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Appetizers, Bake, Gluten-Free, Healthy Eating

Leona's seeded crackers and cheese

Leona's seeded crackers and cheese
Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times

Cheese and crackers — it’s a snack pairing as common and comforting as milk and cookies, or hummus and pita bread. At Leona in Venice (named for the original street name for Washington Boulevard where the restaurant is located), cheese ... Read more

Total time: 3 hours, 15 minutes, plus setting and draining times | Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 pints whole goat’s, sheeps or cow’s milk
  • 1 tablespoon plain full-fat yogurt (with live active cultures)

Step 1Spoon ¼ cup of the milk into a bowl and stir in the yogurt.

Step 2In a saucepan, bring the remaining milk to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside until the milk registers 100 degrees using a thermometer, 15 to 30 minutes; a skin will form on the surface.

Step 3Using a table knife, make a small opening in the skin and carefully pour the cheese mixture into the milk in the saucepan. Cover the pot with a kitchen towel and transfer to an oven. Turn on the light and close the oven door. Set aside for 16 hours, no more than 18 hours.

Step 4Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, lift off the skin and discard it. Carefully ladle the cheese into a sieve lined with a double layer of cheesecloth and refrigerate until much of the whey is drained and the cheese is thickened to a labneh-like consistency, about 4 hours (the longer you drain, the thicker the cheese). Transfer the cheese to a bowl and serve, or refrigerate until ready to serve; the cheese will keep up to 4 days, refrigerated. If desired, flavor the cheese with chopped thyme and lemon zest.

Seeded crackers

  • 3/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1 ½ cups hot water
  • ½ cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • ½ cup shucked sunflower seeds
  • ¾ cup shucked pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot
  • ½ small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • Heaping ½ teaspoon smoked paprika powder
  • Pinch cayenne powder
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons teaspoons salt

Step 1Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, soak the flax seeds in the water until softened and the water is mostly absorbed, about 1 hour.

Step 2On separate rimmed sheet pans, toast the almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds until lightly colored and aromatic, 4 to 8 minutes (timing will vary depending on the nut or seed; check every minute or so so the ingredients do not burn). When the ingredients are toasted, reduce the oven temperature to 300.

Step 3Place the soaked flax seeds in a food processor and process until a thick paste forms (the seeds will still be mostly whole, but the mixture will form a gelatinous paste). Remove the paste to a large bowl.

Step 4To the bowl, add the toasted nuts and seeds, along with the shallot, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne powder and salt, mixing well. This makes about 3 cups cracker mixture.

Step 5Generously spray 1 side each of 4 sheets of parchment paper (large enough to fit within the dimensions of a baking sheet) with spray oil and place half of the nut mixture in between the coated sides of 2 sheets. Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture out until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining nut mixture.

Step 6Put the rolled out crackers (remove the top parchment, but keep the delicate mixture on the bottom sheet) on baking sheets and bake until the crackers are fragrant and a rich golden color, about 45 minutes. Remove the sheets and carefully flip the crackers over, removing the parchment so the crackers are directly on the baking sheet. Continue to bake until the crackers are golden-brown and almost completely crisp, about 20 minutes more. Turn off the heat and cool the crackers in the oven; they will continue to crisp as they cool.

Note: Adapted from a recipe by chef Nyesha Arrington of Leona.


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