Labne (strained yogurt) is served in kitchens across the world, from Greece to Bulgaria, the Levant to India, to our LA digs, where we always have a batch ready to serve (aka dip spoons into when no one’s looking). It delivers a cool counterpart to dishes with heat (think: shakshuka, beet muhammara, chile oil-fried eggs) and makes an excellent vehicle for dukkah, chile butter and more.
We have a herd of sheep in Hawthorne, CA to thank for our version. That’s because we favor sheep’s milk yogurt from a brand called Aris; if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some, be warned: It’s reminiscent of creme fraiche and will make you spend money you never knew you had. Use whatever ruminant’s yogurt you favor (cow, goat, giraffe) — it’ll all taste good, just not as tangy as sheep.
To make your labne, you’ll need a straining mechanism. Cheesecloth is popular, but we prefer nut milk bags. They’re easy, reusable and cheap — buy our favorite version here.
Set your strainer of choice over a wide-mouth jar, leaving enough room on the bottom for the whey to strain (we secure our nut milk bags with a rubberband; another option is hanging the yogurt from a kitchen hook). Stir a teaspoon of fine-grain salt through the yogurt, then spoon it into the strainer. Leave to drain for at least 5 hours (longer, if you have time), refrigerated or not.
The labne is ready when there’s a good amount of whey at the bottom of the jar and the yogurt sticks, cream cheese-like, to a spoon. Turn the labne into a mixing bowl — and don’t toss that whey! It’s delicious in vinaigrettes, smoothies, cake batters, you name it.
Finely mince the garlic, then add it to the labne along with the lemon juice, vinegar and honey. Mix well, then add olive oil slowly, stirring all the while. Season well with salt. Now taste! If your first thought isn’t “Holy cow (sheep?), this is delicious,” you probably need more lemon. The labne should be tangy with a hint of sweetness. Pop it in the fridge if you’re not serving immediately. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.