Bright crimson to deep carmine local strawberries are at their peak. Please do yourself a favor and stop by your local farmer’s market or roadside stand or pick-your-own farm to get your own berries before they are all gone. It is a sweet short season not to be missed.
Have you ever made labnah, or yogurt cheese? If you have then you will know what I am talking about when I say it is the easiest cheese to make requiring no special skills or ingredients other than a good plain Greek yogurt and sea salt. I first encountered Labnah in Mexico years ago and have loved it ever since. Tart and just a bit salty it is the perfect foil for sugared fresh strawberries.
Cheesecloth, string and a bowl are all the tools needed and 24 hours to drain. The liquid drips out leaving a firm creamy, spreadable cheese. I have, in the past, added fresh herbs for a savory spread or raw sugar for sweetness.
Labnah ready to eat along with berries and baguette slices which I like toasted.
I didn’t sugar the berries ahead of time as I did not want them to “water out” and lose their firmness. I also really enjoy the crunch of raw sugar. You can use as much or as little sugar as you like.
Toasted baguette slices smeared with labnah and topped with fresh Tennessee strawberry slices and raw sugar is either the perfect dessert, snack or lunch. Textural, crunchy, just sweet enough with the tart-saltiness of the labnah. Treat yourself. It’s as Easy-As-This.
Spring Strawberries and Yogurt Cheese (Labnah) on Toasted Baguette
- I quart of plain Greek Yogurt
- Sea salt flakes such as Maldon
- 3 cups of fresh, local strawberries preferably
- 1/4 cup raw sugar
- Baguette slices
- You will need cheesecloth and kitchen string
- Fold a length of cheesecloth to make three layers. Cut into a large square about 16-18 inches. Fit layered cheesecloth square down into a bowl large enough to hold 1 quart of yogurt.
- Stir 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes into the yogurt mixing well.
- Scrape the yogurt into the bowl lined with cheesecloth. Gather up the edges, twist the cloth and tie with kitchen string. You will want to have enough of a “tail” of cheesecloth to suspend over the bowl in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow all the liquid to drip out of the yogurt creating a spreadable “cheese”. (You may have to be inventive in figuring a way to suspend cheesecloth over bowl as I had to be. I wedged the fabric at the top between two refrigerator trays and set the bowl underneath. You will figure out your own way.)
- Store yogurt cheese/labnah in an airtight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
- Toast baguette slices. Set aside.
- Rinse and drain fresh berries. Remove the cap and slice. Sprinkle with raw sugar to suit your taste.
- Smear baguette toast with labnah, top with sugared berries, adding more sugar for crunch if you like. Eat. Enjoy. It is as easy-as-that.
Teresa Blackburn. http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com