There is a fine food tradition in Turkey, going back hundreds of years to the royal kitchens. Dinners with family and/or friends are special and it is considered very poor form for individual family members to fix themselves a meal separate from the rest of the family.
Mezes are perfect for social gatherings and are designed to promote talking. Mezes are small quantities of food served at the start of a meal. They are usually cold and the emphasis is on fresh, healthy ingredients. They are usually vegetarian.
It is normal to start a meal with a Turkish meze platter accompanied by copious amounts of bread. Mezes are therefore similar to Spanish tapas but tend to be cold rather than hot.
Whether eating in a restaurant or hosting a meal at home, most meals begin with mixed mezes. Most restaurants will supply 1 or 2 mezes free of charge but most Turkish people will want to supplement with additional plates.
Many restaurants don’t have menus so you will be invited by your waiter to go up to the kitchen and inspect the mezes. The waiter will explain each dish. Most restaurants have a selection of 20 or so, all made freshly on the day. For a table of 2, it is usual to have 3 or 4 mezes.
Turkey has a fine heritage and rich traditions around liquor. Turkish meze should be accompanied by wine or raki, an anise flavored liquor known as “lion’s milk”. It is usual to dilute raki by adding water to it, upon which it will turn cloudy. Most Turkish people select raki as their accompaniment rather than wine.
There are many types of mezes to choose from. Typically there will be vegetable-based dips, marinated vegetables, salads and breads. It is all very social with the plates being placed in the center for guests to help themselves.
It is typical for the mezes to be served over a long duration, often 2 hours before the main course is served. It is also typical to eat the mezes in a garden or balcony setting and then sit around and talk as the raki takes effect!
Normally a main course of grilled fish or grilled meat will follow the mezes.
Mezes are certainly a great way to start a meal and healthy to boot.
Today’s menu has 5 mezes to choose from. It is a lovely contrast of tastes and colors.
Please let us know what you think.
PS. This recipe is also on Gluten Free Fridays! If you are looking for other great Gluten Free Recipes have a look.
Turkish Meze Platter
A Turkish meze platter is sure to impress everyone. The freshness, color, taste and not to mention the health aspects will leave you wanting more. You can have, one, some or all of the dishes. It’s a great way to start off a dinner party.
In this set, you will experience different textures, colors and tastes. The earthiness of raw beets (beetroot) in a yogurt-based dip, kindly provided to us by a Fehtiye market vendor from whom we bought many of our vegetables over a period of months. An olive-based salad that might just have become our favorite salad ever (we thought that Asian-based salads held that title). The combination of the salty olives and the sweet molasses was a delight to savor. Roasted and then vinegar-marinated red bell peppers (capsicums) that are truly gourmet. Another yogurt-based dip, this time with carrots and finally mixed olives, simple, elegant and juicy.
Apart from the finishing garnishes and dressings, the dishes can be prepared in advance.