Someone once shared with me the secret of 3. No matter the situation, 3 is always a safe bet. Whether that actually applies to a variety of things, I’m not sure. But I’ve found it to work wonders in cooking. This dish is essentially comprised of 3 key things: potatoes, labneh and za’atar.
In Israel, potatoes are a staple. Generally, you’ll find them in the form of french fries – taking a cue from England and calling them chips – stuffed into a falafel or shawarma pita. At home, they’re cubed and braised along a nice piece of pot roast.
Now, the labneh. Labneh translates directly to yogurt cheese. Essentially, it’s yogurt that’s been combined with a little salt and hung to strain out the whey. What’s left is a thick, sour, super creamy dip, spread, topping. Once strained, my grandma drizzles it with a good quality olive oil and consistent layering of za’atar. Za’atar is a blend of spices and seeds – traditionally thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds and salt.
These mini baked potatoes with labneh and za’atar are a hybrid of those two dishes. What I love about these little baked potatoes is the complete contrast in textures and flavors. The slow roast of the baked potatoes makes the skin borderline crispy, giving you a snap similar to when you bite into a hotdog. Once you bite through the baked potato skin, you hit the soft center. Slightly warm on the inside, they’re topped with cool, creamy, tangy labneh and bright almost lemony za’zatar with the occasional pop of the sesame seeds mixed in.
While I believe mini anything are great for entertaining, these mini baked potatoes can be used in more ways than one like brunch, side dishes, and of course appetizers. You can eat them with your hands without really needing a napkin, and if they’re small enough it’s a one bite magic machine. You can use any color of mini potatoes you’d like for your baked potatoes, but I like the contrast of the gold, pink and purple. It helps the green za’atar pop even more.
MINI BAKED POTATOES WITH LABNEH AND ZA’ATAR
(makes 32 mini baked potatoes, serves 8-12 appetizer)
32 mini creamer potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup labneh – 1/2 teaspoon labneh per potato
2 tablespoons za’atar – 1/4 teaspoon za’atar per potato
Preheat the oven to 350°. Rinse and dry your potatoes and place them on a parchment lined large baking sheet. Drizzle the potatoes with the 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub with your hands to coat evenly. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Stir, making sure to flip the potatoes. Place back in the oven and bake for another 20 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool until you can handle the potatoes, about 10 minutes.
To assemble the potatoes, start by slicing them in half without going all the way through the flesh. Hold the potato on either side of the slice and squeeze it up a bit to loosen the flesh inside and give that that traditional baked potato look. Once all potatoes are slices, sprinkle them evenly with the salt. Then, top each potato with 1/2 teaspoon mini dollop of labneh and a 1/4 teaspoon sprinkling of za’atar. Serve immediately – it’s great as a warm side dish or a room temperature appetizer. Enjoy!