Labneh with Fresh Lemony Herb Paste


1 medium whole bulb garlic, unpeeled

1 tsp. olive oil

1 c. commercial labneh*, or 1½ c. whole milk Greek Yogurt, drained overnight in refrigerator (wrap yogurt in cheesecloth and elevate it over a small bowl)

¼ tsp. coarse kosher salt 

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Pinch of freshly ground black pepper 

2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice 

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves 

½ c. fresh mint leaves 

wedge of fresh lemon flesh, peel and membrane removed or 2 tbsp. rinsed and coarsely chopped preserved lemon peel* 

½ tsp. finely minced medium-hot pepper (such as Serrano) optional 

¼ tsp. ground cumin 

c. olive oil 

Pita bread, for serving


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice off ¼-inch from top of garlic bulb (not the root end). Set bulb onto a double-thick piece of foil paper with cut side of garlic bulb facing up. Drizzle top of garlic with 1 tsp. olive oil. Enclose garlic by tightly gathering foil together around garlic bulb; place in the oven. 

Roast garlic about 45 minutes or until tender when gently squeezed. Remove garlic from oven, open foil packet and let garlic rest until cool enough to handle.

While garlic cools, season labneh with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stir in just a little bit of cool water until labneh is consistency of sour cream; set aside. 

Squeeze roasted garlic cloves out of their skins into a small food processor or into a mortar. Add, parsley, mint, lemon flesh or preserved lemon, minced chile, cumin and oil. Process lemon herb paste until smooth, or use a pestle to crush it. Add salt and pepper, to taste. 

Stir two-thirds of herb paste into labneh. Transfer labneh to a small serving bowl and drizzle the top with remaining herb mixture. Serve with fresh or toasted pita bread

Commercial labneh and preserved lemons may be found at Global Foods in Kirkwood.