Perhaps no one wanted an oven running in the heat. Maybe it was because of how busy it was, returning home with wet towels and sand in our bags. Whatever it was, in the summer, my parents were fond of easy, cold dinners. Specifically? Watermelon, cheese, and Ritz crackers.
My father says it's a Middle-Eastern tradition, eating light, cold dinners in the heat of the summer. No doubt, salads are big this time of year. But eating one every night can be a drag, no matter the variation on the theme. I'm here to share a delicious meal idea, which has been a Palestinian tradition for years - mazza!
What is mazza?
Much like a charcuterie board, mazza is made of various cold and room-temperature foods - only they feature the delights of the orient! It's commonly served at breakfast, but can be enjoyed any time of day. Especially on a warm summer night.
What goes into a mazza spread?
One spice that was relatively unknown when I was kid, is now gaining popularity: Za'atar! A tangy spice mix featuring sumac, sesame seeds and more, it's a great addition to any meal. Middle-Easterners eat a simple snack called zeyat oo za'atar (pictured above), where we tear off a small piece of pita bread, dip it in olive oil, then drag it through za'atar. It's delectable.
Some of the favorites that go into a mazza spread are:
- Tomato wedges
- Sliced cucumbers
- Marinated olives (green or black)
- Spring onions (eaten whole, like a carrot)
CheeseWhile we are always willing to cube up a sharp cheddar, feta or pepper jack, we love Arabic cheese. A white Arabic sweet cheese can be available in international markets, but in a bind, queso blanco works! Keep it fresh and make it last longer by storing it in salt water, changing the water every time you enjoy some.
It has to be pita!
Do I even need to say it? Hummus!
We also drag our pita through smashed fava beans, topped with a puddle of olive oil, chopped parsley and garlic. It's tangy and satisfying. We pronounce it fool, and as a child, I derived such joy by squealing, "You are what you eat!" at the table.
In a heat wave, no one wants to slave over a hot stove. Zero cooking is required to enjoy mazza. Be worldly and bon appetit! Or as they say in Arabic, sahtein.