Cooking

Secret Weapon: Green Goddess with Labneh

Give a Middle Eastern twist to the condiment that works on everything
Photo: Samesa
How to Make Green Goddess with Labneh

Brothers Max and Eli Sussman grew up in the 90s, when creamy green goddess dressing was all the rage. While rolling out the menu for Samesa—their Brooklyn restaurant that pays homage to casual Middle Eastern food counters and trucks, and falafel stands—they looked to recreate the nostalgic memory of that dreamy dressing. But they also wanted one that could stand up to hearty, crunchy salads and complement the rest of their menu's ingredients.

"I would be lying if I said that there wasn't a part of us that wasn't trying to emulate that 90s green goddess dressing a little bit," Max admits of the fresh chive, parsley, dill and tarragon that make up the fresh herb base. But then the brothers give it a Samesa spin with olive oil, buttermilk and labneh—yogurt cheese—to add a particularly rich texture (get the recipe). White pepper and garlic add bite, and the whole lot brightens with a hefty dose of lemon. "This gives you the feeling of being healthy, but it's essentially green ranch dressing," he says. 

Once blended, the dressing has a fresh springtime look, green from the various herbs but mellowed out by tarragon. Three kinds of fat give it a richness that's cut by acid before the various herbs hit, with tarragon hitting last.

"That's why it's a really cool dressing—people have their own versions, but you never know what it's going to taste like," Max says of their final product. That is, until you try it, which you can do at Samesa on an "homage to a big hippie salad" of kale, cucumbers, chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts and crunchy pita chips. But this Secret Weapon extends far beyond sprouts and salad. Here are a few ways the brothers suggest you go green at home.

The Ketchup of Breakfast

"Eggs are neutral in the grand scheme of things," Max says. This makes breakfast an ideal place to play with the flavor-packed dressing. For a simple application, just serve as a garnish for eggs cooked your favorite way. Or when making a frittata, add about a quarter cup of dressing for every eight eggs—"that's enough so you can really taste it"—and any other fresh ingredients to please. You can also use it to top a kuku, a Persian dish in which egg is used to bind the ingredients (like mounds of fresh herbs) together rather than stand on its own.

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For a twist on a classic, use the green goddess in place of hollandaise for poached eggs or eggs Benedict. "When you put hollandaise on a poached egg, you're not adding contrast," Max explains. "So you need to add other parts of a dish for flavor, contrast and color. Use this, and you get a contrast of colors and brightness from the herbs."

Dip It

"I'm trying to imagine a vegetable that would not taste good with this. And I can't," Max says. For impressive crudités with a burst of something special, arrange peppers of any color, broccoli, celery, carrots, cucumber and pickles of any sort. If desired, add a little more labneh to the dressing for "maximum dip coverage." Garnish with more of the same fresh herbs used in the dressing and a drizzle of olive oil. "Then you're clear to proceed with dipping vegetables." 

Super Salad Dressing 

"It's a pretty hearty dressing," Max says of his Secret Weapon recipe's classic purpose. "It's not what I would call delicate." 

So don't try the dressing on flimsy greens, which will wilt under the pressure. Instead, pour it over something sturdy like kale—something with heft, body and crunch. Massage it in to break down the texture a bit, then once that base is set, go nuts with crunchy toppings and hearty proteins. This dressing can take them all on. 

Not-Lame Chicken Salad 

"Chicken salad is really boring," Max claims of the traditional bird-and-mayo mound. "You make it and are like, Now, what else do I have to put in here to make it interesting? This solves that problem immediately." The fat in the dressing makes for a juicy shredded chicken salad that's not "gunky and over-mayo-ed." Then herbs, garlic and lemon add tons of flavor. "It's not going to feel really heavy," he promises. 

Jack-of-All-Marinades

The dressing makes a fast and bright marinade for poultry and fish, adding acidity and bright flavor to roast and grilled dishes. For chicken, marinate it overnight, adding a touch more salt to the dressing. Then, roast or grill it, adding more sauce to the end when the meat is almost cooked through. "It turns a striking green color," he says.

For fish that can stand up to a lot of flavor—like an oily, fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel—apply the dressing like a finishing marinade, or marinate it for a few hours at most (the acid in the dressing will change the texture of the fish if left overnight). If cooking a small, whole fish like branzino, roast it until almost fully colored, then brush it with the dressing once it's nearly cooked through. The acidity in the dressing balances the oil in fish, and the tarragon and chives especially come through. "You're incorporating flavors that you might put on the side," Max says of such herbs. "Marinade in this and put a tzatziki on the side," he suggests.

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