March 30, 2015

Labneh with Olives, Hazelnuts, and Mint

Spring is finally here. My daffodils are blooming. The trees and bushes are budding. Green grass is poking through the lawn. I feel like spring is the time the entire planet exhales after a long winter, releasing all the pent up tension of the past three months. Usually, I hold my breath all winter long....waiting for the next bout of depression, the next panic attack.


This winter has been much different. Thankfully. Since December, there hasn't been as much sadness or anxiety. I've taken deeper breaths of life. So, this spring has a different feel as well. Instead of relief that another cold, dark winter has passed, I feel energized by the longer days and warmer sunshine.

Just as the earth renews itself in spring, I feel renewed every time I cook. It's the creating something that is so worthwhile for me. (That's also why I've been so into knitting lately...the creation of something new.)

So, when I needed to do some creating in the kitchen, I decided to make cheese.

Labneh is a Middle Eastern cheese made by straining yogurt. Draining out the whey results in creamy, soft curds that retain the tanginess of the yogurt. Labneh is typically drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with mint, and served with pita seasoned with za'atar (a blend of oregano, thyme, marjoram, and savory, sesame seeds, and sumac).

I topped my homemade cheese with a salty, sour, crunchy, fragrant mixture of olives, lemon, hazelnuts, and mint. Easy and impressive.

Labneh with Olives, Hazelnuts, and Mint
slightly adapted from The Design Files

For the cheese:
4 cups full-fat yogurt
1 teaspoons Kosher salt

For the topping:
½ cup toasted hazelnuts
15 green olives, pitted & roughly chopped
4 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
pinch of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon za'atar

  • Place several layers of cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer over a deep bowl or pan.
  • Stir the salt into the yoghurt & pour into the cheese cloth. 
  • Bring the corners together to cover the yogurt, but do NOT squeeze. Let drain overnight, up to 24 hours. 
  • (I let my yogurt strain overnight, then in the morning I tied the bundle to a wooden spoon and let it hang for several more hours to get it as dry as possible without squeezing.)
  • When it's nearly completely drained, you'll have a firm ball of soft cheese.

  • Spread the cheese on a plate. Mix the topping ingredients together & spoon them over the cheese.
  • Finish with another drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of za'atar. (I also sprinkled more sesame seeds on top.)


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I was in search of a spiced up version of labneh for Spring picnics. It has been a while since I have come across your flavourful blog .

Kelly @ Barbaric Gulp! said...

Thanks for reading! ;-)