Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Labne- Middle Eastern yogurt cheese

If there's one thing you need to know about Middle Eastern people it's that we love our yogurt. (Borderline obsession I would say...) But none of this fruit-filled, sugary stuff. Ohhhhhhh no no no no no. We're a savory yogurt people all the way! Assyrians (and other Middle Easterners) serve it alongside dolma, create a delicious and hearty soup with it, use it for a cool and refreshing summertime snack (with cucumbers), and make a savory yogurt-based drink with it. We even love making it good-ole-fashioned way without any fancy gadgets.

So what do you do when you have ALLLL this yogurt you've just made? You make labne! It's basically a "yogurt cheese," created by straining yogurt in cheesecloth until it has a thick and spreadable consistency--kinda like a cross between sour cream and cream cheese in texture.

You can use labne in many ways you would use cream cheese, like a spread for cold-cut wraps or on a toasted bagel. But my favorite way is to eat labne is as a delicious, savory breakfast. Simply spread some labne on a plate, drizzle with your best olive oil, and sprinkle with some home-dried mint. Eat with fresh pita bread, or crunchy pita chips, and you've got an awesome way to start your day.

Alternatively, serve this dish for a party instead of your ho-hum chips and dip! It's definitely a great way to throw in a simple yet unique dish that will impress all your guests. And if you're worried about all the time/money it'll take to make yogurt and strain it just to get a handful of labne, fear not! You can do what I did and just buy some pre-made labne from your local Middle Eastern market. It's super delicious and pretty damn close to the home-made stuff, so nobody will be the wiser. (They're typically labeled "labna," and I think Dana makes a pretty great one [totally unsponsored shout out], but I've tried many brands over the years and I've never had a bad one.)

So if you're looking to try something new for breakfast, or searching for a mid-day/ late night snack, or aiming to impress a crowd full of party goers--here's a simple dish with a ton of flavor that is sure to please!

Yours in being as obsessed with yogurt as the rest of her people,


Combine 2 tsp salt + 6 cups yogurt. (I recommend Middle Eastern, European, or Greek style yogurt; check out this post if you're interested in making your own yogurt at home.) Set a large colander with a few layers of cheesecloth atop a bowl, and pour the yogurt in the cheesecloth. Gently wrap the cheescloth around the yogurt (into a small ball), and allow to drain for 1 to 2 days in the fridge, depending on how watery your yogurt was to start with. You may need to drain the liquid from the bowl within the first few hours if there's a lot of whey draining from the yogurt.

After the labne is at your preferred consistency, transfer to an airtight container. Serve with olive oil and dried mint, or check out some of these interesting ideas.


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