Like a tarter, healthier version of American cream cheese, Labneh is a Middle Eastern dairy specialty made from draining the whey from yogurt. Grab a few things and let me show you just how easy it is to make your own.
You'll need all of the items shown above to make your first batch of plain Labneh. The salt is recommended, but optional. I prefer whole milk yogurt, but have had succesful results with both low and no-fat yogurts, too. Let your conscience be your guide. I subscribe to the assertion that saturated fats from whole milk dairy products can have a place in healthy diets as long as consumed in moderation.
Prop strainer over whey-collection vessel. Line the strainer with 2-3 layers of cheesecloth. Transfer the jar contents to the strainer. Shake it around just a bit to get any air out.
Tie the four corners of cheesecloth together. Hang over a faucet, or a cabinet pull, positioning over the collection vessel to drain. Allow to drain 12 hours (for creamier, more dense cheese, allow to continue to drain for up to 24 hours). Remove and place back in the strainer, untie, and gently remove the cheesecloth from around the cheese. Transfer to a serving bowl, or a storage container with a lid.
The sky is the limit with the many uses you'll find for Labneh. Tangy, rich, and satisfying, a little goes a long way in satisfying my cheeeeeese jones with a little less indulgence. It pair well with many Middle Eastern dishes, but don't stop there. Recently, I stirred in a spoonful of my best citrus marmalade and spread it on toasted raisin bread--for dessert! I love to add minced garlic or shallot, fresh and dried herbs (mint is a favorite), the zest of oranges and lemons, and my favorite-- black pepper.
I'd love to hear the ways you find to use Labneh. Have you tasted it before? Made it before? How did it go? I'm terribly curious to find out how you use one of my favorite condiments. Last week I made a Persian Eggplant Salad that I ate along with this batch-- I'll be sharing that dish this week, too. And for even more ideas, check out this slideshow from Bon Appetit.
Do you have favorite Middle Eastern foods? Places to eat it? Do tell! And if you're in the Austin area, check out Saffron & Sesame | Middle Eastern Food in Austin, my #ATXBESTEATS City Guide for the best in town.