How to host a Turkish meze party
Meze parties are a fun and easy way to plan a night with family and friends. Make the recipes ahead of time, set the table, and keep the red wine flowing!
First of all, what is a meze? A meze (or mezze) is a collection of small dishes that is either served as an appetizer course, or as the main meal when served with spirits. The individual dishes themselves are usually referred to as mezedes or mezedhes.
These small plates are meant to be shared among a group, and are found in Eastern Mediterranean places such as Greece and Turkey (as well as in various Middle Eastern countries). If you're familiar with Spanish Tapas, then you already know the drill.
The meze is typically brought out by the "house" (restaurant), and many times are determined by whatever they made that morning, rather than selected by someone at the table. There's usually a variety of creamy dips, tasty fried treats, fresh salads, and lots of bread for scooping.
Hosting a meze party is as simple as making the mezedes recipes (most of which can be made in advance), setting them out on a big table, and pouring some glasses of wine.
Throughout my travels to Greece and Turkey, I've had the chance to sample many different mezedes. Although I love Greek recipes and have quite a few on my site, in today's post I'm writing specifically about how to host a Turkish Meze party! Some of my favorite dishes (and my own recipes!) are listed below, but first we need to talk about equipment and ingredients.
I'm sharing my suggestions for equipment and ingredients through affiliate links from Amazon because I'm a total prime junkie and I know you are, too.
Alright, here we go!
You really don't need anything special to make mezedes, but I find that having this items on-hand make the whole process a breeze:
- Mini Food Processor – great for making dips, spreads, and prepping chopped ingredients. I have a very serious relationship with my mini-prep plus processor. Get one (so many colors!), and then check out this article from Pinch of Yum that shows 12 Magical Ways to Use a Food Processor.
- Small Scraping Spatulas – ideal for scraping those dips and spreads out of the food processor! Any small-size spatula will do, but if you're in the market for one I like this set by OXO.
- Sharp Knife – obvious, I know, but no one likes cutting tomatoes with a dull knife. I am a total Wusthof junkie (I favor the Classic Ikon series), and my favorite is the Deli Knife. So versatile!
- Deep Fry Thermometer – ever tried to deep fry without one? I suck at it. If you're already putting in an Amazon order, here's the one that I use.
Meze Specialty Ingredients
Most ingredients are basic things like nuts, yogurt, and easy-to-find produce, but there are three things which will make ALL the difference in the way the dishes turn out:
- Sumac – this is a vibrant spice with a bright, citrus flavor. You can find it at most Halal markets, or do as I do and Amazon Prime the heck out of it.
- Pomegranate Molasses – This stuff is SUPER delicious. It's thick like a syrup (or, um, like molasses?) and has a robust, tangy flavor. Again, you can grab this on Amazon or in a specialty market.
- High-Quality Olive Oil – I use my every-day supermarket variety for frying and sauteing, but when it comes to finishing a dish or making a killer salad dressing, high-quality olive oil is a game changer. I buy mine from the Oregon Olive Mill, but if you want to pick some up from wherever you live I'd recommend heading to a gourmet market or at least a Whole Foods.
Okay, enough of the obligatory stuff. Let's talk RECIPES.
Turkish Meze Recipes
This simple chopped dish is delicious as a side, salad, or wrapped in pita. Make sure to use the highest quality feta you can find — look for ones made with sheep's milk. This salad can be made a day or two in advance; just keep it in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
Ten minutes and a few simple ingredients are all you need to make this vibrant Tomato and Walnut Salad – perfect for using up those summertime tomatoes! You can make this dish a few hours in advance, but be aware that extra juicy tomatoes might create a little liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
Fritters are a great way to use up just about any vegetable you have lying around; summer zucchini would make a great stand-in! You'll want to wait until just before serving to make these, as they are best enjoyed hot.
Roasted chickpeas are an incredible treat – just pop these in the oven as you're making the fritters and they'll be nice and warm when your guests arrive.
This dip will be a favorite among your dinner companions, so you might consider doubling (or tripling!) the recipe. It holds up remarkably well after a few days in the fridge, so feel free to get a leg-up on the dinner party rush and make this ahead of time.
You're already deep-frying those carrot fritters, so you might as well keep the party going and chuck some olives in there as well. If you're short on prep time, just hit up the olive bar at your local specialty market and set out a tray of olive varietals.
Another perfect make-ahead dish, this salad is creamy, crunchy, and chock full of bright flavor.
If you're looking to add something a bit more substantial to the meal, these mini kofte pitas are just the thing. While not truly a small-plate dish, they're a great hand-held party option!
To Round Out the Party
Beverages: I never turn down a glass of Raki (an unsweetened anise-flavored aperitif similar to Sambuca and Ouzo), but it's also nice to serve either coffee or tea with a party. You can read all about how to make Turkish Coffee over on Fool Proof Living, and learn about Turkish Tea on the Babushka Table blog. Another great idea is to make cocktails using rose water; I love these Raspberry Rose Cocktails!
Bread: If you're really going for it, try your hand at making Simit. If you ever visit Istanbul, you'll see little carts selling these round bread rings all over the city. I usually start with the intention of making Simit, but then I get lazy and just slather some pita bread with melted butter and toss it onto a grill pan for a few minutes to fancy it up.
Dessert: Make a big pan of Baklava (also popular in Greece, Ukraine, and just about everywhere), or veer off the beaten path and whip up some Tulumba. I also adore a slice of Revani (semolina cake) slathered in honey!
Alright, I think that's enough to keep us busy for a while. Who's ready to host a Turkish Meze Party?