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    The confident cook

    Prepare several mezze plates for this rehearsal dinner, which won’t cost a crazy amount of money

    Mezze platter
    Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe
    Mezze platter

    Wedding season doesn’t just mean Bridezillas and frantic moms. There are other events that can cost a crazy amount of money, like the rehearsal dinner. We suggest a more relaxed and casual approach — a backyard barbecue with sophisticated food, such as these mezze plates, a spread that will offer something for everyone.

    Though mezze in the Middle East — dishes like eggplant salad, stuffed grape leaves or other vegetables, and olives, to name a few — typically begin dinner, this array can be substantial enough to make a meal. You can put together your own selection of small plates from any part of the world.

    Dense and salty halloumi, an age-old staple from Cyprus made from goat’s and sheep’s milk, has a firm texture until you heat it. It’s one of the few cheeses you can grill; it becomes crisp on the outside while the inside stays soft. Offset the salt with a drizzle of honey and a few drops of lemon juice and pair it with mint leaves on a platter with olives. Now you have a centerpiece for your mezze.


    While the grill is on, set a few rounds of Indian naan on the rack to heat them, then sprinkle with za’atar, a Middle Eastern herb mix containing sesame seed, sumac, dried hyssop or thyme, and other aromatics. For a third dish, whir a hearty spread of white beans and tahini in a food processor and spike it with plenty of lemon; the puree is similar to hummus. All of these double and triple easily, in case you want to assign friends to make part of the menu. Honor the happy couple and their families without breaking the bank. SHERYL JULIAN

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    Mezze platter

    Serves 12


    3cloves garlic, chopped
    1teaspoon salt
    ½cup fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
    cup tahini
    3cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    ½teaspoon ground cumin
    ½teaspoon ground coriander
    6tablespoons olive oil
    Extra olive oil (for sprinkling)
    Sumac or marash pepper (for garnish)

    1. In a food processor, work the garlic, salt, lemon juice, and tahini until smooth.

    2. Add the beans, cumin, coriander, and olive oil and puree until very smooth. Transfer to a shallow bowl and use the back of a spoon to flatten the top. Sprinkle with more olive oil and a pinch of sumac or marash pepper.



    Vegetable oil (for the grill)
    24ounces halloumi, cut into 24 slices
    6tablespoons olive oil
    Olive oil (for sprinkling)
    3lemons, halved
    6tablespoons honey
    Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    cup green or black Greek olives
    Small handful of mint leaves

    1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Dip a small piece of folded paper towel in vegetable oil, and use tongs to brush the grill grates with it.

    2. Brush the halloumi slices on both sides with olive oil. Cook the halloumi for 1 to 2 minutes on a side, or until charred and firm on the outside and soft on the inside. Transfer to a platter.

    3. Sprinkle the slices with a little more olive oil and squeeze the lemon over the cheese. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with pepper. Garnish with olives and mint. Serve hot.


    9rounds of naan
    6tablespoons olive oil
    3tablespoons za’atar
    6tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


    1. Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high.

    2. Grill the naan for 1 to 2 minutes on a side, or until charred and hot. Transfer to a plate, brush with oil, and sprinkle with za’atar and parsley. Sally Pasley Vargas

    Sally Pasley Vargas can be reached at