Middle Eastern Social Mezze Meal

A style of shared-plate dining designed to encourage social and leisurely meals

Table full of Mezze
Stijn Nieuwendijk (stijnnieuwendijk.com) / Getty Images

Mezze, a style of dining in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, resembles a collection of Spanish tapas and other small plates meant to stimulate your appetite. But unlike those appetizers, mezze often makes up an entire meal, combining both cold and hot, vegetarian and meat items. Common Middle Eastern mezzes include baba ghannouj , hummus, samboo sak and salads such as tabouleh. Olives, pickles, and nuts typically accompany a mezze spread.

Other selections vary widely and include grilled calamari, octopus salad, tulum cheese, stuffed vine leaves, fried eggplant strips, pinto beans in olive oil, and many more. Served family-style, a mezze table may also include bread, usually pita, fruit, and sweets. Sometimes a mezze includes more substantial meat dishes such as kebabs. Mezze may be served with an aperitif, wine, beer or non-alcoholic drinks. A truly social event, mezze dining encourages conversation and lingering at the table. The dishes are brought out one by one... first the cold dishes, then the hot. The particular selection of dishes are customized and depend largely on the main course. A main course of fish is accompanied by ​completely different possible selection of dishes than grilled meats. Sometimes the starters are enjoyed with Raki, an anise-flavored liquor similar to Ouzo. Greek cuisine also has a different but very related style of Meze.

You may see mezze spelled mazza, meze, mezzah, mezzeh or mezza. It's pronounced mez-ay.