This vegetarian main (vegan, if you ditch the labne) is a major crowd-pleaser. We served it at a pop-up dinner at the wonderful Floriole Bakery in Chicago and everyone was all: “This is crazy satisfying, I would never have thought to make this, you are brilliant geniuses of the first degree!” (Ok, everything is true except that last part.) Seriously, though, this is one of our favorite warming-hearty-savory-but-bright dinner dishes. Pro tip: Make extra spiced tomato sauce and use it for shakshuka!
1-1½ teaspoon harissa (depends on spice and strength)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground cumin
1 teaspoon coarsely ground coriander
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 26-ounce can of whole or crushed tomatoes
2 cups PLAIN labne (simply strained yogurt; no need to mix in any of the additional ingredients!)
¼ cup loose tea leaves (Oolong works well here)
Peel of 1 whole lemon and 1 whole orange
1 large pot
1 strainer (we use a steamer basket and it works great)
Cilantro, leaves picked and stems reserved
Cubes of stale bread
Salt and pepper
Spiced tomato sauce
1 large bunch of hearty winter greens (kale, chard, collards), chopped in large pieces or torn
If using dried beans: Soak the beans overnight. The next day, place in a large pot, cover with six inches of water, and add 1 teaspoon coarsely ground cumin, 1 teaspoon coarsely ground coriander and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until just tender, about 1½ – 2 hours, stirring regularly (and gently!) to aid in even cooking. Remove from the heat and let rest for another half-hour or so. Drain the beans and save the cooking liquid. Let the liquid rest for half an hour, or until the milky starch settles at the bottom, and then pour off and reserve the super flavorful liquid on top. That stuff is gold! Use it in place of or in addition to vegetable broth for a crazy savory flavor boost.
Make the tomato sauce: In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until golden (at least 5 minutes, maybe more). Add the harissa, cumin and coriander, stir, and let sizzle another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and salt, stir well, and cook for another minute or so. (Things should be smelling and looking rather delicious at this point.) Add the tomatoes (if using whole, crush well with your hands before adding), stir well and reduce heat a bit. Let it bubble away, stirring every so often, until all the excess liquid has evaporated from the sauce. Once this has happened, stir in a half-cup of water (or bean cooking liquid) and cook down again.
Make the labne: Add the tea leaves, lemon and orange peel to the pot and cover the mixture itself (not the top of the pot) with a foil tent. Heat the pot on medium-high until the tea mixture starts smoking, about 8 minutes (you’ll smell it before you see it). Remove the foil and add a few drops of water. Plop the labne into the strainer and spread it with a spatula, place the strainer over the smoking mixture, and cover the pot entirely with foil or a lid. Let it smoke on medium-high heat for about 7 minutes (it goes from not-smoky to smoky very quickly, so keep watch and taste often!). Remove the labne from the heat to let it cool and set, then sprinkle with salt and a stir through about a tablespoon of olive oil.
Chop the cilantro stems and puree with olive oil and a pinch of salt to make cilantro oil for garnishing. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer and reserve.
Toss the bread with a good glug of olive oil and a heavy sprinkling of salt and pepper, pop in the oven for a few minutes to toast, and then pulse in a food processor (or chop) into large, crunchy, coarse breadcrumbs.
Warm the spiced tomato sauce, thinning it out a bit with water or, even better, bean cooking liquid. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Stir in the cooked beans and greens and let the greens wilt. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and cilantro leaves, drizzled with cilantro oil, and finished with a dollop of smoked labne and a final bit of sea salt.