Israelis don’t need an excuse to eat labaneh. While they savour it in all seasons, it has a pride of place on their tables on Shavuot, a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, meaning it falls between mid-May and mid-June. This year, it begins tomorrow evening.
Known as the feast of weeks, Shavuot began as an ancient grain harvest festival. Since biblical times, the holiday has also been identified with the giving of the Torah to the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai, seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt. An important, much-observed holiday in Israel, it’s far less known in non-Orthodox Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
To mark the agricultural history of Shavuot, many Israelis decorate their homes and synagogues with a floral theme.
In honour of Shavuot, when Israelis traditionally eat dairy products, including lots of labaneh, I’m happy to devote this post to this holiday with the following treat which is easy to prepare. See recipe below.
Labaneh with Roasted Maple Pears
The white, magical colour of labaneh mixed with olive oil, pomegranates, sumac and fresh herbs is, in many ways, like a painting.
Labaneh is the canvas. The ingredients are like different-coloured paints, setting the tone, texture and style of the painting.
An important source of protein, labaneh is a thick, tangy, yogurt-based cheese Israelis love to eat, especially as part of their breakfast or as a sandwich spread. Highly popular throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean, it’s made by straining the whey out of yogurt, producing a thicker, creamy, slightly sour cheese. Considered a probiotic food, labaneh is rich in healthy bacteria that help boost your immune system
The beauty of labaneh is that there are countless variations of what you can do with it, including using it with vegetables (see photo).
It’s an elegant dish, which you can have it as an appetizer, a dip, main course or even as a dessert. All you have to do is to choose the right ingredients, most commonly savory ones.
The brief video illustrates how you can easily decorate the white “canvas” of labaneh with colourful ingredients, turning it into a beautiful, painting-like pleasure for your visual senses.
Labaneh with roasted maple pears… Heaven.
Ingredients (basic labaneh)
1 liter organic 3% yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. mint, very finely chopped
2 Tsp. salt
2 Tsp za’atar
Ingredients (Roasted pears in organic maple sauce)
5-6 medium-sized ripe pears
½ cup organic maple syrup
3 tablespoons apple vinegar( you can use as well balsamic vinegar)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sumac
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
Directions (basic labaneh)
– Mix the yogurt together with the fresh lemon juice and salt
– Line in a strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth and place strainer in a large bowl
– If you don’t have handy cheesecloth, you can use paper towels instead
– Pour in the yogurt mixture.
– Leave to drain in the fridge for 3 days.
– Spread the cheese on a plate and cover with olive oil, mint and zaatar.
Directions (Roasted maple pears)
– Slice the pears into thin strips
– Sprinkle on a flat tray.
– Preheat the oven to 380F
– Bake for 30 minutes
– Toward the end of baking, sprinkle the maple syrup, sesame oil, rosemary sumac and sesame oil
– Bake for 10 more minutes
– Turn off the oven. Place tray back in the oven and leave there for 10 minutes so the pears absorb the sauce
– With a tablespoon, make a “hole” in the center of the plate and decorate with roasted pears.
To add an additional flavour, garnish with pomegranate seeds