This week I am highlighting a few of my FAVORITE Lebanese/ Mediterranean dishes. I think it is only fitting that we start with a Homemade Labneh recipe. Growing up, while my parents were at work I would spend a few of my days with my Sitto (Grandmother in Arabic). She was a great cook and loved cooking for others. Her recipes landed in three categories. Lebanese, Mexican, or Great Depression… I knew I could always find anise cookies in the cupboard, beans on the stove, and green jello in the refrigerator. My grandfather and mother kept her recipes in their repertoire through the years. When I was old enough to step in and help, my love for these dishes grew.
My Sitto was the best teacher around, she was endlessly patient, and a very organized cook. She would meticulously sift through dried beans to make sure each one was up to her standard. I can picture her sitting at her kitchen table with her perfect setup of a production line of ingredients. She prepped her ingredients for her night’s dinner in the early afternoon and at night she would have her breakfast measured out and on the stove ready to cook the next morning.
When I was a little girl I had my own tub of flour that I would play with while she was cooking. Under her feet, I would dump it out on the floor, and make piles. I felt like I was cooking along with her. Can you imagine giving your kid a pile of flour to rub all over the floor? That shows how patient she was. I never felt like I was making a mess. I felt like I was doing my work and she respected that. When I was done we would sweep it up together and move on with our day.
When I was a bit older I remember my Sitto showing me how to properly roll grape leaves. The exact method and desired finished size is a big debate in the middle eastern community, or at least between me and my in-laws. Will we ever find the truth?
Labneh is a soft cheese made from strained yogurt. Bedouin tribes used Labeh as an important source of protein in their diets. The Bedouins were a nomadic tribe in the middle east.
Homemade Labneh has terrific health benefits, aside from being high in protein, it also has probiotics that are good for gut health.
The best part about Labneh is how versatile it can be. You can enjoy it plain, I usually do! Or you can spice it up by adding a drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt, dried mint, or za’atar, a middle eastern blend of spices.
Mezze is the Middle Eastern form of a charcuterie board. A compilation of small plates meant to be shared. At my in-laws when mezze is on the table life is good. During long stays together you’ll find 20 of us scattered about our Nana and Jiddos house. There are always 5-8 people gathered around the mezze having a good conversation.
Labneh is almost always on a mezze board. You might find one or two different types (one with zaatar and one with olive oil or mint.) Fresh veggies and flatbread fill the mezze board for dipping.
A tip for flatbread- If you want authentic flatbread you must go to a middle eastern market. I have yet to find propper bread at the markets. It’s worth it, I promise. If you are a Utahn I make the drive to Shahrazad Market & Restaurant they have some of the best flatbread around.
Confession up until about a month ago I have been buying labneh I will never go back. I often hear my husband’s Nana say have you ever made your own? I never had a good reason as to why I hadn’t. Perhaps, I was intimidated? The thought of making my own cheese, that sounds hard! Well, the joke’s on me, it took me 5 minutes to make and the outcome was amazing! AND being the ingredient weirdo that I am I can choose a high-quality yogurt and enjoy knowing my family and I are reaping the benefits.
All this talk of labneh reminds me I’m out. I better hop over to the kitchen and whip up a batch. Will you join me?Print
Labneh is a soft cheese made from strained yogurt.
- Prep Time: 5 min
- Cook Time: 24 hours
- Total Time: 24 hours 5 minutes
- Category: appetizer
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Yogurt (I use the brand White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt )
There are a couple of ways you can do this.
A. The first way is to put a strainer over a bowl. Lay cheesecloth over the strainer, and pour in the amount of yogurt you like. Leave it out on your counter overnight. In the morning squeeze out the remaining liquid, transfer to a Tupperware, and keep in the fridge until ready to enjoy.
B. My Sitto hung hers from the faucet in the kitchen sink overnight. Use a cheesecloth as the hammock for your yogurt and tie it around the faucet head.
Anyway will work if your yogurt is suspended above the strained liquid. If you’re nervous about leaving yogurt on the counter all night, this can all be done in the refrigerator.
You can use any type of plain yogurt. Fattier equates to a better texture.