Give you the world: a plated dish

So this dish was actually in my to-do list for about four months. I wrote up the concept back in October, but I never really got around to making it. This dish is an homage to Middle Eastern food, which is actually a cuisine I came to really love during my time in D.C., living with my sister. We have influences from both kibbeh nayyeh, which is a Middle Eastern tartare, typically featuring lamb, and fattoush salad, which uses sumac, mint, parsley, and pomegranate, as well as a flatbread-like component. I wanted to merge the two together, and make something very light and ethereal. Honestly, the reason why I might have pushed back making this concept was because I don’t necessarily like preparing tartare. I do love to eat raw meat(I eat sushi all the time), but having to prepare a tartare myself, it can get finicky. Having to get a nice, fine, even dice on the meat, removing any sinew, silver skin, or fat, it takes time. That and you run the risk of cross contaminating a lot of surfaces too. But if you remove the sanitary concerns, it is actually not a terribly hard dish to prepare. From start to finish, I managed to get this dish made in about 30 minutes.

For my components, we have a spiced lamb tartare, whipped labneh, herb oil, and homemade phyllo crisps. I have made phyllo before, and it is probably the most laborious thing in this dish, but that is not saying much, because it is very quick and easy to prepare. For the tartare itself, we have Aleppo pepper for the heat, and pickled shallots and pomegranate seeds to add some tartness and acidity, because with that, the dish would just eat very fatty with the herb oil, labneh, buttery phyllo, and fried herbs. That and sumac-pickled or marinaded shallots are a staple in fattoush salad anyways! I used Nigella seeds(black onion seeds) to garnish the phyllo since they add a nice burst of umami. For the labneh, funny story, I actually was going to do a feta foam instead, but I found the feta in my grocery store to be a touch expensive, whereas the labneh was about half the price, so I went with that instead. However, upon tasting the labneh, I was really happy with my choice. It was creamy, tangy, and just had a richness to it that I knew would have worked better than a feta foam ever would have. Truthfully, a happy accident. I named the dish “Give you the world” as another Carole and Tuesday reference, especially in how earthy and natural the dish looks.

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Makes enough for 4:
For the homemade phyllo:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon warm water
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Nigella seeds

Combine the water, salt, and flour into a dough. Divide into four pieces. Roll each piece out on a floured surface until they are about 4 inches in diameter. Brush three of the layers with butter, and stack on top of one another, with the un-buttered layer being on top. Dust with a little more flour and roll out as thinly as possible. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and cut out 2 inch rounds with 1/2 inch holes in them. Brush with more butter and the Nigella seeds and cover with another parchment or silpat sheet and another baking tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool completely before using to plate.

For the lamb tartare:
8 oz lamb leg meat, sinew removed
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
1/4 cup sumac pickled shallots
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Finely dice the lamb meat. Toss ingredients together. Keep refrigerated until it is time to serve.

For the sumac-pickled shallots
1/4 cup finely diced shallot
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sumac
a pinch of salt

Toss ingredients together. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes, just to cure the shallots in the lemon juice.

For the herb oil:
2 tablespoons Za’atar
1/4 cup blanched mint, stems removed
1/4 cup blanched parsley, stems removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt

Puree together to form your herb oil. Pass through a sieve to remove any solids.

For the whipped labneh:
1/4 cup labneh
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whip together. Transfer to a piping bag.

To garnish:
Fried mint
Fried parsley
Nasturtium leaves
Edible flowers

To fry the herbs, heat up canola or vegetable oil to 330 degrees F. Carefully fry the herbs, no more than 10 seconds, in the oil, and drain on a paper towel.

To plate:
Start with two small mounds of the labneh, spaced out about 3 inches apart. Quenelle about 2-3 tablespoons of the tartare and place between the two mounds. Use a small spoon to create indents in each mound of labneh and carefully spoon in the herb oil. Garnish the tartare with two crisps of phyllo, and the fried herbs, nasturtium leaves, and edible flowers.

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