When we were in Israel a few years ago, some friends invited us for a pita and labne party in the their backyard on their moshav. They cooked the pitas on a saaj (looks like an inverted wok) over an open fire. These pitas were the most delicious we'd ever had! Labne (a soft yogurt cheese) was served to smear onto the pita along with za'atar (a spice blend found in Middle Eastern markets of sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, oregano and salt). Well, after that, we had to have a saaj and our friends graciously gave us one the next day to carry home.
Since then we've used the saaj countless times over a fire in our backyard. It's not necessary to have one to make delicious pita, though. A hot oven works well, too. I tried making labne with different yogurts and found I like whole milk Greek yogurt best for it. We love zhug (a spicy chili salsa) and I've added it to the combination, as well. It's traditionally made with cilantro but I make it with parsley.
This has become our favorite portable sandwich, easy to roll up and eat on the go. —BlueKaleRoad
Labne and Zhug
1 1/2 cups
whole milk Greek yogurt
Italian parsley, roughly chopped
fresh chiles, such as serranos or jalapenos, roughly chopped
Spoon the yogurt into a fine meshed yogurt strainer (or into some cheesecloth and tie up) and set over a bowl in the refrigerator to drain for 24 hours. The next day, stir the salt and olive oil into the yogurt and serve in a small bowl with additional olive oil drizzled on top.
In the bowl of a food processor, whiz the parsley, chiles, garlic, salt, pepper and a few tablespoons of the olive oil together. A green paste will form. Add more olive oil if it seems dry. Taste for salt and pepper. Store in a glass jar with a thin layer of olive oil on top. Keeps in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Delicious with eggs or in soup, too!
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast with the sugar in the warm water. Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the salt and olive oil. Then add the flour one cup at a time and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together when you can switch to kneading with your hands. Add flour until a nice dough forms (you may not need all of it). Knead on a floured board until smooth. Put dough back into the bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch the dough down and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 6-inch circle. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a piece of parchment on a baking sheet and put pan in oven to get hot.
Transfer 4 of the pitas to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes. Repeat with remaining pitas.
Serve the pitas with bowls of labne, zhug and za'atar for sprinkling. Or, smear labne on pita, add a dollop of zhug and dusting of za'atar, roll up and off you go!
I am a passionate home cook for my family and friends. I recently started writing a food blog (www.bluekaleroad.com) and love creating new recipes, writing about food and sharing stories. We are part of a CSA and really appreciate all the terrific produce grown in the Seattle area. In a continued effort to eat locally, we started raising backyard chickens (love our little flock!) and are enjoying the beautiful, fresh eggs. The Food52 community is inspiring and I find myself glued to the site checking out delicious recipes!