LUSCIOUS LABNE

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I love the sour, tangy, savory taste of labne, the middle-eastern strained yogurt. In Turkey it is usually served as a meze dish at the beginning of a meal, drizzled with olive oil and served with flatbread. Labne is basically yogurt that has been salted and strained to remove the whey. It was traditionally used in eastern Mediterranean cooking because the higher fat content wouldn’t curdle at high temperatures in cooking.

It’s a cinch to make, just line a colander with cheesecloth, add yogurt that has been mixed with salt, (1/4 teas. per cup) put the colander over a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. In just a couple days the yogurt will shed it’s whey and condense into a consistency similar to mascarpone. The best type of yogurt to use is strained greek-style yogurt, whole milk or 2%.

Usually I serve labne spread on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with hot or smoked paprika, served with pita bread or crudities. Perhaps my Sister in Istanbul has some input on the uses in Turkey beyond meze dishes…
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I decided to experiment with labne in baking to see how it would hold up to high temperatures in a pastry crust. The crostata pastry recipe I use is Judy Roger’s rough pastry. Late August/September is plum season in the northeast, and poaching the plums in the sweet tea liquid takes care of the slightly unripe ones. Be sure and let the poaching liquid cool a bit so the plums don’t cook in it.
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Crostata with tea soaked plums, labne and pistachios

1 recipe Judy Rodger’s rough pastry

14 Italian plums, halved pitted

4 black tea bags

4 strips of lemon rind

4 T. sugar

¾ cup labne mixed with 2 T honey

½ cup chopped pistachios

1 egg yolk

Boil 2 cups water, put in tea bags, 2 T sugar and lemon rind. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm and add plums to soak for at least one hour.

Roll out crostata dough in a rectangle or circle and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the labne in the middle, 2 inches from the edge of the pastry. Place the plums on the labne, sprinkle with the remaining 2 T sugar and pistachios. Turn in the edges and brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg yolk. Bake at 425 for 40 to 45 minutes..
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