I have been requested to host two meals themed on Mediterranean cuisine for a family occasion. We are actually aiming for Lebanese, Egyptian, Turkish, Moroccan etc. May even Arabic. Not Greek or Italian. We need a sit down menu for lunch and kind of a buffet spread for dinner. I'm not much familiar with this kind of food.
I was thinking of lamb as the main for lunch, with a festive couscous/rice dish. I'll need at least two more dishes for lunch including a salad.
I was thinking an appetizer platter for dinner including hummus, tehini and baba ganush. Some kind of Kofta as main and fattoush, etc. I'd love to include mackerel somewhere if possible. What else can I include?
Any suggestion how I should cook the lamb? Or should I aim for something else? Will be kofta and grilled mackerel be too monotonous?
This is the first time I am hosting the family event. Please help me out.
At this time of year I think it would be a shame if you didn't showcase some vegetables with your mezze. Lamb and rice stuffed squash or chard would be great, but there is nothing wrong by going simple and letting the natural flavors of eggplant, okra or summer squash shine by cooking them simply in olive oil with tomatoes and fresh herbs and serving them as sides to your main dishes at lunch or dinner. Consider also setting out bowls of dukkah or za'atar next to olive oil and fresh bread for diners to dip into along with tabbouleh.
If you would consider combining your lamb and rice dishes at lunch, you have a variety of traditional party fare to choose from: lamb kabsa (Saudi), machboos (Gulf Arabic) or, most impressive of all, maqlouba (Levantine). On the side I'd have a yogurt salad with cucumbers, walnuts, sumac and crushed rose (if desired), fattoush or a simple salad of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, mint and feta dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.
For the fish dish, since mackerel is oily I would try to tame its flavor by marinating it with a flavorful chermoula paste before roasting in the oven or grill. My favorite fish dish for a buffet, though, is samke harra, made from mild-flavored whitefish seasoned with warm spices (cumin, coriander, chilies, allspice) and roasted on a bed of onions, dressed with sliced lemons and served cold or room temperature with tahini sauce. In this case, if you are making kofta, I would cook it in tomato sauce or with muhammara to offer some contrast.
Whenever I'm looking for a meal that's vaguely eastern Mediterranean, rather than a specific country, I'm drawn to Cyprus.
The cuisine, whilst distinctive, draws on both Greece and Turkey, yet also has elements from the Lebanon/Palestine/Syria area. Lots of recipes on online, but here's a starter:
When I do a Middle Eastern dinner for guests I begin with a buffet-style first course of assorted cold dishes much as you have described---fatoosh, hummos, baba ganooj, tabbouleh, cucumbers in yogurt, white bean salad, sliced tomatoes, olives, cheeses, etc. For the second course I have a big casserole of moussaka and one of spanakorizo ( cooked rice mixed half and half with chopped cooked spinach, flavored with lemon juice and cinnamon--Greek, but goes so well with the moussaka). Pita bread--- or lavash if you can get it. For dessert, homemade baklava and a fruit sorbet. Maybe a plate of Mehjool dates. Mint tea or strong coffee after dinner. BTW you can do all of this ahead of time. Also, if you are in the US, lamb is an expensive meat to serve to a group, an argument in favor of the moussaka.