So I mentioned, I’m slowly, slowly digesting and integrating the experiences – the recipes and food traditions, the stories and prophesies – of my Mediterranean sabbatical. And at long last, I have the opportunity to recreate the experience of Lebanese mouneh. Over a couple days, I followed the instruction of my teacher and beloved host Sawsan Shaaban, vendor with Souk El Tayeb, to craft artisanal marbles of lebneh or strained yogurt rolled in Middle Eastern spices and preserved in olive oil. All I can say is that they are sumptuous and divine, quickly my favorite new topping over sauteed greens and salads. And perhaps they are the perfect metaphor for my vision of planned culinary adventure: Incredibly easy to make, but just requires a little time and attention. Perhaps only 5-15 minutes in the kitchen per day over about 3 days. Easy Peasy.
Here’s a roadmap friends to tap into easy culinary prowess and adventure.
Day 1: Strain Yogurt Overnight
Take a fine mesh strainer, line it with cheesecloth. Or a paper towel even, that’s what my mama used to do. Hook it over a large bowl. Pour a high quality, full cream yogurt in. Put in fridge and allow to strain overnight. Next morning you’ll get this:
Day 2: Break it Up
When you wake up with your glorious lebneh, place the cheesecloth in a flat basket or wicker platter and break it up into thick chunks to dry out for another day. It’s important to not use a regular platter… lebneh need to breathe and get air from above and below. Give it some time in Indirect sunlight and then put it back in the fridge overnight.
Day 3: Roll Your Own
After the chunks have dried out… break off 1/2 inch piece and roll them out. You can leave it plain or If you’d like, roll them in your favorite aromatic Middle Eastern spices of choice.
Pictured here I have rolled them out in sumac, za’atar… I’ve also used black sesame seeds. If you’re in the District, find these spices at Bazaar Spices in Union Market or new location at the Atlantic Plumbing building.
Allow to dry for yet another day. Again, some time in Indirect sunlight and then back in the fridge overnight.
Day 4: Jar and Store
Super easy. When using jars, it’s always a good idea to boil them first and sanitize as my friend Nikki Warner at FreshFarms taught me… After jars are sanitzed. Fill each jar you use 1/2 way with olive oil and gently drop in lebneh marbles. I like using chopsticks to carefully pack them. Add remaining olive oil to fill and you’re done! Lebneh Mouneh (cheese) safely preserved for all sorts of indulges