I’ve been eternally fond of Middle Eastern food ever since my hippie-dippie 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 Rodin, I realized that Middle Eastern cusine 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 housemade 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.
- 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.
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