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This is the best dessert I have ever made. I had family over about a month ago and hadn’t really planned for a dessert. People were eating a lot and there seemed to be a possibility that food would be gone before the appetites were. I figured I’d better throw something together quick. We had a nice ripe pineapple and I love grilled pineapple. Of course I couldn’t -just- grill pineapple. When I grill pineapple, I like to grind some fresh ground black pepper on to each side. If you look back to my strawberries post, you’ll see I’m a fan of fruit & pepper. This is tasty on it’s own, but I needed something to make it a dessert to remember. I thought I could make a quick caramel sauce and serve it with yogurt. That would be pretty good. But not wow good. I poked my head into my spice cabinet and started smelling spice bottles. The second bottle I opened was coriander seed. To be honest, I’m not even sure why we have coriander seed. I don’t think I’ve ever used it. Maybe in a curry. Maybe. You may not be familiar with coriander, but you are almost certainly familiar with the plants other name, cilantro. I’m one of those people that isn’t fond of cilantro. In small amounts it’s ok but it can really be overpowering to me. I took an online test to see if I’m a “supertaster” but if I am, it’s mostly to bitter.The test said I wouldn’t like coffee so basically it’s a useless test.

Anyways. On to coriander seed. (it’s actually ground, dried fruit and not a seed at all but that’s what it’s called) Completely different taste and smell. What it smells -like- I can’t really say. Floral, fruity, nutty? Go smell some. For some reason this just seemed like the thing to add to my caramel sauce. That and rum.

Pepper Grilled Pineapple

Peel & core 1/2 ripe pineapple. Cut into 3/4″ thick slices

sprinkle freshly ground coarse black pepper on each side

Grill on BBQ over high heat for about 3 minutes a side until warmed through and you have some nice grill marks

Coriander Seed Rum Caramel Sauce*

1/4c butter (sorry no margarine allowed)

1/4 c granulated sugar (I used organic cane)

2 tblsp dark maple syrup

2 tsp ground coriander seed

1/2 tsp nutmeg (a pinch actually)

Pinch of salt

50ml dark rum (a free sample/airplane bottle size)

*as with all my recipes these amounts are best guesses. Your mileage may vary.

Combine all ingredients except rum in a shallow saucepan and heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is melted. Boil mixture for 1 minute until sugar starts to thicken and turn brown (err…you know -caramel- coloured)

Add rum & stir. (At this point you could probably flambe but I haven’t checked the fire extinguisher for a while)

Serve the pineapple over vanilla yogurt and spoon sauce over the pineapple. It would also be great with vanilla bean ice cream. Serves about 6.

I’ve now served this twice, and the response from everyone is basically, ” I’ve never tasted anything like it but I love it!”

Coriander. Who knew.

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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.

Labneh (greek yogurt cheese)

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