Sunday, May 15, 2011


Best Blog Tips

We're off to Whitehorse, Yukon on Tuesday, so I wanted to get this blog post out there before I get caught up in packing, etc..  I'm going to be teaching 2 vegan cooking classes at my friend Suat's amazing organic bakery in Whitehorse-- an Italian menu and a South American menu. (Yes, there are vegans in the Yukon!) Whitehorse is a beautiful, friendly place and we're looking forward to going there again!

But last week I was in the mood for Middle Eastern food and I have been wanting to make some vegan  labeneh spread. Labaneh is a drained yogurt spread that is a common food in the Middle East, eaten at any meal.

I knew that I didn't want to just drain soy yogurt because, for one thing, it's too expensive and, for another, even though I've learned to like the plain Nancy's soy yogurt (UPDATE, 2015: the best we can get around here, now that WholeSoy- sob!- is no more), it doesn't really have the same taste as dairy yogurt. I also wanted  something that was fairly quick to make-- I haven't had alot of time lately and I know that many of you probably don't either. And another thing-- I wanted it to taste RICH, like full-fat yogurt would.

So, I turned to my old stand-byes, extra-firm silken tofu and raw nuts. Squeezing the tofu in a cloth gives the mixture a firm texture. I didn't want to add lemon juice and thin it out too much, so I add a little soy yogurt and crushed vitamin C (ascorbic acid) for a little tang.  I added some probiotic powder, too, but that's optional. I didn't serve it for a couple of days, and I swear that even in the refrigerator, it acquired a more "yogurty" flavor!

The result was better than I had hoped for and, topped off with some really good olive oil and fragrant za'atar, served with fresh pita bread (recipe here), my guests made short work of it! I hope you like it!

Printable Recipe

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup    raw shelled Brazil nuts (my 1st choice), macadamia nuts or cashews  
1 12.3 ounce box    extra-firm silken tofu  
1/4 cup    of the most authentic-tasting vegan yogurt you can find
1/2 teaspoon    salt  
1/2 teaspoon    probiotic powder (optional)  
1/ 1000-2000 mg  vitamin C pill, crushed to a powder (for tanginess)  
 (place the pill on a flat surface and crush with the flat bottom of a bowl or plate, then crush any larger pieces left with the back of a spoon.)  
1/4 teaspoon    sugar  
Traditional topping:  
   olive oil  
   Za'tar (Levantine herb mixture of wild thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. The best I've ever had is Zatoun brand.)  Read about it at this blog post-- and there's a simple recipe if you want to make your own.
Place the nuts in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand while you prepare the tofu.

Crumble the silken tofu into a colander lined with a square of clean cotton sheeting or something similar (don't use cheap household cheesecloth-- the holes are to big!), with the cloth hanging over the side of the colander so that you have enough cloth to twist together at the top.

Gather the ends of the cloth together and twist and squeeze the cloth to extract as much water as you can from the tofu. After a few twists, open it up and scrape the tofu down to the bottom of the "bag" and twist again. With the ends of cloth twisted tightly and held in place, squeeze or press the bag-- anything to get as much water as possible out of the tofu.

Place the resulting tofu in a food processor or powerful blender. Drain the nuts well and pat dry and add them to the machine with the tofu, along with the other ingredients. Process or blend until as smooth as possible-- this may take several minutes.

Scrape the mixture into a wide, shallow bowl and spread it out evenly. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za'tar, too, if you like, or paprika, chopped fresh parsley or mint, etc.. Serve with Middle Eastern meals, pita or other flatbread, Greek olives, cucumbers and tomatoes, etc.
 Nutrition Facts (not counting the olive oil)
Nutrition (per 1/4 cup serving): 102.1 calories; 54% calories from fat; 6.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 195.9mg sodium; 163.7mg potassium; 5.3g carbohydrates; 0.5g fiber; 1.9g sugar; 4.8g net carbs; 6.6g protein; 2.5 points.

I served roasted beets with the following dressing at the same meal:
Roasted Beets with Pomegranate Molasses Dressing
Printable Recipe

Yield: 1 1/3 cups
My friend Jane told me she didn't really like beets, but she ended up eating seconds of  the beets with this dressing! PS: Read more about pomegranate molasses at this blog post.

Mix together all of the following ingredients:

1/2 cup vegan broth or water
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, crushed

 Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per 2 Tbs.): 48.3 calories; 44% calories from fat; 2.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 86.3mg sodium; 6.8mg potassium; 1.5g carbohydrates; 0.0g fiber; 1.2g sugar; 1.5g net carbs; 0.1g protein; 1.2 points.



Krishna said...

Wow, love the idea of serving this roasted beets - I generally labaneh purely with soy yoghurt (you get really good soy yoghurt here in UK in most supermarkets whereas silken tofu is harder to come by) but next time I'm definitely going to add a za'tar topping. Can't wait till the beets in my garden are ready so that I can try this - the dressing also looks so delicious.

The Preppy Vegan said...

Wow...can't wait to try this "yogurt". This reminds me that I need to order more probiotic powder!

kathyG said...

Am going to have to drive to the other side of the galaxy (that's what it feels like) to see if I can get my hands on some more pomegranate molasses so I can try those beets. Have been in the mood for roasted beets but needed an excuse...

I use citric acid powder when I want tang without liquid - it's in the baking isle of every supermarket here in Aus and quite affordable. Less fuss then crushing tablets.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Kathy, I think we have to go to a pharmacy for citric acid-- I used to have that. How much would you use in this-- about 1/4 tsp.?

Gauri Radha गौरी राधा said...

This sounds terrific.