- September 10, 2009 7:44 AM |
- By Elizabeth Bridge
By Elizabeth Bridge, CBC Digital Archives
I had a "plate o' shrimp" moment recently. (For the uninitiated, this is a reference from the 1984 movie Repo Man. Without going into too much detail, "plate o' shrimp" means a moment of synchronicity, or a freaky coincidence.)
I was on a short vacation with a day in Montreal (and, of course, I stopped on St. Viateur for a bagel fix). My husband has family there, and we took some time to visit with his aunt, a woman I had met only once before.
Among the snacks she offered was a tasty white spread, strewn with black olives and served with veggies and pita for dipping. Intrigued by the flavour, I asked her what it was. A Middle Eastern cheese, she said, mixed with a spice blend that she spelled out for me: za'atar. The cheese, she said, came from a local shop, but when she lived in a remote part of Quebec she'd make her own by straining plain yogurt. Then she pronounced the name, which to my ears — perhaps because of her francophone accent — sounded something like l'abanaye. I pledged to find it as soon as I could.
Plain yogurt is the first step in making a tasty Middle Eastern dip.
(Skip Peterson/Associated Press)
Here's the plate o' shrimp part. Later that day, in the airport on the way home, I bought the New Yorker to read on the plane. As I paged through it, my eye fell on a review of a restaurant where "the jalapenos and the harissas and the labnehs and the lasagnas get along fine." Labneh! I suppose I would have hit on the correct spelling on my own eventually. But with this happy coincidence I was able to do a quick Google search to find the method for making labneh, and it can't be easier.
All you do is mix two cups of plain yogurt (the full-fat kind, please) with a dash of salt. Pour into several layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter set in a strainer, and place over a bowl to catch the protein-rich liquid, or whey. Put the works in the fridge, and after a day or two you'll have labneh.
But that's only half the equation. Get your hands on some za'atar – a mixture of dried thyme, oregano and marjoram, plus salt, sesame seeds and sometimes sumac. (I found the blend at my local spice dealer.) Mix a teaspoon or more with the labneh, stir in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and toss a few black olives on top. Serve with pita triangles and crudites. After years of enjoying baba ghanoush and hummus, I can't believe it took me this long to hear about labneh and za'atar.
Have you ever had a food-related moment of synchronicity?
All News blogs
- Food in times of sorrow
- In spring, a doctor discovered that my grandfather had glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest and most aggressive primary brain tumour. As he battled the tumour over the following months, it was food that connected the family and allowed him to still 'live' instead of merely survive. Later on,... Continue reading this post
- Going deep in Chicago
- No, I’m not talking the Chicago Cubs, I’m talking Pizzaria Uno, creator of the original deep dish pizza.... Continue reading this post
- Q&A with Khalil Akhtar, host of The Main Ingredient
- The Main Ingredient is one of CBC Radio's new summer programs. It's an inside look on the food we grow, buy and eat. In a Q&A, host Khalil Akhtar took the time to discuss his relationship with food and why... Continue reading this post