lab·neh | ˈlebnā | (noun)
Creamy, thick Middle Eastern style strained yogurt. Typically served with savory garnishes as a dip or spread.
This tangy, smooth, creamy dip can be found at most Middle Eastern restaurants sandwiched on the menu between hummus and baba ghanoush. While it tastes great with just a little drizzle of EVOO, there are truly endless possibilities to dress it up.
If you are trying to branch out and explore more Middle Eastern dishes at home this is probably the easiest one you can make. Basically foolproof. Before you run to the fridge and grab the yogurt you use in your fruit parfait, there is a right and wrong yogurt for this. DO use thick whole milk, full fat, Greek yogurt. I cannot emphasize this enough. DON’T use flavored yogurt or plant-based vegan yogurt.
Some of you are probably sitting here saying cool I like labneh… but what is harissa? I looked around online to get just the right description. All I have to say is NO it is not the “ketchup of North Africa and the Middle East”. I can see where that analogy came from. Its red, its a condiment, but would I dip my fries in it? No.
Harissa is a hot pepper chili paste made with red peppers, chilis, lemon, garlic, and an array of warm earthy spices. While it is easy to make at home, this “paste” has become increasingly popular over the past few years and can be found in “non-speciality” grocery stores (not all of them, but check Whole Foods or Trader Joes). Think mild in heat (although you can definitely find ones that are hotter than others), BOLD in flavor. Other uses for harissa? Well just about anything. I use it to marinate meat, throw a dollop in hummus, hell even add it to pasta sauce to give it depth of flavor.
Harissa + Tomatoes + Roasting for 25 min = a whole lot of flavor. There is something about harissa + the juice from popped roasted tomatoes. It’s a little spicy, a little sweet from the tomatoes, dare I use the word umami?
I found these baby vine cherry tomatoes at Whole Foods, although I know how hard they are to come by especially off season. If all you can find are regular cherry tomatoes use those!