August 4, 2013

homemade labneh and tartines

Labneh and fresh tartines

As far as I can remember, I've always loved yogurt. I ate plenty as a kid and I think that besides yogurt, cheese would have to be the second most popular dairy product that I consume on a daily basis. When my poor mother asked me what would you like to eat for lunch or dinner, I'd say yogurt, potatoes and cabbage and she'd sigh with frustration. Not much has changed since then, though I don't eat as many potatoes as I used to and my palette has broadened its horizons since then.

Both yogurt and cheese are rich in protein and I generally consume quite a bit after my morning workouts at the gym. There is nothing better than a cup of cold plain yogurt after a gruesome TRX or circuit training workout! It is very traditional for North Indians (Snoopy loves cheese too, it's probably his favorite and only word he responds to) to consume a little bit of plain unsweetened yogurt as part of their meals, it helps with digestion and also aids in toning down the heat level of certain spicy foods. Don't get me wrong, I love a good lassi and frozen yogurt but there really is something comforting and delicious in a cup of fresh plain yogurt. Greek yogurt is different from the yogurt that is commonly eaten in India, it is of course, richer and creamier which made it easy to fall in love with. So much so that I always have one or two large tubs at home.

Oregano and Thyme

Some of you who have followed my blog for a while, are probably aware of the different ways in which yogurt sneaks its way into my recipes. The folks at Chobani's also noticed some of the recipes and were really kind to send me some of their Greek yogurt to try. Several years ago, I tried some delicious Lebanese cheese called labneh at a restaurant, I loved it so much but it was really hard or should I rather say impossible to find at any store. Thankfully as I learned from a friend, it is really simple to make and super delicious!

The colorful world of cherry tomatoes

The most sophisticated tool to make this cheese is a sieve and some cheesecloth (muslin) along with a little bit of patience while the yogurt drains its whey and transforms into a rich creamy cheesy mass. Greek yogurt is naturally creamy and rich making it a good choice to prepare labneh. When it comes to flavoring the olive oil and cheese, I threw in some fresh herbs from garden, you can try different varieties of thyme and oregano and also you dried mint and bay leaves. The olive oil gets a delicious flavor from the herbs and is excellent in salads as a dressing and even to brush slices of bread, as I did with these tartines. A little note on olive oil, it can harden in the refrigerator depending on the temperature and how refined the variety is, don't freak out, it is perfectly fine, just bring the bottle with the labneh back to room temperature. The oil will come back to its original liquid state and the cheese and oil will taste delicious! By the way how gorgeous are those pretty colored cherry tomatoes, I saw them at our local market and knew at once they'd perfect for a labneh tartine.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free and all opinions are my own.

Labneh with herbs

labneh

yields: 16-18 balls

ingredients

2 cups plain non-fat greek yogurt
2 cups plain 2% (or low fat) greek yogurt
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 sprigs of fresh oregano
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme 
10 black peppercorns, freshly and coarsely cracked
2 cups light extra virgin olive oil

1. Mix the yogurt and salt together. Place a sieve over a large bowl and line the sieve with two layers of clean cheesecloth. Add the yogurt to the middle of the cloth and twist the corners of the cloth and tie them together with a piece of string. Place a heavy weight on top of the cloth and transfer to the refrigerator to drain for 3 days (You can drain the yogurt for one day but the longer you drain it, the creamier and richer the resulting cheese will be).
2. Discard the drained whey liquid (you can use it to make baked goods or do what I do, drink it plain, it's a great source of protein). Transfer the drained yogurt into a clean and dry bowl. Roll the yogurt into 16-18 balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Refrigerate the balls for another 30-45minutes till firm.
3. Once the cheese balls are firm, transfer them to a sterile clean glass jar. Gently bruise the fresh herbs with a knife and add them to the jar along with the peppercorns. Fill the jar with the olive oil. Seal and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before eating. Prior to serving, bring the jar and its contents to room temperature. This cheese should last for up to a month in the refrigerator.

labneh and cherry tomato tartines

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 whole-wheat baguette, fresh
labneh with olive oil (from above)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (I used a mixed color variety)

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line a baking sheet tray with a sheet of parchment paper.
2. Slice the ends of the baguette with a serrated knife or bread knife. Cut the rest of the baguette into thin slices, approximately 1/4" thick. Brush each side of the bread slices with some of the olive oil in which the labneh was stored. Arrange the brushed slices of bread onto the prepared baking sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool for 3 minutes.
3. Spread some of the labneh cheese onto each bread slice. Thinly slice the cherry tomatoes and place on top of the cheese-smeared bread. You can also garnish the tartines with the left-over herbs in the olive oil that was used to store the labneh. Serve immediately. 

57 comments:

  1. I adore labneh, and I always forget how easy it is to make! It seems like as soon as I hear the word cheesecloth I tune out. But I will have to try it again soon. This looks too good to pass up.

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    1. Sarah, I have to agree the cheesecloth part is a bit time consuming with the draining and then waiting for a day at least to let the flavors penetrate the cheese but it is delicious when made fresh.

