Green Almonds and Labneh

They say that Italian food is the presentation of the unadulterated work of mother nature whereas French food is the work of the chef transforming ingredients through technique. I think Lebanese food occupies a space on the continuum closer to the Italian gastronomic philosophy than the French equivalent. Although many Lebanese align culturally with the French ideal, it is truer to find similarities within cuisines who share a similar climate, crop and everyday culinary ethos. But there are a multitude of pertinent characterising traits that differentiate the essence of Lebanese and Italian cuisine but one thing is omnipresent - the love of food in its pure form. That is to say that each ingredient is consistent with it's taste throughout the process of 'cooking' requiring very little coaxing out. Ideally, the simpler the better - few processes and few additional ingredients.

With that notion I delved into an assembly of some basic but homely Lebanese springtime favourites. Green almonds are seasonal treat (early April until the beginning of June) that are much underused in Europe but much loved by the Lebanese. Labneh is something I've discussed before but this version is slightly different. There is no real recipe here - proceed to make the labneh as indicated in the link above but make sure the straining period is even longer. You want to be able to form balls out of the labneh with dry hands. Once the balls are formed you should leave them in a humid place for a few hours so they dry out even more before immersing them in olive oil. Alternatively, to make shankleesh you should let the formed balls dry out even longer before rolling them in za'atar. The longer you leave to dry the stronger the taste. You can eat the labneh balls straight away but it's best to leave them to mature for a week.  All I added to the final dish was a sprinkle of fleur de sel and some extra virgin olive oil. This is my taste of early spring.


23 April 2010 at 04:13 Anonymous said...
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24 April 2010 at 02:03 Bobbie said...

mmmmm, looks yummy. Wish I had a almond tree here so I could eat some :)

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