Labne (also labneh or lebni) is simply very thick strained yogurt. A staple across the Middle East, I've yet to find a version in the U.S. that compares to the labne I bought regularly over there, but luckily it's super-easy to make at home. All you do is strain your yogurt in a cheesecloth for about 24 hours until it's very thick. Of course, the better your yogurt the better your labne, so it's worth it to seek out a good local dairy, but I've made it with everything from homemade yogurt to store-bought Dannon.
There is a bit of confusion about labne consistency- it is somewhat thicker than the Greek yogurt sold in groceries, you should be able to spread labne on a piece of pita bread, but not as solid as cream cheese. There is also a version of labne which is strained so that it is thick enough to roll into balls, you might see these little yogurt cheese balls packed in jars of olive oil. However, if you were to walk into your average dairy or grocery and ask for labne, they'd hand you this wonderful spreadable stuff. It's pleasantly tart and tangy and prefect for drizzling with honey or jam, using in a sandwich, or using as a base for a cucumber and mint dip. I usually make a big batch of labne every other week, if I want a looser runnier yogurt for mixing with granola in the morning I simply thin the labne by gently stirring in a touch of water.
Make sure to use good plain yogurt with no additives and no stabilizers like gelatin (this will inhibit straining). You can use anything from fat free to full fat yogurt, the labne will be more or less rich as a result.
1. Start with 24 ounces plain yogurt. Stir the yogurt until completely smooth. Set a mesh colander over a bowl and line with cheesecloth or heavy-duty paper towels. Place yogurt in colander and leave to drain in the fridge for 24 hours, stirring occasionally to encourage even draining. The yogurt should be thick and spreadable, transfer to a covered container for storage.
Labne and Mint Sandwiches
1 sheet marquq bread (Lebanese mountain bread), or savory crepe or other very thin bread
fresh mint leaves
pitted black olives
1. Preheat a griddle. Spread a thick layer of labne over half the bread. Drizzle with olive oil, scatter mint leaves and olives over top. Fold bottom half of bread up over filling, then fold in half to form a triangle. Place sandwich on the griddle just to briefly toast each side. Slice sandwich in half into two smaller triangles, eat immediately.