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The Art of the Mezze

Mezze platters come in many forms, but none so special as the Turkish breakfast. This is really hard to recreate outside of Turkey, for their exquisite cheeses and simit, a sesame bread resembling a bagel. Or a Greek meze, which actually means 'a taste' or snack. It's like the best cheese and charcuterie board you'll ever have, except there's way more on it than just meat and cheese.

But, it is possible to recreate this beaut with simple ingredients, because it's all about the plating, multitude of options, and balance of flavors, textures and portions. In this case, more is definitely better.

See the mezze I've made, based on what's in my fridge and in season. And, step-by-step on how to conceive and plate your own.

The Olympus Meze

It's all Greek to me, thankfully. This inviting meze comprises lamb kofta, roasted potatoes with lemon, labneh topped with olive oil and black caraway, walnut spread and spanakopita. Sprinkle urfa pepper and well-placed cilantro and fresh mint to enliven the white background and Ópa!, a feast fit for the gods.

The Everything Mezze

This is the best kind. Last nights leftover roasted carrot and potatoes, with a tasting platter of fresh vegetables (tomato and persian cucumber), various olives, last scoop of hummus from the container, honeyed feta, labneh with a little chili oil and contrasting black caraway. And of course, some grilled beef kebabs to round out the protein.

The Leftovers Mezze

Here we have labneh with walnuts and honey, caramelized dates, kalamata olives, feta drizzled in olive oil, muhammarah with a thyme-infused balsamic, and a half a cup of leftover mattar paneer (Indian pea and paneer dish).

The Persian Mezze

My favorite thing to include in a tasting mezze is labneh, or Greek yoghurt It can be luxuriously sweet, cooling or savory. In a more Persian style, this dessert labneh is drizzled in honey, pomegranate seeds, crushed pine nuts, pistachios, and garnished with fresh mint and figs. Served alongside a Greek horiatiki, or 'house' salad with fresh feta and a beet spread, you have a perfect date night dinner for two. I might include grilled halloumi in lieu of fresh feta, but it's what I had on hand. And slicing the block into a pinwheel makes it easy to incorporate and oh-so-beautiful.

How to build your own Mezze:

Stick with 5 different offerings to start. You can always go up from there. And you'll need a large, flat platter or wooden cutting board.

Think about the offerings in terms of...

1. Texture- Pick different textures, like crispy, smooth, lumpy, crunchy and soft.

2. Taste- Pick different tastes, like salty, sweet, and astringent, spicy/ pungent or umami.

3. Temperature- Serve different temperatures, like room temp, chilled (not ice cold) and warmed.

4. Type- To keep it simple, include one protein, two veggies, one nut and one spread. Be sure to go for yoghurt or labneh, every time. You can always add a cheese, like feta or chêvre. Or a condiment, like olives or pickles.

Garnish fresh, always. Mint, cilantro, and larger crushed pepper like urfa or aleppo are beautiful on a blank canvas and also lend flavor.

Lastly, select a bread or cracker to complement the dish. It's not required and I often skip it if I have another starch, like potatoes. But if you're serving a lot of dips and spreads, it's a must.



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