While you can get a bowl of tabouli and great shawarma at West Hollywood's new Mezze, chef Micah Wexler is quick to point out that his isn't a Middle Eastern restaurant.
"We're a California restaurant first and foremost," he says. "Ninety-five percent of the ingredients on the menu are grown here. But then we infuse these great ingredients with other unique flavors and spices. It's our modern interpretation of these traditional dishes."
That means you'll get a bite of green garlic, almonds and salty bits of pancetta in the tabouli, and the shawarma is actually crisp shreds of brisket tucked into soft mini house-made pita pockets with pickled vegetables. There are flatbreads topped with spicy merguez sausage, or with green cauliflower (romanesco), feta and raisins; Moroccan-spiced chicken wings; and some of the best chopped chicken liver in town (with a fresh-baked mini challa, to boot).
The menu is filled with mostly small, shareable plates--the place is called Mezze, after all--but you can also get roast chicken spiced with za' atar and cooked in the wood-burning oven, or even a good steak, albeit one with a zesty chermoula sauce. You'll recognize the dishes, but the flavors might be new.
But you also might find something you're not familiar with. We were excited to try heirloom bean foul (pronounced "fool"), a creamy bean dip inspired by an Egyptian breakfast dish usually made with fava beans. At the restaurant, Wexler combines mashed fava, cannellini, cranberry and flageolet beans with whole ones, and tops the dip with a fresh, lemon-scented celery and parsley leaf salad. That and a side of warm pita are all you need.
The chef created a simpler version for us. Try making it at home--it could easily replace hummus for your next gathering.
Heirloom Bean Foul
Recipe adapted from Micha Wexler, Mezze
Makes approximately 2 ½ cups
- 1 cup dried cranberry beans
- 1 cup dried fava beans
- 4 cups chicken stock or water
- 1 medium carrot, cut into four large pieces
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 1 celery stalk, cut into four large pieces
- 4 tablespoons tahini paste
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- ½ teaspoon chopped preserved lemon
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (two lemons)
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh celery leaves
- ¼ fresh fava beans (shelled, blanched and peeled; optional)
1. In two separate containers, soak cranberry beans and dried fava beans in cold water overnight. Drain. In two separate pots, cook the beans in 2 cups of stock or water (each), and divide the carrots, onion and celery and add to each pot. Simmer until the beans are tender, and strain reserving the liquid. Removing the vegetables from the beans and discard.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine half of the cooked cranberry and fava beans and half of the cooking liquid and puree until smooth. In a bowl, combine the puree and the remaining whole beans, and add the tahini, garlic, preserved lemon, olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Salt to taste.
3. Toss the fresh parsley, celery leaves and fava beans in a splash of lemon juice and olive oil, and serve on top of the foul as garnish. Serve the dip with warm pita.