The day is dragging on, the week is dragging slower. You're hungry and grumpy and in no mood to go out, or to cook. Tonight's battle plan includes picking up a few things on the way home that require zero effort to prepare, but are far removed from the idea of a greasy bag of fast food. A foraged meal like this could be just the thing to perk you up and get you through the rest of the week.
The Meal: Middle Eastern Mezze
The Spot: Middle Eastern Bakery
Location: 3052 North 16th Street
Closest Freeways: State Route 51 (exit at Thomas); Interstate 10 (exit at 16th Street, eastbound only)
Open Until: 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday
It's hot, and the last thing most of us want right now is heavy food. When I'm feeling especially grouchy, I like to indulge in Mediterranean fantasies with a casual meal of traditional mezze. This light fare usually includes Middle Eastern appetizers, salads, dips, and freshly made pita bread. I like to have something slightly sweet, like baklava or halva with hot tea or coffee for dessert.
What exaclty is mezze? It is basically a sampling of Lebanese appetizers, including classics like hummus, baba ghanoush, and stuffed grape leaves. Fried snacks like kibbeh and falafel can be added as well, but to get through the check-out line at Middle Eastern Bakery and out the door faster, stick to the essentials lining the cooler and bakery shelves.
Pick-Up List (choose 5 to 7):
Hummus: A creamy, nutty chickpea and tahini dip
Baba Ghanoush: Smoky, roasted eggplant dip
Garlic Dip: Just as it sounds, an aioli of sorts blended with tons of garlic. (Pro tip: This might be the perfect dipping sauce for salty French fries, if you have any on hand or in the freezer.)
Lift: Pickled beets and turnips, pumped up with a touch of horseradish, provide a nice punch of acidic brightness
Warak Arish: These lemony, olive oil-packed grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs make for a tangy, hearty snack. They can either be found in the refrigerated section, or with canned goods. The canned version is surprisingly great.
Fattoush Salad: Chopped lettuce, sliced turnips, cherry tomatoes, and crispy fried pita are tossed with lemon and olive oil and sprinkled with tart, red-hued sumac for one of the most refreshing salads on earth.
Tabbouleh: This simply hearty salad of minced parsley, chopped tomatoes, mint, bulgur (a whole grain), and onion is seasoned simply with lemon and olive oil for a filling, super herbaceous addition to the meal.
Pita Bread: The fresh-baked flat bread at Middle Eastern Bakery is fluffy with a crisp exterior, ideal for scooping up these dips
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Pita Chips: Day-old pita bread is rubbed with oil, tossed with za'atar spices, and pan-fried until crisp for an addictive alternative to fresh pita for dunking in the various sauces
Lebanese Baklava or Knafe: This classic Mediterranean desert of layered pastry dough, nuts, and honey or sugar syrup is more closely associated with Turkey than Lebanon; however, the version at this bakery is very good. If the shop has knafe, a traditional sweet cheese and vermicelli dessert found in Lebanon and Palestine, go for that instead. It is a real treat.
Total Price: Around $30 for a light meal for two to four people
Average Time in Shop: 10 minutes or less