Love for Labneh

LabnehMy new obsession is Labneh. It’s lebanese yogurt — I’ve actually never had it in a restaurant in Chicago let alone in Lebanon so I don’t know exactly what it’s supposed to be like, so I don’t know if my end-product is quite right or not — but I use it as a dip or spread and it’s rapidly moving into the spot of most loved snack in my house — replacing hummus which has occupied that position for at least ten years. I am so glad I’ve found another delicious snack, I thought before I did some poking around on the internet.

I used a recipe from Bon Appetit, and it’s delicious. It’s strained Greek yogurt (though the recipe says you can make it with whole milk which is not at all true — I found out the disappointing way). I added salt and strained it through coffee filters and and fine sieve — leaving it covered in the refrigerator for two days to make it thick. The result is something akin to room temperature goat cheese or cream cheese. I eat it on toast or a fresh baguette. When I want to make it fancy, I put it in a jar, add lemon zest, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, and olive oil and let it sit for another two days to absorb all the flavors.

Because I’m no longer young and I have to be judicious about my food choices, I thought this is a perfect cream cheese substitute — cream cheese has no nutritional value — and it’s much less expensive than goat cheese (I haven’t actually done the math, but I pretend everything homemade is less expensive than store-bought). Because I don’t eat a lot of meat, I get my proteins from other sources — nuts and beans and things. But I also need calcium (I hate taking calcium supplements and I hate drinking milk) so I sporadically eat cottage cheese to supplement my meals. I’m not a huge yogurt eater (I hate it) but I always viewed it as a food that could give me (if I wanted it bad enough) nutrition I’m missing out on while munching on veggies slathered in hummus or fruit smeared with peanut butter.

It turns out that Greek yogurt is just OK for you. It has a lot of protein but not a lot of calcium. The opposite is true for plain low-fat yogurt — it has a lot of calcium but not a lot of protein.

I did find another recipe that called for plain yogurt rather than Greek yogurt and decided to make a nutritionally balanced labneh by using half Greek yogurt and half plain yogurt. While the method brings labneh to its optimal nutritional value, this experiment could be disastrous on the palate. Yes, I hate yogurt that much. My aversion to yogurt is that of beets — both incur a gag reflex at the thought of eating — or even smelling — them.

So… here goes:

  • 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt

Line a fine sieve with two coffee filters. Set it over a medium or large bowl (to catch the excess water — it can be a lot, so the deeper the bowl, the better). Set aside.
Stir together yogurts and salt. Spoon the mixture into sieve. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for two days (that makes it thick and spreadable).

Labneh

 

When it’s ready, flip over the sieve and peel off the coffee filters.

To make it extra special I added a drizzle of olive oil, the zest of a lemon, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds and 1/2 tsp peppercorns.

Labneh

The combination of yogurts worked fabulously. This, I’m pretty sure, is what joy tastes like. And it’s totally addictive — both to eat and to make. It’s great for serving at parties or an excellent snack with a baguette.

Labneh

 

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