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Toasted Walnut, Green Bean and Labneh Salad

The end of summer comes as an omen of the quick passing of time. One evening in August, something changed in the air. The gusty fog of summers past made way for a wind with bite.  We happened to be taking an evening constitutional and I noted Beck popping his collar for a bit of increased protection from the elements.  As we returned home, I almost reached for the small plastic lever on the thermometer to turn on the heater but abstained from the impulse.

After a few days of warm sunny skies, of summer weather taking place during summer days, I had become somewhat spoiled by the possibility of bare legs in August. On one of those downright balmy days, I let my legs take me to the Farmer’s Market on a Tuesday. Unthinkable! And yet, that day’s lunch break had one goal in mind. I spotted them almost gleaming from their big brown box and began the dance of picking them up, one by one, squeezing them between my fingertips and looking for the right give in this conversation of flesh and fingers.

Stashed in a big bag, my treasure swung by my side, three pounds heavy and full of promise that while summer may not linger much longer, it would return as surely as the sweetness of September tomatoes taste of the summer sun relishing them with the urge to grow.

Toasted Walnut Green Bean with Labneh Salad

 

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TOASTED WALNUT, GREEN BEAN AND LABNEH SALAD 

Talk about one delicious way to use your homemade labneh kefir cheese, the colors and flavors of the salad dress up any table with their simple elegance. Like most dressed foods, you might find it tastes better with time and I find makes a great leftover for the next day. The addition of labneh lends a creaminess that once your fork has its way, blends with the dressing and coats the tomatoes, walnuts and green beans. It gets a little messy in appearance, but that’s part of the charm.

YIELD: 4 servings
TIME: 10 minutes

1 pound green beans

1 cup cherry tomatoes or 1 large Early Girl tomato, chopped

1/3 cup walnuts

1 shallot, minced

3 tablespoons walnut oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons labneh

1 teaspoon dried chervil

salt and pepper to taste

 

  1. Snap the ends off the green beans. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add green beans to boiling water and steam them for 2 minutes until bright green. Drain in colander.
  2. Chop the walnuts and then toast them for a few minutes until their aroma punctuates the air. Set aside.
  3. Mince the shallot. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and walnut oil. Add in the shallot once the dressing is somewhat emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Tumble the green beans into a large bowl. Add the cherry tomatoes. Then drizzle the dressing over the beans and tomatoes and use tongs to disperse them in the dressing until coated.
  5. Add walnuts atop the green beans and tomatoes. Then add your dollops of labneh and finish with chervil sprinkled on the labneh.

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Labneh Food Photo Poetry

Labneh Food Poetry

Labneh Food Poetry

Labneh Food Poetry

Labneh Food Poetry

Labneh Food Poetry

Labneh Food Poetry

Labneh Food Poetry

 

 

Categories
Recipes

Labneh

Homemade-Labneh

It’s hard to remember the first time you tasted a peach. Perhaps, for you, that difficulty of recollection pertains to tomatoes or something as basic as bread. But labneh, labneh is a different story altogether.

Years ago at a different company, we would build a booth to exhibit our wares at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco for the Winter Fancy Food show. I had been actively involved in the design of the booth from inception and had worked it out to a science of time and manpower, finding that no matter how long we toiled or how well oiled our machine might be, set-up always took five hours. Of the food industry shows, I had lovingly dubbed Fancy Food as the chocolate, cheese and caffeine show. That moniker pretty much summed up the specialty aspect of the kinds of foods to be sampled. Time had let me learn the unsettling truth that if working the show and expecting to be nourished for lunch by booth samples, I would leave with a sugar high and tummy ache.

Several years ago when I transitioned to my current job, that move took me out of the specialty food segment and planted me into the natural, organic category. This meant that instead of spending a Saturday locked in the football length of Moscone building a booth to exhibit at Fancy Food, I walked the show as an attendee on a Monday during office hours. What a different experience.

Arriving early, I took my time scouring the booths for that brilliant combination of flavor and compelling design. I walked alone, taking my time to assess the booths row by row, letting my curiosity be piqued and stop me. After a while of working food shows, the need or belief of trying every morsel as an imperative gets quashed. Instead, the process of measuring stomach share to the need to nibble required the combination of listening to my eyes and stomach at the same time.

