On Saturday Kim picked up some nice organic strawberries and she suggested we make some labneh to go with them for Mothers Day dessert. For those of you who don’t know what labneh is (like either of us did until I looked it up yesterday), it’s simply strained yogurt. It’s also known as Greek yogurt and is the base for tatziki. (tatziki too runny? Use labneh!) We were first introduced to it when we saw a recipe for labneh, maple syrup & roasted pecans on a Food Network program months ago, tried it and liked it quite a bit.
Labneh has a really nice, firm texture like cream cheese so our first thought was to make a strawberry cheesecake. This is something we still want to do as I think it will be really tasty and since full fat yogurt is only 3.5% fat, it’s a much healthier option the regular cheesecake made with cream cheese.
But we didn’t make the cheesecake. Yesterday, I was poking around in the fridge and saw we had some fresh basil left over from margherita pizzas last week. I had one of those “aha” moments and knew dessert was going to go in a different direction. The recipe appeared to me as if I was channeling Iron Chef. Labneh with fresh basil, strawberries and…black pepper. You may not know it but basil is a member of the mint family and goes quite well with fruit and sweet ingredients. I’ve always wanted to use black pepper in a recipe with fruit, especially strawberries so this seemed like the perfect combination of flavours.
Preparing the Labneh
You do need to be a bit organized to make labneh as it takes several hours to prepare. Actually it takes about 5 minutes to prepare but several hours to drain. We used two large containers (4 cups) of 3.5% fat yogurt. Traditionally you would use plain yogurt but because we were making a dessert we used French Vanilla flavoured. You can use any flavoured yogurt. To prepare, line the bottom of a colander or strainer with a large basket coffee filter (or several overlapped smaller ones), cheesecloth or even a paper towel. Place colander in a large bowl or pot so that has an inch or so of space for liquid to collect, cover and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
This is the amount of liquid that drained from about 750ml of yogurt. This liquid is whey and I’m sure I could make something with it, but don’t know what just yet. Our cat & dog seemed to enjoy it.
Strawberry Basil Pepper Sauce
This sauce is very simple and can (and probably should) be prepared immediately before serving. Since this is the first recipe I’m posting here, I do have to add this disclaimer. I never measure when I cook and I don’t record what I am using so everything you see here that has an amount noted will be accurate to plus or minus 50% 19 times out of 20.
5 tblsp butter (no you can’t use margarine – ever)
3 tblsp sugar
8-10 large ripe strawberries diced
6-8 good twists of the black pepper grinder
pinch of salt
4-5 large fresh basil leaves chopped
1/2 c dark rum
Melt butter and sugar over medium high heat until sugar begins to caramelize (just begins to brown)
Add strawberries, pepper, basil & rum. You could flambe at this point if you were really adventurous and have fire insurance.
Stir over heat for 3-4 minutes until strawberries are reduced and sauce has thickened.
Remove from heat.
Spoon sauce into small serving dish (I used a sushi plate). Add a spoonful of the labneh and top with a drizzle of the sauce. Serve with strawberries and a fresh basil leaf as garnish.
Everyone really enjoyed this. It is has many layers of flavour and is certainly not your average dessert. As one guest put it, “I’ve never tasted anything like this before but I really like it”
Try it and I think you will too.