The greatest benefit of blogging is that it has allowed me to meet wonderful people from around the globe.
For instance, I met Sylva Titizian, an Armenian-Lebanese, whose family settled in Kessab (Syria), and who now is an American living in California. She generously shared her grandmother’s recipe for a traditional cheese, known in Lebanon as shanklish and in Armenian as surquig.
Sylvia told me that the local folks in Kessab were self-sufficient, surviving in large part by farming their land and orchards and raising their livestock. She remembers her grandmother milking the cow, making yogurt and this cheese. Every family used their own spice mix to coat the cheese with and this is her family’s mixture. The cheese is usually left to mature for several weeks but can be consumed sooner.
Shanklish tastes dry and salty and pungent. It is served as a mezze with fresh veggies in Lebanon, crumbled in the middle of the plate and surrounded with chopped onions, diced tomatoes and fresh herbs, with a basket of pita bread on the side.
4 pounds of yogurt, preferably whole-milk
Spice mix: 1 TBsp. oregano, 2 TBsp. Aleppo pepper (or chipotle or chili or paprika), 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 TBsp salt. All the spices are ground.
- Pour the yogurt in a large pot. Set it on medium heat and let it cook. In the meantime, place the spices in a bowl and mix them with a wire whisk.
- As soon as the yogurt starts forming curds, set aside and pour into a calico bag or a large bowl over which you set a sieve lined with several layer of paper towels or cheesecloth. Let the yogurt drain for a few hours. When firmed-up, transfer it to a bowl and mix in half the spice mixture.
- Form into baseball-sized balls and let it dry out outside on a hot day or in the fridge, set on paper-towels, changing the towels every time they get all soaked. This could take several days.
- When the cheese balls are firm and rather dry, coat them with the spice mixture on the outside. Keep in the fridge covered and serve each ball crumbled-up in a salad or with crackers or pita.
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