*Labneh is strained yogurt that spreads easily on bread or pita and is much healthier and tastier than mayonnaise (my apologies to all mayo-lovers out there).  For Israelis, labneh is a regular staple at the table and if you’ve ever been to an Israeli hotel you would have definently seen it at the breakfast buffet.  There are dozens of different kinds of labneh to buy in Israeli supermarkets but back in the states I’m stuck making my own.  My favorite  way to eat labneh is spread inside a pita pocket stuffed with tomatoes, olives, onions, and olive oil.  

6 cups plain yogurt  (if you start with greek yogurt you get even thicker labneh)
2 teaspoons salt
for the sandwich: pitas, onions, olives, tomato, olive oil

1) In a large bowl stir the salt with the yogurt.  Place the yogurt mixture in the center of  three stacked pieces of cheese cloth, a piece of soft cotton, two white papertowels, or a coffee filter.  You choose.  Pull the corners up and tie them tightly.  You can use a rubberband or kitchen twine.
2) The wrapped yogurt needs to be supspended over a bowl.  There are a few options.  Place it in a colander or funnel.  Or place it in the drip funnel of a coffeemaker.  Or even use the rubberband/twine to hang it from a wooden spoon over a bowl.  Whichever way you choose to suspend it, just be sure there is a bowl underneath to catch the liquid whey.
3) Refrigerate the cocoon of yogurt between 8-12 hours.  The more you let it drain the thicker it becomes but you want it to be spreadable so I suggest not letting it go to 24 hours.  You can also leave it out of the fridge to drain.  In that case, I’ve seen people hang the yogurt cocoon from their cabinet nobs.  I just still can’t wrap my head around leaving yogurt out of the fridge so I always refrigerate.
4) You can add spices such as dill, mint, or garlic.  If you would rather a sweet labneh than a savory, you can add honey, dates, or vanilla.  Personally, when I’m using it for sandwiches I just add chopped olives and the Middle Eastern spice Za’atar.
5) Labneh can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

*Recipe by Shelley Neese, vice president of The Jerusalem Connection. Click here for her articles and videos.