Yogurt cheese, or labneh, is one of those simplistically elegant things that’s at home smeared on a piece of flatbread or as part of an appetizer buffet. My version, inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi, is topped by a pistachio and pomegranate salsa and served with a simple tomato and red onion salad.
You’ll need to prepare the yogurt cheese a day ahead of time. It’s simple to make…pour the yogurt into a piece of cheesecloth, wrap it up tight, and suspend it over a bowl to catch the whey. The longer it hangs, the dryer the labneh. The combination of goat’s milk yogurt and plain yogurt makes for a spread that’s not as strong as goat’s cheese, but if you’re not a fan feel free to use all plain yogurt.
The original recipe called for a chopped olive, pistachio and fresh oregano spread and I was all set to make that. Plans changed when I noticed an enterprising fruit vender near me selling trays of pomegranate seeds, about two cups for 2 euros. I know a bargain when I see one! The idea of a pomegranate and nut salsa really appealed to me. I love the little burst of flavor followed by a crunch when you bite into the arils. Raspberries or strawberries would work as well, when they are in season.
Ottolenghi recommended serving the yogurt cheese with a simple tomato and onion salad for that reason I drizzled mine with olive oil instead of honey, which was delicious on the leftovers. Now that I think of it, Diana Henry’s Hot Green Sauce would make an excellent topping, too, if you’re looking for something a little more picante.
For a casual occasion, allow the eaters to spread the yogurt cheese on crackers or bread, as they desire. In a larger setting, consider covering a slice of bread with a generous amount and arranging on trays.
This recipe will serve 3 or 4 people and is easily doubled. I served it with a simple salad made of sliced cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, salt and pepper to taste and a drizzle of olive oil.
- 1 cup goat's milk yogurt
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- pinch salt
- ¼ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup pomegranate arils
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (try fresh mint or basil for variety)
- pinch red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- drizzle of olive oil
- Mix the two yogurts and a pinch of salt. Put it in the center of a piece of cheesecloth and draw up the sides. Twist the cheesecloth into a tight bundle to press out the liquid. Hang over a bowl to collect the whey. (Alternatively, put the cloth in a colander and use a weighted plate to apply pressure). Leave the yogurt overnight or up to a day and a half.
- To make the topping, put the pistachios, pomegranate seeds, herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix together and set aside. You could drizzle a little olive oil and vinegar if you like.
- Spread the yogurt cheese onto a platter or in a shallow bowl. You won't need all of the topping, serve it on the side to add to the cheese as necessary.