Labneh Tart with Blackberries and Walnut-Cardamom Crust
My father uttered some unintelligible word to the waiter and in minutes the young man returned with a tall, skinny glass of white liquid flecked with green. The beverage was thick but not so much so that it held the straw in place. “Have a sip,” my dad encouraged, as he pushed the glass next to my Coke. “What is it?,” I asked. “Yogurt.”
Yogurt? I hesitated before pursing my lips around the straw to drink. Sour, herbaceous, intensely savory yet very lean-tasting. The excessive saltiness surprised me and I did what I could to keep from spitting out the bubbly brew. “ICK. How can you drink that?”
I couldn’t have been older than nine or ten that first time I tried doogh, the Persian yogurt-and–carbonated water drink. It was at Mirage, a restaurant in Framingham, MA that was owned by dad’s friend. Though not hurting for Lebanese or Greek, Worcester County, where I grew up, lacked Persian restaurants. So on weekend nights when my mom was working, the two of us would travel, mostly silent, to Framingham for big platters of steaming rice adorned with crunchy browned tahdig and sumac-dusted kebabs, accompanied by charred whole plum tomatoes. I avoided doogh for many years; it tasted like watery mast-o-khiar (a Persian cucumber dip similar to tzatziki but made from a much thicker kind of Iranian yogurt). Every time my father ordered it, I recalled the unpleasant way it coated my mouth.