I noshed on dried Black Mission figs at Valley Figs and snapped a chile chocolate square sample with my tongue at Poco Dolce. Getting to be on this side of the table provided me the freedom of taking the show in, in all of its enormity, at my own pace. Over the course of several aisles walked, I began picking up themes of product introductions, making mental notes of trends (hello artisan pickles!) curious to see how they might play out into the natural foods show in Anaheim a few months later.

My boss, a fellow foodie, texted me with his key finds and I would text him with mine. At one point, we met up to walk several of the aisles together.

“You have to try labneh,” he remarked. His eyes glittered with excitement. “I think you will like it a lot.”

I looked at him quizzically, but trusted his recommendation. We began winding our way toward a small table deposited into the side of an island sized company display. On the table, several samples of crackers lay neatly in rows. Each cracker boasted a smear of a glossy white cream with some topped by thin cucumber slices and others, a dollop of jam. The demo specialist guided us through a tasting, encouraging us to try the savory sample first and then the sweet.

I selected a cucumber and labneh loaded cracker, bringing it to my mouth. My tongue swept across the labneh and found a consistency of crème fraiche, yet rich and slightly tart. I looked up at my boss, and caught him smiling at me as a wide smile stretched across my face. Who would have thought in a football stadium full of foods so rich and decadent that the very thought of them might give me a toothache, I would find something to satiate that desire for rich, creamy flavor with the benefits of probiotics? Labneh certainly stood out as one of my favorite discoveries from Fancy Food.

After the show, I began prowling local natural food stores and Whole Foods stores. Looking for the familiar blue and white tub in the refrigerated dairy section resulted in several thwarted attempts. My search for labneh might be the search for the Holy Grail. And then, one day, I found those cheerful tubs tucked in the fridge at a Vietnamese market. Success!

Months passed. Perhaps a whole year and my new love was a distant memory. And yet, that pervasive trait to many recipes making their way out of my kitchen claimed the better part of my memory by posing the simple question that usually clinches my attention of “I wonder…”

My affinity for kefir caused me to ask that fickle question and let my curiosity consider the consequences of playing the question out to its inevitable end.

“I wonder if I can make housemade labneh from the kefir I drink daily,” I mused. And like that, I set off to make a discovery in my kitchen, no tradeshow badge required.

DIY-Labneh

 

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HOMEMADE LABNEH
Labneh, kefir cheese, is often served along with pita bread triangles as a dip in Middle Eastern countries. Sidle a small plate of labneh the next time you plan on having hummus and baba ghanoush as appetizers. Just add a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of salt and paprika sprinkled atop. In Palestine and Jordan, they incorporate labneh into breakfast. And it makes a fine stand-in when dolloped in place of sour cream. I find labneh makes a delicious flourish and has a multitude of applications. Take a plate of toasted crostini. Add a smear of labneh on them with a spoonful of fig tapenade atop and you’ve got an easy unique appetizer. Or spoon some onto a simple Green Bean Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Chervil. Recipe is forthcoming. 

Making homemade labneh is very easy and requires the shared skills of patience and negligence. You want to check in on your kefir daily to see how it’s doing. I find inserting a toothpick or the tip of a spoon helps ascertain how thick the mixture is, but really you just want to leave it alone and not jostle the bowl. An important note about labneh is to make sure to keep it from heat as that will kill any probiotics in the kefir cheese, if that’s your reason for eating it. Also, keep the liquid whey leftover and separated from the labneh. Use it to soak grains, to make lacto-fermented pickles or a dozen other uses and ways to keep the discovery process going.

YIELD: 1 cup
TIME: Active Time- 5 minutes; Passive Time- 7 days

INGREDIENT
1 16oz. bottle of plain goat’s milk kefir (or cow’s milk kefir)

PROCESS
Place a colander in a large bowl. Line the colander with cheesecloth. Pour the kefir into the cheesecloth and transfer bowl-colander-cheesecloth-kefir carefully to the refrigerator. Let set for 5-7 days. The longer you let it set, the thicker it will become.

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