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.
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
If you wish to make labaneh balls, leave the mix in the fridge for 5 days. Then shape balls (Ping-Pong balls) and cover them with za’atar or sumac.
My Jerusalem Lentil Soup
When I was a child, growing up in Jerusalem, my mother used to make delicious lentil soup on cold, rainy days. ️It was a great tradition, which I continue with my family to this day, much to their delight.
4 cups of dry red lentils
1 large onion, minced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cumin
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup minced chives
3 tablespoons of roasted pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a large soup pot, add water and lentils
Bring to boil
Simmer for at least an hour
Meanwhile stir-fry the minced onion and the garlic until golden
Season with salt and pepper
Add to the soup and simmer another half hour
Add lemon juice
Garnish with chives and pine nuts
This lentil soup has a magical, hearty texture that’s lightly creamy.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Galya’s Recipe for Heavenly Hummus
There are many variations in making excellent hummus. Over the years, I’ve visited dozens of humussiahs (hummus specialists) all over Jerusalem and the rest of Israel, and, with much respect and appreciation, I’ve observed them in action.
The smiles on the faces of those creating such wonderful hummus with great pride and those serving it makes the eating of this Middle Eastern treat all the more enjoyable.
One thing I can tell you is, like with every dish, an essential ingredient in the best hummus is love.
In my home, a star in many of the meals I prepare, is a plate of freshly-made hummus –creamy, rich and lightly topped with olive oil, sumac and pine nuts. It always brings me back to my youth when on Saturday mornings my father would take my brothers and me around Jerusalem in search of the best hummus in town. We were never disappointed.
1½ cups of dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon of baking soda
1 -1½ tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of salt
2 garlic cloves
1½ cups of tahini
1 cup of water
⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of roasted pine nuts
– Place chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water
– Keep in fridge for 12 hours
– Drain chickpeas and add them to a large, deep pot
– Cover it with tap water and add baking soda
– Bring to boil. While water is boiling, make sure to quickly remove foam that’s created
– Lower heat and let cook for around 20 minutes. Chickpeas should be cooked but not too mushy
– Set aside ⅓ cup of cooked chickpeas (so you can use them to top your hummus plate)
– Keep cooking rest of chickpeas for about 50 minutes until they are soft, almost mushy
– Pour chickpeas into a strainer
– Place 1½ cup of cooked chickpeas in food processor. (If you end by having more cooked chickpeas, keep them in fridge. They can keep there for at least 3 days)
– Add salt, lemon juice, garlic and then 1 cup of water and drizzle the tahini.
– Proceed until hummus is smooth and creamy.
– If needed, add a bit more water
– Let it rest for a few minutes.
– Spread humus on a serving plate.
– Garnish with cooked chickpeas, olive oil and pine nuts.
– For an extra punch, garnish with chopped parsley, sumac and pomegranate seeds. In fact, sky’s the limit for variations in topping hummus
– Use your imagination, taking advantage of ingredients you have handy or purchase whatever is on your wish list.
– Use a tablespoon to create a circle in the middle of the hummus plate to place toppings such green tahini with roasted za’atar chicken, or salmon, or matbucha, or fresh harissa, or stir-fried portobello mushrooms or whatever toppings you desire and feel would be well suited to enhance the hummus experience.
– Or just keep it simple and garnish the hummus with just truffle oil.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Eggplant ‘Baladi’ with Tahini Sauce
Ingredients for the Eggplant:
- 2 Eggplants
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 pomegranate
- handful of chopped parsley
Ingredients for the Tahini:
- 1/2 cup of raw Tahini
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
Ingredients for Pomegranate Molasses:
- 2 cups pure 100% pomegranate juice
- 2 tbsp honey
Directions for cooking Eggplant:
- Preheat oven to broil.
- Slice eggplant lengthwise and sprinkle with salt and pepper on the inside part of the eggplant.
- Bake face down on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or tin foil.
- Broil for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is black on the outside and very soft on the inside.
Directions for the Tahini:
- In a large bowl, mix the tahini, water, garlic and lemon juice.
- Keep mixing until the mixture is very smooth.
- Taste and adjust, you may need more water or lemon.
Directions for the Pomegranate Molasses:
- In a large, uncovered saucepan, heat pomegranate juice and honey on medium high until the honey has dissolved and the juice simmers.
- Reduce heat just enough to maintain a simmer.
- Simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the juice has a syrupy consistency and has reduced to about half.
- Once cooled, pour into a glass jar.
- Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator.
If you want your pomegranate molasses to be sweeter, add more honey to taste while you are cooking it.
How to serve:
Place eggplant on a platter, drizzle tahini, then the pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. Eat with pita, a baguette or challah.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Galya’s Pickled Lemons
You can put pickled lemons on almost everything — pasta, meat and poultry dishes, fish, salads, or even just on bread with cheese. While sold at certain specialty food stores, it’s fun to prepare them at home and always great to have some on hand in the fridge.
Typically, quantities fill a container the size of a jar of coffee.
The jar should be completely transparent, and thoroughly washed with boiled water so it will be sterilized.
3 medium-sized lemons
Juice squeezed from 1 or 2 lemons
2 tablespoons of sweet paprika
1 tablespoon hot paprika (optional)
3 tablespoons of organic maple syrup
4 tablespoons of fine balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of French mustard
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons of tarragon leaves and dried Rosemary
5 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of chili
Preparing the container/jar
To prevent bacteria, make sure the jar is perfectly clean. Place the jar in the sink; pour in boiling water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Pour out the water and place jar on a clean towel to dry.
What lemons to use
Lemons in the winter are the best to use. They’re tastier and cheaper. Summer lemons are normally harvested earlier in the year, are preserved in storage and have less taste and aroma.
The thickness of the lemon’s skin is important. On one hand, the thicker it is, the better it maintains the shape of the lemon slices. On the other hand, if it’s thick, the taste may be more bitter.
Best to choose medium-sized lemons, with a skin thick enough to support a thin slice of lemon.
1. Cut the lemon into thin slices and remove the seeds.
2. Mix the ingredients of the sauce in a deep bowl.
3. Arrange the lemon slices in a jar, and compress them slightly with a fork, (not by hand).
4. Pour the sauce evenly on the lemon slices.
5. Add fresh lemon juice to cover lemons followed by a thin layer of olive oil.
6. Place the jar on the counter or windowsill, but not in the direct sun during the day. Gradually, the lemon slices will begin to produce juice. After three days, put it in the fridge. It’s delicious now but it will taste even better in 4 or 5 days.
7. It’s very important to take the lemons with a clean fork. Do not touch them with your hands or else the jar will become covered with mold.
There are various ways you can use pickled lemons to improve meals: Chop the lemons very thinly with a knife, add a little mayonnaise and you’ll have a delicious lemon Aioli sauce.
Galya also recommends adding it to pasta with olive oil and vegetables such as zucchini or spinach. Use it also to enhance the taste of salmon. You can even use the juice left in the jar to spice up salads!
And here’s something especially delicious – a sandwich made of black bread with a thick layer of labane and two slices of pickled lemon.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
How to Make an Israeli Salad
It’s easier than you may think. Watch this short video to see the simple steps involved in preparing the popular Israeli salad.