Labane

An Israeli breakfast recipe for a thick yogurt-based cheese.

There are few things as wonderful as Israeli breakfast. Unlike the Cheerios-and-milk American routine (or, even worse, the ubiquitous but tasteless nutrition bar), Israeli breakfasts are adventures in flavor, texture, and spice. Like the people themselves, Israelis’ breakfast foods are bold, with assertively tangy flavors, and comprise the freshest ingredients.

Think stacks of fresh pita to be dunked in hummus, labane (a thick yogurt-based cheese), fruity olive oil, and za’atar–the essential Israeli herb. All this accompanies fresh sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, as well as a spread of other cheeses and much more.

Here are recipes for three Israeli breakfast spreads: a nutty hummus, homemade labane, and Muhamarra — a Syrian red pepper and walnut spread with a kiss of pomegranate syrup. Serve these spreads with sliced vegetables, but also try them with my final recipe, pickled cauliflower. Its flavors are strong enough to stand up to the spreads. The cauliflower is great 24 hours after preparation and only improves with age.

Ingredients

za'atar

olive oil

1 qt greek or regular yogurt

1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Stir salt into yogurt. Line a wire mesh strainer with either cheesecloth (at least two layers) or paper towels. Spoon yogurt into strainer; set over a bowl, cover loosely with saran wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, bowl will contain much of the whey, which should be discarded. Greek yogurt will be ready if it has sat over night for about 8 hours. For regular yogurt, strain an additional 3-4 hours for maximum thickness.

Serve in a shallow bowl; drizzle olive oil, and top with a generous sprinkle of za’atar.

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