Monday, April 20, 2009
Yogurt Cheese with Za'atar
Lebneh is one of our favorite party treats: rich balls of oil-drizzled whole-milk yogurt, perfect for spreading on bread and crackers. Add some olives and a bowl of dates and you have yourself the beginnings of an awesome spread.
Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that usually includes sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. Once you have some, you'll start sprinkling it on everything--especially your morning toast and scrambled eggs! If you don't have a Middle Eastern grocery store or a Middle Eastern grandma at your disposal, you can make your own or buy it online. Or just skip it!
If you're short on time, this is just as delicious served in a bowl--no need to roll the strained yogurt into individual-sized portions. The quality of the finished product depends a lot on the kind of yogurt you start with--you want a nice creamy one, not too watery. We always make ours with whole-milk yogurt; you're welcome to try it with low-fat, but nonfat might not be creamy enough.
1 quart plain whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
Za'atar for sprinkling (optional)
Olive oil for rolling & drizzling
Line a large bowl with a thick layer of cheesecloth. Pour in the yogurt, tie a knot in the cheesecloth and hang it over the bowl, as shown (refrigeration optional). Let it sit for 6-8 hours, until yogurt is very thick. The whey will drip into the bowl--don't throw it out! Add a little salt or sugar to the whey for a refreshing drink.
Transfer yogurt to a bowl and mix in salt. Rub some olive oil on your hands and roll the yogurt into golf-sized balls. Drizzle finished platter of yogurt balls with olive oil and sprinkle generously with za'atar.