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Disclaimer: I was sent the labneh used in this recipe from Karoun Dairies for free. My thoughts and opinions on it are my own.

I’m sorry for all the review posts lately, you guys. But when someone sends you an email that says “Hey! It’s Mediterranean Diet Month, can we send you free cheese and yogurt to celebrate?”

As a full-blooded Italian, with Mediterranean blood coursing through your veins, you just can’t say no. It would be against your heritage, your upbringing, and everything your grandmother ever taught you about anything.  And so the only correct answer is YES, followed by a superfluous amount of exclamation marks.

Or risk being haunted indefinitely by relatives past. Obviously.

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So it was that I came home from a run two weeks ago to find a box of yogurt and cheese sitting on my doorstep (err…in the package room in my building).

Best. Surprise. Ever.

If we could somehow arrange for that to happen more often, I would do a lot more running. Truth.

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After inhaling a container of the Greek honey yogurt, which was kind of the best yogurt I’ve ever eaten in my life (think creamy in a way that makes your heart skip a beat), I had to figure out what to do with all of the rest of it.

Primarily the labneh, because while I can happily top anything and everything with feta cheese and can find exactly one trillion uses for Greek yogurt, labneh is kind of a mystery to me.  Not only have I never used it in a recipe before, but I’ve also never eaten it.  Ever.

As a food blogger, that necessitates a pretty big Shame.On.Me.

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Before I could decide what to make with it, however, I had to first figure out – what IS labneh?  Animal? Vegetable? Mineral?

Slightly salty Greek yogurt that has been strained so that it is a consistency about halfway between sour cream and cream cheese?

The latter. Definitely the latter.

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While it is most commonly incorporated into dips or just eaten plain, spread onto a piece of flatbread and topped with a bit of spice and olive oil, I knew that I wanted to do something a bit more involved with it.  You know, the kind of thing that would take all morning longer than I thought and make me just a teensy bit late to lab. (That’s how I roll.)

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Enter this pilaf, which consists of layer upon layer of amazing Middle Eastern flavor (and is totally worth postponing your experiments for).

On the bottom, we have a spinach and bulgur pilaf, which lends a bit of heartiness to the meal. This is topped with a bit of torn mint, tomatoes that have been roasted into a sweet spicy savory oblivion, cinnamon-infused caramelized onions, and the labneh, which kind of serves to cleanse your palate after each and every bite of all that intensely delicious flavor.

Definitely totally worthy of celebrating all that Mediterranean heritage I have in my bones. In fact, I daresay even the ghosts of my relatives past would be proud, and that is no easy feat.

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One year ago…Deep Dish Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping
Two years ago…Tofu in Green Chile, Mint and Cilantro Sauce with Sweet Potatoes and Cauliflower, Indian-Spiced Chickpeas with Rhubarb and Spinach, Sweet and Salty Brownies
Three years ago…Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Bittman’s Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Four years ago…Sweet Potato Carbonara, Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Curry

Bulgur and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh and Chili Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 4, adapted from 101 Cookbooks and Crazy Water Pickled Lemons

Ingredients
For the pilaf:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 6 oz bulgur wheat
  • 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • salt and black pepper
  • 11 oz baby spinach
  • leaves from a small bunch of mint, torn
  • 1 cup labneh

For the tomatoes:

  • 12 plum tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp harissa
  • 2 tsp soft dark brown sugar

For the onions:

  • 2 onions, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp soft brown sugar
  • juice of 1/2 small lemon

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and place them, cut side up, in a roasting pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, harissa, dark brown sugar, and salt and pepper. Pour this dressing over the tomatoes and mix in the pan to combine.  Cook for 40-45 minutes, until the tomatoes are wrinkly and sweet.
  2. For the pilaf, saute the chopped onion in the olive oil and a pinch of salt until it is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the bulgur to the pan along with the spinach. Pour in the broth and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
  3. For the caramelized onions, cook the onions in the oil over high heat so they become golden brown and crispy. In the last few minutes of cooking, add in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir it around until the sugar begins to melt and caramelize. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Layer the various components in a broad shallow baking dish, putting the pilaf first, followed by half the mint, the tomatoes, the rest of the mint, dollops of the labneh, and the caramelized onions. Serve.