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  2. Gosh, this looks so flavorful! I've had this before, but never made it - I definitely must! I agree with you on yogurt - we usually have some on hand at all times. So flavorful, and healthy, too. Anyway, great read - thanks.

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    1. Thanks, it really is so easy to make!

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  3. Fresh, flavorful and scrumptious! A wonderful summer treat.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  4. I've always wanted to make labneh, but I thought it was more difficult :O I'll be def trying it soon. And those tartines look really nice, I have to try those as well ;--)

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    1. Thanks, I do hope that you get to try it!

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  5. We make yogurt at home regularly. It's the perfect way to start the day. I had not heard of labneh before but look forward to trying to make it. And your tartines look simply perfect for this time of year. Thank you so much!

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  6. So is Labneh a meditteranean dish? Have seen it on several blogs....looks gorgeous.

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    1. Hi Manju, it is a Lebanese cheese and goes well with both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food.

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  7. Such pretty little finger food! I love it :)

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  8. We love yogurt!! In fact, i'm very picky when it comes to cheeses. paneer and mild cheeses are fine. this is superb since it's made with yogurt :) Cant wait to try this recipe, thanks for sharing Nik!

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    1. Thanks, Kiran. Let me know how it turns out.

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  9. Growing up, mum made yoghurt regularly and I was never fond of it until I came here and found how versatile yoghurt could be. Love your version of labneh. The last image is stunning.

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    1. My mom too, makes yogurt at home. Yogurt is just amazing. I am glad you liked the photograph.

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  10. i cant wait to make this - labneh is my absolutely favorite.

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    1. Let me know how it turns out, Dixya!

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  11. I have never heard of this dish! But I'm dead serious now to try it out :)- Thanks for the recipe :) And your warm, dark, light, shadowy, somewhat mystic pictures stole my heart :)

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  12. I love labneh! What a great way to use it making tartines.

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  13. Gorgeous pictures ! growing up yogurt was always always been part of the menu. It still is and i heart home made yogurt. Infact south indian meals have to end in curd-rice. So i guess, it is pretty much an indian thing.
    I did not know olive oil can solidify in the refrigerate, thanks for that quick tip.
    My daughter loves labneh, I should make this for her

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    1. Yeah, I keep yogurt always at hand at home.

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  14. I recently made similar tartines, I have to post my recipe soon.. just didn't like the way the pics turned out so I have to re-do it. Life of a blogger. Haha! I love labneh, never made it at home, but it's so rich and tasty.

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  15. Nik: You are a great food stylist!!! I love every single detail in each one of these pictures. The tartines look very appetizing and are simple to make. Definitely my kind of recipe -- especially on a busy week.

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    1. Thank you so much Denise for the kind comments. I am glad you liked the photographs.

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  16. I love making labne at home-it's so delicious and rich! :D Like you I was surprised at how easy it was to make!

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    1. Yeah, it is so easy and so versatile!

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  17. I love yogurt and cheese as much as you described in your post. We Indians do use hung yogurt in our dishes but I am seeing labneh for the first time. Thanks for sharing!

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  18. I love cheese as well, I haven't made labneh before but you have inspired me to give it a go. Love the photos, I am hungry just looking at them :)

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    1. Thanks Karen! They really are super easy to prepare.

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  19. Ah, your photography is always so breathtaking, this recipe also sounds very interesting and YUM!!!

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    1. I too am amazed at the photos. Could you please tell us what kind of camera you have?

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    2. Thanks Angela. Nick, I use a DSLR.

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  20. I had no idea you could make labneh at home! I've had it at restaurants, too, and absolutely love it. And I adore the delicious tartines you used the labneh with - we grow our own tomatoes and herbs at home so this could be a delicious completely-from-scratch meal!

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    1. Amy that sounds delicious, with all those fresh ingredients at hand it will surely be delicious.

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  21. This looks delicious Nik! Love your photos too.

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  22. Beautiful photos and a very tasty recipe, Nik!

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  23. That cheese looks delightful - something like mozzarella. I really must start making cheeses. They seem rather simple to make and they are so expensive in the store.

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne. I do want to try making mozzarella at home, it is one my favorite cheeses.

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  24. Homemade labneh! Must be so delicious and I know it's worth the extra effort to make homemade one. I love the shot of labneh in the jar. Beautiful.

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  25. I definitely want to try this for myself, it looks so simple and fresh :)

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  26. I am obsessed with labneh!! I've never seen them rolled into balls and marinated before but I can only imagine how good that tastes. Yum!

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  27. Why do you keep saying greek yogurt ? Yogurt originates from central asia and is a staple food of the Turks. As the Greeks and Turks have lived together for 600 years during the Ottoman Empire period, they must have learned yogurt-making from the Turks. Yogurt for the Turks is like potato for the British. We consume yogurt with almost everything, including meat.

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    1. Hi, I use the thick, strained creamy variety of yogurt that is generically referred to and sold labeled as Greek yogurt in stores here in the United States. There are different kinds of yogurt available in the market and I try to state exactly what I use in my recipes so people can remake them with ease.

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