Seasoned Labne Balls in Olive Oil

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[Photograph: Oof Verschuren]

If you've ever had the creamy, tangy pleasure of experiencing labne at a Middle Eastern restaurant, chances are you left thinking, "Where can I get my hands on this magical yogurt?" While you can buy labne at some Middle Eastern markets, you're even better off making it yourself. Labne is a simply Greek or Turkish yogurt that's been left to hang or strained for a few days to get rid of a good portion of its moisture, leaving you with a yogurt that's as thick and spreadable as clotted cream or a creamier mascarpone.

Yvette van Boven, author of Home Made, likes to use her labne for these cocktail hour-ready Seasoned Labne Balls in Olive Oil by rolling them in an aromatic blend of herbs and chiles and letting them soak in good olive oil. Herby on the outside and mildly tangy within, these little yogurt balls make for genius snacks either on their on or spread onto toasted triangles of pita.

Reprinted with permission from Home Made by Yvette van Boven, copyright © 2011. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

Seasoned Labne Balls in Olive Oil

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About This Recipe

Yield:makes 25 balls
Active time:30 minutes
Total time:30 minutes plus 3 days for hanging the labne
Special equipment:cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
  • 8 cups preferably Greek or Turkish yogurt, but any regular whole (full-fat) yogurt will do
  • 2 cups olive oil (or more, if necessary)
  • A few bay leaves, some red chile flakes, or something else you like, perhaps cardamom pods
  • 1 jar dried oregano (approx. 1/4 cup)
  • 1 jar dried thyme (approx. 1/4 cup)  

Procedures

  1. 1

    Mix the salt, pepper, and garlic through the yogurt. Place a clean dish towel on a colander or strainer and pour in the seasoned yogurt. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a cool place, or pull the corners together and tie the dish towel with a thick elastic band or string as tightly as possible around the yogurt, thus increasing the pressure.

  2. 2

    Make a loop in the string and hang the filled towel over a bucket or over the sink. It is handy to turn a stool upside down, hang the towel on the cross, and place a bucket under it. Or you can hang the towel from a tree outside, if the weather isn’t too hot. You’ll come up with something. Hang the towel for at least 3 days in a cool place. Every day try to tighten the towel a little more (as much moisture as possible has to be extracted).

  3. 3

    Place half of the olive oil, the bay leaves, and other spices in an attractive, tall glass container, preserving jar, or clean vase.

  4. 4

    Mix the dried oregano and thyme on a plate. With clean hands, create small balls, the size of a walnut, with the drained yogurt, and carefully roll through the herbs. Slide them into the oil one by one and top up the container with olive oil in order for the balls to “float.”

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