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You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at http://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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58 Responses to Bulgur and Spinach Pilaf with Labneh and Chili Roasted Tomatoes

  1. Yeah, I don’t think I could say no to someone sending me cheese. That just sounds wrong. Love what you did with the labneh, I’ve never cooked with it either!

  2. Corina says:

    I love the sound of the chilli roasted tomatoes especially.

  3. Oh yum, Joanne. All those layers of deliciousness looks so awesome. Can’t wait to make this one… who needs a cookbook collection when I read your blog? :)

  4. Yasmeen says:

    How could I not love this? All the flavors of my youth in one page. Fantastic work Joanne.

  5. Mira says:

    This looks amaaaazing, thought I really have never even heard of labneh… but now I want to, so that I can make this dish! :)

  6. Kevin Lynch says:

    That is one tasty looking dish! I am really liking the roasted tomato topping with spicy harissa!

  7. The flavor combo in this pilaf sounds amazing! I love labne with just a good piece of bread, olive oil, and chili pepper flakes. Yum!

  8. london bakes says:

    This sounds really amazing – love the spice of those tomatoes, the creamy labneh and all that spinachy goodness underneath. Definitely excited to try this recipe!

  9. I’m totally cool with review posts, especially when you come up with stuff like this! Man, this looks crazy good!!

  10. You often use ingredients that I’ve never heard of or used before… Thanks for introducing me to new foods! I’d love to try this dish!!

  11. The balsamic harissa roasted tomatoes look fabulous! I can imagine all kinds of dishes they would be perfect with. The flavor! The colors! Okay. Now I will get around to reading about the pilaf. :) The whole thing is fabulous!

  12. This sounds and looks delicious! Love the photos of the tomatoes (reminds me that summer is SO CLOSE)! Yum :)

  13. Keep the reviews coming as long as you keep cooking like this! What an incredibly delicious meal. Those tomatoes have me drooling!

  14. SallyBR says:

    I am a labneh virgin, and now I want some… I bet it will be hard to find here, see what you did to me?

    unfair, very unfair… :-)

  15. Foodycat says:

    I am honestly shocked that you hadn’t tried labneh before! It is SO easy to make and so delicious. Try marinading some! This pilaf looks wonderful.

  16. sandra says:

    This is an interesting melange of flavors. I have never heard of labneh either, but I have had the German version, kwark, which is delicious, so I am sure this is just as good.

  17. oh boy, the roasted tomatoes, spinach bulgur, labneh… surely the makings of a fabulous dish! and can’t forget the caramelized onions!!

  18. MAN do you really know how to make eating wholesome look so damn mouthwatering, Joanne! This is knocking my socks off, and it’s not even 10am here in Austin! Is it lunch time yet?

  19. Patsy K says:

    I’ve never had labneh, but after seeing this recipe I am going to seek it out! This dish looks too good to pass up!

  20. Jessie says:

    If someone sent me an email asking if I wanted free cheese, I’d be like heck YES. That’s a jackpot that would put a smile on my face at the end of any day :) I’ve never even heard of labneh before, which I am ashamed about. It sounds incredible, though, especially in this spinach pilaf! Gorgeous food and gorgeous photography as always, Joanne!

  21. Monica says:

    Those tomatoes look amazing! Very creative recipe, with the labneh, which I only recently heard about and have (obviously) not tried.

  22. Pam says:

    I love getting goodies in the mail too. This looks over-the-top amazing! Honestly, those onions on top have me drooling.

  23. Dixya says:

    this will be a perfect meatless Monday. I have never tried a real labneh but made it once at home and really really like that – dont know still how real labneh tastes though.

  24. Wow this looks amazing! Love all the layers and flavors. Free food is always a good thing :)

  25. Eileen says:

    Isn’t labneh amazing?? I have a friend who grew up in Saudia Arabia, and when she discovered the there was labneh available at our local Persian market–you have never seen such excitement. It’s SO GOOD. Anywhere you might use sour cream, you should try it. And I love the idea of combining labneh with beautiful roasted veg and fluffy pilaf!

