We came across a luscious labne at newly opened NYC restaurant Shuka—whose menu dives deep into the Eastern Mediterranean region, the Levant. With the help of Chef Ayesha Nurdjaja, we learned that it’s also quite simple to make at home. “I love labne. It was one of the first things I ate on Atlantic Avenue at Sahadi’s with my grandmother,” Brooklyn-born Nurdjaja tells CH. “I’ve been making it for 10 years now. It’s one of my favorite things to make and eat. I put it on lots of things: sandwiches, eggs, pita, dip veggies in it—you name it!” See below for ingredients, tools and process.
Ingredients and Tools
2lb of Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs kosher salt
1 wooden spoon
1 large mixing bowl
1. Mix ingredients in a bowl
2. Line cheese cloth in a large mixing bowl
3. Pour yogurt mixture into cheese cloth
4. Fold and tie the ends around the middle of the wooden spoon making a tight bowl
5. Place ball into a bowl allowing for a two-inch space for the liquid to drip and use the spoon to suspend over bowl
6. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for two days
Unwrap labne from cheese cloth and serve cold with olive oil and herbs, such as za’atar, parsley, chive or oregano. (The version Shuka makes for diners is topped with a spoonful of homemade harissa and chopped parsley.) The labne will last for a week in the fridge, but can be extended as far as two months if you roll it into balls, roll them in za’atar spice, and place them in a container submerged with olive oil. Chef Nurdjaja recommends pairing it with a white pecorino wine—a “very obscure” grape from Italy. The bottle on Shuka’s menu is medium-bodied, with notes of mandarin, burnt sugar, peanuts and sesame; but you can go even more traditional and sip a Levantine-favorite: the almost medicinally-cleansing, with notes of licorice, arak.
Images courtesy of Will Engelmann