Spice and Seasons – A yogurt based cheese – Lebneh

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This week earlier at a demo, I was adding cumin to some oil and a participant asked me whether they would pop. I explained to her that cumin gently sizzled, while it was mustard that did the popping. I explained to her that spices communicate to us in different tones; this is something that I do believe is true.

I also like to think that spices like anything else, react differently to environments and ingredients and to this end, we as cooks consciously shape and mold the environment of the spices sometimes instinctively and sometimes with careful and conscious planning till we find a result that we are comfortable with.

It is not unlike any other form of art where we work and vary a medium until we have the portrait and painting we desire.

To that end, let me talk about Lebneh or Lebni, a Middle Eastern kefir cheese that I love to use in dips and marinades in lieu of yogurt and cream. With a texture almost like cream fraiche and the deep tartness of lemon infused yogurt, this product offers me the rich binding consistency without much fuss and has all the benefits of natural yogurt.

In our neck of the woods, my preferred source for middle-eastern supplies is Shiraz grocery store. I will preface this preference by saying this store happens to be on my out and about errand route, but I have certainly found them to be fresh and full of things that transport me to what I think a Persian market is all about. I often head in to pick up saffron, lebneh, tea and other knick knacks that work.

So, yesterday our meal consisted of a simple assemble of a rich tasting dip, made with cucumbers, herbs and lebneh that I dished out with fresh and hot parathas. The dip might just be a little early, but will serve you well for the warmer days that I hope are soon on the horizon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Author

Rinku Bhattacharya, the Spices & Seasons blogger, is a daytime financial professional, who spends the rest of her time immersed in food. Rinku is the author of the blog, Spice Chronicles (formerly,Cooking in Westchester), where she shares her life experiences, original recipes that combine Indian spices with produce from her backyard and local farmers markets. Rinku is blessed with a gardener husband, who always surprises her with a prolific and fresh supply of produce to keep her creative instincts flowing. Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past six years. Rinku is also the author of the Bengali Five Spice Chronicles an award winning (Gourmand 2013) cookbook, that highlights and offers many simple Indian recipes off the beaten path. Her second cookbook, Spices and Seasons, uses the approach in this column and marries Indian flavors with local and seasonal produce. Rinku can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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