Labneh party spread

I like my appetizers family style, both for ease of preparation and the social fun in sharing. This is my kind of party food: a big platter spread with creamy labneh (an ultrastrained version of Greek yogurt; like a tangy cream cheese with probiotic boost) and topped with fresh green basil pesto, dark kalamata olive tapenade and bright roasted cherry tomatoes. Surround it with any kind of flatbread – lavash, pita, sangak – and it will be the merry hotspot of any gathering. Adapted from Cheryl Sternman Rule‘s lovely book, Yogurt Culture.

Quick version: buy labneh, pesto and tapenade. Roasting tomatoes doesn’t take more than a drizzle of olive oil and a half hour of waiting, and you can make them a day or two ahead. But if you have the ingredients, the pesto and tapenade blend up quickly while the tomatoes are in the oven.

Roasted tomato ingredients

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Pesto ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/4 cup unsalted nuts (pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews) or sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (use less or omit if using salted nuts)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Tapenade ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling (optional)
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for serving

  • 1 1/2 cups labneh (buy at a Middle Eastern grocery, or strain plain yogurt – see notes)
  • Flatbread, eg pita or lavash

Preparation

  1. Roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lay tomatoes cut side up on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper for easy cleanup) and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until collapsed, 30 to 40 minutes. Makes 1 generous cup.
  2. Make pesto: In a mini food processor, pulse the garlic, nuts, basil and salt until finely chopped. Add the oil gradually, processing in bursts, until the oil is well incorporated. Makes 1/3 cup.
  3. Make tapenade: In a mini food processor, pulse the olives, capers and anchovy paste, if using, until well chopped and paste-like. Drizzle in a touch of oil, if desired, and season with lemon juice to taste. Makes 3/4 cup.
  4. Serve: Spread the labneh on a serving platter or shallow serving bowl, using the back of a spoon to make a wide indentation in the center. Dollop with distinct, heaping scoops of the roasted tomatoes, pesto and tapenade. Serve with plenty of warm flatbread.

Serves 10 to 12.

Notes

  • To make labneh from plain yogurt: Mix 1 quart (4 cups) plain yogurt (whole milk or low fat) with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set a colander in a bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth, a nut milk bag, or two large crisscrossed paper towels that overhang the sides of the colander. Scrape the yogurt into the lined colander and refrigerate for 48-72 hours. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets.
  • Compress your yogurt for faster draining: Gently cover the yogurt (with the overhang of the cheesecloth/paper towels, or pull closed the drawstring of the nut milk bag). Set a pot lid slightly smaller than the colander’s diameter on top of the cloth-covered yogurt. Set a weight (unopened canned products will do) over the pot lid. Refrigerate for 36 to 48 hours.
  • You can also make labneh from plain Greek yogurt – it will take less time (12-24 hours) since it starts out strained.
  • If your labneh is lumpy, whisk it (add a touch of cold water if needed) to smooth it out.
  • A batch of this can be eaten over several meals. All the components can be stored separately for several days and assembled as needed.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

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