to vegetarians, and even those on pesky diets. This roasted vegetable salad makes use of what’s in season, and can easily be adjusted to use what is on sale in your locale. For a more Middle Eastern spin on this, omit the balsamic vinaigrette and instead toss veggies lightly in a mixture of olive oil, cumin, and za’atar (a traditional spice mixture of dried herbs and sesame seeds).

Rolling out a table full of mezze not only means you’ll delight your guests, but it also ensures your presence at the actual party. Use this list as a base and add additional dishes depending on what’s available, who’s coming, or how many people you need to feed. These little, flavor-packed dishes were made for parties and sharing!

Featured photo credit: Ewan Munro via flic.kr

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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