Labneh, Roasted Eggplants & Sumac

How to make Labneh, Roasted Eggplants & Sumac

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 body. Traditionally prepared, it is full of flavor and textures.  I like to 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 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.

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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.

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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 authentic ingredients.

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Whey, the weird yellowish liquid that runs off when straining yogurt, has a Kimchi like quality; 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 full of live healthy enzymes.

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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.

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Labneh is a great snack on a piece of grilled bread topped with marinated olives, preserved lemon, and sumac.

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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.

 

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