This luscious dip was born after an unexpected guest showed up at my door on a Monday afternoon. Hospitality is a virtue in my family—growing up, I always enjoyed seeing my parents hosting. They taught me to always serve the best, and anything other than that is unacceptable. I still live by that rule. But the funny thing is, sometimes all you have around are yogurt and tomatoes. Well, challenge accepted.
I swirled yogurt on a plate, then topped it with olive oil, za’atar, sumac, and flaky salt. Next: chopped heirloom tomatoes, mixed with even more olive oil and basil from my mediocre balcony garden. I served the two starters with crostini, and it was surprisingly perfect. This recipe is inspired by that on-a-whim meal: tomatoes sizzled with garlic and cumin seeds, then poured in the center of cold, creamy labneh. It’s simple but oh-so-memorable. —Carolina Gelen
Add the tomato, oil, garlic, lemon peel, vinegar, pepper, cumin seeds, hot pepper, and salt to a pot over high heat. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, until saucy and the tomatoes are softened. Remove from the heat and remove the lemon peels.
Swirl the labneh (or yogurt or sour cream) on a plate. Top with the hot tomato mixture. Sprinkle herbs and or flowers, then serve with bread.
Carolina is a resident at Food52. She's also one of the hosts of Choose Your Own Recipe Adventure, our YouTube show where our Food52 readers pick the ingredients and techniques for a brand new recipe. Carolina recently immigrated to the U.S. from Transylvania, a place she spent most of her life. She continues to get inspired by the classic Romanian and Hungarian foods she was raised on, creating approachable, colorful, and fun recipes. For more cooking ideas and candid moments, check out her Instagram @carolinagelen.