  26. I always feel like all my review posts come right on top of each other. That’s just how it happens. Fun to learn a little about Labneh. I’ve been thinking about making it since I saw it in Jerusalem. Those roasted tomatoes look amazing.

  27. marie says:

    No, no, no, you should feel no shame whatsoever, you churn out so many fabulous recipes it makes my head spin. I could eat all those roasted tomatoes plain they look so good!

  28. Pam says:

    Wow! This is a great dish to try and your pics are awesome!

  29. Honey says:

    this looks soooooo delicious. I’m not Italian and I would take all the free stuff. LOVE the MEditerranean DIet.

  30. This dish just says spring/summer to me. The tomatoes look so inviting. I’m sure it was tasty!

  31. Guru Uru says:

    Why risk being haunted right? Oh well looks like I will have to make this scrumptious dish too ;)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  32. Hangs her head in shame..(I’d never heard of Labneh).

  33. Beth says:

    I might take up running, too, if I came home to surprises like that!

  34. That dish looks amazing Joanne – those are all flavors I love so much!

  35. My friend taught me how to make labneh last year and I couldn’t get enough of it. SO delicious. :-) I love how you used it here. :-)

  36. Amy says:

    This last week has found me with cookies, Greek Yogurt (different brand), frozen fish, and a VitaMix blender (HELLO) sitting on my front porch. I love my job. Let’s see, caramelized onions, spinach, and roasted tomatoes? Yes, please.

  37. P says:

    I am so glad my friend’s family is Mediterranean…they seriously make the best Mediterranean food ever, beyond the usual mainstream stuff like hummus and tahini. Labneh is a staple for them!

  38. My dinner looks so…boring compared to this! *sigh* I feel inadequate now.

  39. Gwen says:

    Wow! This is kindof perfect in every way! Gotta make this one! Also, gotta look into this whole labneh thing! Yummy!
    P.S. You don’t want to mess around with upsetting the ghosts of your ancestors! ;}

  40. Reeni says:

    You did the labneh proud! Every layer looks incredible on its own! Putting them together is creating a masterpiece. Like cream cheese? I need this.

  41. As a fellow lover of Mediterranean flavors, I am so excited for this. What a wonderful meal! Your relatives would definitely be proud.

  42. Hotly Spiced says:

    Those tomatoes look really good. And isn’t it lovely to come home and find a surprise package at the door xx

  43. Ok, this dish is hooting and hollering for me to make it NOW!!! Love all those tomatoes!

  44. Dining Alone says:

    I have never had labneh, but this recipe looks delicious. I love your tomato photos also.

  45. Monet says:

    Gorgeous! I love all the flavors and textures here. I wish I had made this tonight (so I could bring it to work tomorrow…I only have three more days!) I’m all about Mediterranean food too. We had some tonight!

  46. That Girl says:

    I don’t mind the reviews. I’d kill for someone to send me free cheese!

  47. You go girl, I wouldn’t be turning down the Greek yogurt, feta and lebneh either-fabulous! As is your pilaf!

  48. Kari says:

    I’d be worried about you if you turned the review products down :) And when you do such great things with them – keep them coming!

  49. Debbie says:

    I haven’t been sent any products in a while but it is always fun to get them and try them. Like all your dishes Joanne, this one looks wonderful!

  50. Sounds really delicious – this will be a great dish for tomato season. I love lebnah – thick and yummy!

  51. yum – I love mediterranean flavors this looks delish!

  52. Chris says:

    I have never heard of labneh before but now I’m craving trying it mixed with some other stuff and put into some jalapenos for smoking.

  53. Catherine says:

    Dear Joanne, Something I would definitely enjoy. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

  54. I’m so curious to try this labneh now, I’ve never heard of it either but from your description it sounds like it would have so many delicious uses – this dish being one of them!

  55. This is delicious looking Joanne. You made the perfect dish with your gifts

  56. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    This looks so incredibly delicious! I am in love with this recipe :)

  57. Laura says:

    OK the minute I saw the onions I wanted to jump into my screen and eat it. The description only solidified that. Pinning now.

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