The Chef and I were recently invited to a Middle-Eastern themed dinner party at the home of our friends, Justin and Rob. As soon as the invite hit my inbox, I asked Justin what we could bring. His reply?
“An appetizer … something on theme. You like a challenge, right?”
Why, yes … yes, I do.
Akin to cream cheese, labneh is a thick, spreadable cheese originating from the Middle East. It’s made from only two ingredients: yogurt and salt … and it’s delicious, healthy, inexpensive, and incredibly easy to make. Just allow yourself a day to let the yogurt strain (and keep some cheesecloth on hand, which you should do anyway ‘cuz it has a whole lot of awesome uses in the kitchen), and you just might forgo processed cream cheese from now on. I know we will.
We brought along some toasted whole-wheat pita chips to smear the labneh on, and the creamy/crunchy combo was sublime. The pita chips also went quite well with the homemade roasted garlic baba ganoush we brought too, but you’ll have to wait a few more days for that recipe.
Now … go make some labneh.
- 32 ounces plain, full-fat yogurt
- 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1. Line a large bowl with a double layer of cheesecloth. Stir the salt into the yogurt, then pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth.
2. Bring two opposite corners of the cheesecloth together, then tie them into a secure knot. Bring the remaining two corners of the cheesecloth together as well, tying into another secure knot. Slide a large wooden spoon under both of the knots, then hang the cheesecloth bundle over a deep bowl, stockpot, or pitcher.
3. Make sure the bottom of the bundle does not touch the bottom of your chosen straining vessel, then place the vessel in the refrigerator. Allow the yogurt to drain for at least 12 hours (though preferably 18 to 24).
4. Remove the strained yogurt from the refrigerator, and scrape into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with a bit of sumac, za’atar, or chopped fresh herbs if you’d like. A drizzle of olive oil would be a great addition too.
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