There's a saying in Lebanon: You haven't lived until you've had labneh. OK, that isn't exactly true, but when I first tried Violette Haddad's labneh ($8.99) at Maraya Restaurant near the Florida Mall, I felt like I hadn't lived, then I nearly died from the swoon this ethereal Middle Eastern cream cheese induced.
It's wonderfully tart (but not too tart), with the texture of yogurt and a cheesy finish – and I mean that in a good way. It's typically served for breakfast with a little olive oil, pita bread and tea, or for lunch and dinner with olives, pickles, cherry tomatoes and scallions, with arak, the Levant's most potent potable.
Personally, I enjoy it as is, usually after a meal of kebabs or falafel (Maraya serves the city's best falafel, by the by) in the same vein one would enjoy an after-dinner cheese course.
The process is simple, but it takes a few days: First Haddad boils a blend of raw cow's and goat's milk, leaves it to cool, then adds yogurt, which she also makes from scratch. After the mixture cools for about eight hours, Haddad places it in cheesecloth and hangs it in the refrigerator for three days. The resulting labneh is then ready to eat, and eat it you will. It might take a while before your eyes roll back to the front of your head. Consider it a pro of this propitious probiotic.
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