Real food like Labneh & Roasted Eggplants & Sumac has the power to bring joy and pleasure into our lives and can have powerful effects on our bodies. Traditionally prepared, it is full of flavor and textures. I ferment yogurt at home, so the next logical step is to make Labneh. A simple yogurt cheese, which is eaten all over the Middle East. The first time I tasted Labneh was in Dubai UAE, where I worked as a Chef Saucier at the Dubai Hilton Hotel. Making Labneh is a very easy undertaking, the only thing you need is yogurt, a bowl, and a cheesecloth. Keep in mind that if you want to make Labneh, Roasted Eggplants & Sumac recipe, you need to make homemade yogurt and two days to drain the yogurt.
At the Hilton Hotel, Ali, our Lebanese Chef, cooked all local food – from great Mezzeh dishes to stuffed whole lamb, to Labneh. The eggplants used in this recipe are Indian eggplants, found often in Indian markets. If you live in Chicago, you will find Indian Eggplants on Devon Avenue. They are much smaller than the commonly used Italian eggplants and tend to be less bitter than the bigger eggplants.
The World fresh market on Devon Avenue, in the heart of one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago, has an interesting and inexpensive produce selection, great spices, Halal meat, basmati rice, etc. Food that caters to the many different cultures that live in this neighborhood. I love to visit the many ethnic food markets Chicago has to offer, from La Casa del Pueblo in Pilsen to Joong Boo Market. I can easily spend hours strolling down the aisles, looking for ingredients.
What is that weird yellowish liquid:
Making my Labneh recipe, you need to make homemade yogurt, and that takes two days to drain A by-product of making labneh is whey, that weired yellowish liquied. Whey has a Kimchi-like quality; and is a great bonus that is free. Did you know that whey is very healthy? It contains a very high level of calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin B5, magnesium, and potassium, is super rich in protein and minerals, and is full of live healthy enzymes.
The notion of eating oven-baked eggplant almost feels like eating Oysters, scooping them from their shells and eating them with a spoon of tangy, creamy Labneh along with the sumac is a perfect combination. To elevate the flavor, I recommend using a good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Labneh is a great snack on a piece of grilled bread topped with marinated olives, preserved lemon, and sumac.
What to do with whey:
If you love buttermilk, you will love whey. If you have ever made Labneh or Greek yogurt, you know there is a lot of whey leftover. Did you know there is a dark side to Greek yogurt manufacturing in the US? According to The modern Farmer, the Northeast alone produced more than 150 million gallons of acid whey last year. With the surge in popularity of Greek yogurt, companies are faced with a challenge. By law, it is illegal to dump whey because it’s toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. As a matter of fact, Greek yogurt manufacturers need to pay people, like farmers, to take this stuff off their hands. I save the whey and drink it straight or use for smoothies, add it to mashed potatoes or freeze it in ice cube trays for later use. By producing my own Labneh and using the whey, I can proudly say that I do the environment some good, no waste in my kitchen.
Labneh, Roasted Eggplants and Sumac
- 32 oz yogurt Greek, plain
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp cilantro chopped
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil extra virgin
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup sumac
- 30 pieces Indian eggplant
- 2 tbsp salt
- 4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
Make the labneh
- Line a sieve with cheesecloth; set over a medium deep bowl. Place yogurt in a sieve. Gather edges of cheesecloth to cover yogurt. Place in refrigerator and let drain for 2-3 days.32 oz yogurt
- Squeeze out any excess liquid; discard liquid in the bowl. The yogurt will be very thick and resemble soft goat cheese. The longer you drain the yogurt, the thicker the Labneh will be.
Make the Lemon dressing
- In a mixing bowl, combine olive oil, chopped cilantro, minced garlic, and salt and set aside.2 tbsp lemon, 2 tbsp cilantro, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 tsp sea salt
Cut and salt the eggplant
- Wash the eggplant and cut it in half. Salt the cut side of the eggplant, let it sit for 20 minutes. Remove the salt and pat the eggplant dry.30 pieces Indian eggplant, 2 tbsp salt
Roast the eggplant
- Pre-heat oven to 400F. Place eggplant on a cookie sheet cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and place in oven, bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.2 tbsp lemon
Dress the eggplant
- Remove eggplant from the oven and dress with the lemon, cilantro garlic dressing. Let sit at room temperature for at least for 45 minutes before serving.
Plate and serve
- With a spoon, smear the Labneh on the center of a plate, place roasted eggplant in the center, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sumac. Serve with Pita bread1/4 cup sumac, 4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate