Labneh is All You Need

I’m always a girl who needs something creamy in her meals, whether that’s a gooey cheese, a dollop of sour cream, or a soup finished with a little half and half. It’s what makes food sumptuous, and my favorite way to combine all of the luscious ingredients I just mentioned is labneh.

Labneh is a super-strained yogurt that is firmer and more flavorful that your standard Greek yogurt. If strained for more than a day, you actually end up with a product that’s closer to paneer than it is to its original iteration.

You can make your own or buy some from your local Mediterranean market–the Mersin brand is my favorite–but you’ll want to use it in everything once you have it on hand.

The Breakfast

One of my favorite ways to eat labneh is with a fried egg and some pita in the morning. The hot egg yolk paired with the cold labneh creates a lovely temperature sensation to enjoy with some toasted pita.

Add some kabseh or zaatar spice blends to top off the egg, the labneh, or both, and then give a drizzle of good olive oil. For this version, I also added chopped cherry tomatoes and pea shoots. It’s beautiful, wholesome breakfast in five minutes.

The Snack

Again, let’s start by toasting a little pita (though toast points would be great too!) and smearing a goodly amount of labneh on a plate. Top the labneh with a chili paste or oil of your choosing, though I definitely recommend the Trader Joe’s fermented Calabrian chiles. (Their harissa is also an excellent choice.)

Then you can add whatever else you’d like for color and texture. I fried these chickpeas in olive oil on the stovetop for five minutes and then topped with radish sprouts. Honestly, though, you can just add some spices of your choosing and some olive oil and call it snack o’clock!

The Side

Labneh is also a way to sexy up your roasted vegetable dishes. Roast your veggies as you normally would (usually about 20-25 minutes on 425). Once you remove the veggies from the oven, smear a nice coat of labneh on a serving plate. Top with your veggies, a little dried chili pepper of your choosing, and some fresh herbs. This pairing helps to brighten up root vegetables by adding a pop of acid to the dish.

Above, I’ve roasted carrots and topped the dish with Aleppo pepper and chopped carrot top greens and served with some sliced lemon.

The Showstopper

This year’s Christmas dinner was a roasted poussin, or a young chicken similar to a Cornish game hen, served over labneh. If you’d like to make something similar, rub your small bird down with a mixture of olive oil, room temperature butter, salt, ground black pepper, and any herbs of your choosing making sure to get under the skin. Roast in the oven at 400 for approximately 50 minutes or until the bird registers at 160.

Like some of the previous dishes, I use labneh as a base or sauce onto which I add the rest of the dish. Because I also love the way that labneh takes both spicy and herbal notes, I’ve roasted the bird with a garlic oil and finished the dish with an Urfa chili-infused olive oil and topped with chives and parsley. But this is where you get to make things your own though.

I hope you come to love labneh as much as I do. It’s an amazing way to make any dish feel extra special.

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