Meze tables are made up of a selection of very different foods, most of which are cold dishes that have been prepared earlier. There are also hot meze dishes that are prepared immediately and served at intervals. Hot stew dishes are not normally part of the meze table. In Turkey’s coastal regions fish, and in other regions sautéed diced lamb, grilled meatballs or kebab are served as main courses after the mezes. Cold mezes are the main food group of a meze table. Many of these need no cooking and consist of foods that can be served at the table any time. These mezes can be a slice of melon, a piece of white cheese, greens such as cucumbers, radishes, arugula/rocket, cress, tarragon and green onions/scallions, and when in season green plums, green almonds or pickled vegetables that can be served at the table instantly. Among cold mezes, seafood is also a great favorite. Fish roe, caviar, tarama (fish roe dip), lakerda (salted bonito), a variety of smoked fish, and also small pickled sardines or anchovies are mezes that can be served without further preparation. Some cold mezes require pre-preparation. In particular, olive oil dishes such as kidney beans, stuffed eggplants and stuffed vegetables in olive oil and some dishes made with pulses such as fava, hummus and white bean salad are all typical mezes in Turkish cuisine. The list of cold meze dishes may vary according to the region. In the Aegean region, for example, mezes based on fresh herbs prepared with olive oil and lemon juice are more popular, whereas in the Southeastern region spicy meze dishes including muhammara (crushed walnuts, stale bread, tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice) and acılı ezme (spicy hot tomato salad dip) are more popular.
Sometimes, salads such as eggplant salad, potato salad, Russian salad and bostana (tomato salad) can also be found on a meze table. Cold cuts like pastrami, tongue and cold meat mezes like Albanian-style pan fried liver, Circassian chicken and kadınbudu köfte (fried meatballs with rice in egg-batter) also find a place on the meze table. There is always a place for refreshing meze dishes on the table. This is why yogurt based mezes play an important role the meze table. Strained yogurt and cucumber dip, purslane salad with yogurt, celeriac salad, and eggplant salad with yogurt or fried eggplant, as well as mixed fried vegetables or herbs with yogurt are an essential part of the meze table. While continuing to sample and enjoy the cold mezes, the hot meze dishes begin to appear on the table. Hot fried börek is a favorite which includes different types such as muska böreği and paçanga böreği. Then zucchini fritters and fried vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini and carrots are served at the table. This is followed by meat dishes including mini meatballs, pastrami cooked in grease-proof paper and thin slices of fried liver as well as freshly prepared and cooked hot seafood dishes such as anchovies, mussels or calamari and grilled octopus and shrimp casserole. Desserts are not generally found on meze tables. If fish was eaten as the main course, this may be followed by tahini halva. A fruit platter with seasonal fruits is sufficient. This is usually followed by a trio of green mirabelle plums, loquat and cherries in spring, apricots, peaches and watermelon in the summer and figs and grapes in late summer whereas sliced apples, pears and quince complete the meze tables in the autumn and winter months.