Labneh Ice Cream with Pistachio-Sesame Brittle
I’ve been eternally fond of Middle Eastern food ever since my hippie days of spreading hummus on honey-sweetened whole wheat pita bread topped with alfalfa sprouts. Once I discovered the cookbooks written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Anissa Helou and Claudia Roden, I realized that Middle Eastern cuisine is a spectacular world of vibrant foods seasoned with herbs like za’atar, sumac and saffron; drizzled with olive oil or nutty tahini; and served with tangy labneh (a heavenly dive into a thick cloud of house-made cheese). I’ve been fortunate to visit the Middle East, but you can get a taste of the region’s signature flavors just by visiting your nearest Middle Eastern grocer. Most sell labneh, which is soft enough to spread on bread (and is especially delicious with olive oil and za’atar), but is sometimes rolled into tight, bite-size rounds. Because store-bought labneh varies in thickness and richness, for this recipe I advise you to make your own, which is easy.
- Ice Cream
- 2½ cups homemade labneh (see note) or plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons good flavored honey, slightly warmed
- ¼ cup sugar
- Pinch of kosher or sea salt
- Pistachio-Sesame Brittle
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons shelled pistachios
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- ½ cup sugar
- To make the ice cream, whisk together the labneh, cream, honey, sugar and salt. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.
- To make the pistachio sesame brittle, line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or grease it lightly with vegetable oil. Mix the pistachios and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Spread the sugar in a medium, heavy bottomed skillet and cook over medium heat, watching it carefully. When it begins to liquefy and darken at the edges, use a heatproof spatula to stir it very gently, encouraging the liquefied sugar around the edges to moisten and melt the sugar crystals in the center. Tilt the pan and stir gently until all the sugar is melted and the caramel begins to smoke.
- Once it has a deep golden color, remove it from the heat and immediately stir in the nuts and seeds. Scrape the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it with a spatula into an even layer. Let cool completely. Once cooled, chop the brittle into bite-size pieces with a chef ’s knife. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
- Freeze the labneh mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Note: Make your own labneh by straining 1 quart plain whole milk yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer set over a deep bowl for 4 hours in the refrigerator, but no longer. The labneh can be made up to 2 days in advance.
- Variation: Add a few drops of orange flower water or rose water to the labneh mixture just before freezing, or sprinkle a few drops on top. You can also reserve a little of the chopped brittle to sprinkle on the top of the ice cream when serving.
- Perfect Pairings: Drizzle scoops with chamomile infused honey: Warm ½ cup honey with 2 teaspoons crushed dried chamomile flowers. Remove from the heat and let steep for 15 minutes, or until the flavor is to your satisfaction. Rewarm the honey and strain out the chamomile. Chamomile flowers can be found at natural food stores or Middle Eastern markets. Another option is to replace the chamomile with a little pinch of saffron threads. No need to strain out the saffron threads, which will add a nice color contrast to the flavored honey.
- Reprinted with permission from The Perfect Scoop Revised and Updated, copyright © 2018 by David Lebovitz. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2018 by Ed Anderson