It felt like it had been a while, so I made you a salad. With fragrant za’atar roasted carrots, curly + gorgeous frisée, blood orange dressing, avocado and some raw and vegan cashew labneh on the side. Yes! That delightfully thick middle eastern yogurt-cheese that brings the dreaminess to every food it touches–all plant based and vibed out for your enjoyment. I’m so excited to share this one with you.
I know last week I was talking about baking on a Saturday night like the old lady I can sometimes be, but please rest assured that I am somewhat versed in the ways of wildin’ out. When the lovely Elenore from Earthsprout emailed me and a bunch of wonderful bloggers about a week-long party put on by her and Sarah of My New Roots, all centered on fermented foods, I started to think about the possibilities for some outright uninhibited adventures in my kitchen.
As a practice, fermentation is a fun thing to acquaint your vegetables, nuts, beans etc with. It brings a whole new dimension of flavour and as a bonus: it’s rather empowering to do it all yourself/witness nature just doing its thing. Kimchi, vinegar, soy sauce, miso, wine, beer, kombucha, tempeh, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, yogurt… all of those tasty things are crawling with make-your-belly-happy bacteria. If you want to read a little more about fermented goodies for your health, check out Elenore and Sarah‘s posts. It’s time to populate the gut!
I’ve made kimchi, sourdough and sauerkraut a bunch of times (nerd alert! I even gave a sauerkraut making demo to a bunch of students at the culinary school I attended with one of those wrap-around-the-head-mics), but I wanted to try something a bit different. I love having a batch of cashew cream on hand for savoury applications. I started thinking about making it into yogurt… and then making the homemade cashew yogurt into labneh–that amazing drained yogurt that is so thick, tart and perfect in the corner of a mezze plate.
So I tried a batch with foggy expectations and was so excited when it turned out on the first go. I let the cashew cream come alive in a warm place for a full 36 hours for the yogurt stage. It got properly sour, so I set to work on draining it for the labneh treatment. The results were so thick and creamy, the rich taste of cashews coming through in a pleasant and fatty way, all punctuated by a big squeeze of lemon juice. Rather indulgent.
The rest of this winter salad is a breeze to scheme up. I roasted some pretty heirloom carrots in za’atar, that pungent, sharp and warm middle eastern spice blend (although it is based in the cultivation of dried and powdered za’atar bushes that grow wild in mountainous regions of the middle east), tossed them with some frisée for a whisper of bitterness, and a light blood orange and olive oil dressing, Some creamy avocado and a scoop of the cashew labneh complete the plate. This salad = pure wildin’ out. Go crazy with it, friends :)
za’atar roasted carrot salad with frisée, blood orange dressing + vegan cashew labneh
notes: If you can’t be bothered to make some cashew-based labneh at home (takes 2-3 full days), feel free to drain 1 cup of your favourite plain yogurt (goat, coconut, sheep, soy, cow etc) overnight with the juice of half a lemon and a sprinkle of salt (don’t stir it up!). A nice spoonful of Greek-style yogurt or Icelandic skyr would be great too.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours
scant 1/2 cup water
pinch of sea salt
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 lb carrots, washed + trimmed
2 tsp za’atar
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 head of frisée, cored, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
juice of 1 blood orange
1 ripe avocado
salt + pepper
Start by making the cashew yogurt: combine the cashews and water in the pitcher of a blender. Blend on high for a few minutes, scraping the sides down here and there. Purée the cashews and scant 1/2 cup of water until a smooth paste forms.
Scrape the cashew cream into a sterilized jar. Cover the jar with a couple layers of cheese cloth and secure it at the top with a rubber band. Set the jar in a warm spot (not too warm) for 24-36 hours or until the mix has started to sour. I put my jar in the boiler room of the house and it was ready almost two days later. Check it every 5-8 hours if you can. There should be some separation happening in the jar. If you see any mold on the surface, throw it out and start again.
Make the yogurt into labneh: Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Line the strainer with a paper towel or coffee filter. Scrape the cashew yogurt into the paper towel lined strainer. Squeeze the lemon over top and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Don’t stir it in! Cover the bowl and strainer with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight. The resulting labneh should be quite thick and it should have indentations from the paper towel. It is now ready to eat.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the carrots into 2-3 inch lenths, then cut those lengths into halves or quarters–depending on the thickness of your carrots. Toss the carrot batons with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, the za-atar, salt and pepper. Arrange them on a large baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes. They should be lightly browned and tender. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.
While the carrots are roasting and cooling, trim up the frisée and place it in a large bowl. Peel and pit the avocado, cut it into quarters and set aside.
Add the roasted carrots to the frisée. Squeeze the blood orange over top and add the remaining extra virgin olive oil to the salad. Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste and toss it all together. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Add a quarter of the avocado and a dollop of labneh to each plate. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the labneh and give it a finishing sprinkle of za’atar if you like.
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