Comfort food in Casa Tejada on Tamrah Lane comes from many different cuisines, if it’s not Filipino Cuisine it’s Middle Eastern Cuisine. Living in an expatriate compound, pot lucks were always hodgepodge of pansit, hummus, fried rice, and even (if the host got fancy) a shawarma stand. Food was a love language for us all.
Labnah, holds a special place in my heart though. After a whirlwind of leaving Saudi to the US for college, the shattered hopes of finding a career and the love of my life, I was at my lowest. I had to move back home to Saudi. Moving back home was lonely, I was craving connection that my life prior to college couldn’t quite give me. Even if things didn’t work out the way I had wanted after college, I did come back a different person. Whether that was a better person or not, I wasn’t sure. At least, not until I met Adele.
We re-introduced ourselves through the love language of food. I ate an absurd amount of Oreo creme brulees in her kitchen, she sat on my driveway eating fried chicken and I found the connection I was missing. How truly amazing and impactful this woman is on my life is another post for another day but one thing that gives me a little piece of that sisterhood, now that she’s not just a 5-minute drive from my house, is labnah. We had a small window of time one afternoon where we didn’t need to be present for anyone but ourselves and she showed me a favorite lebanese snack: labnah, kalamata olives, and tomato, wrapped in a pita and dipped in olive oil. A simple dish for not so simple discussions that pulled me out of the dark and into the fire of forging a new path for ourselves. So now I’m going to share a little taste of that connection with you.
Finding mine and Adele’s favorite brand of labnah here in the US is damn near impossible so she taught me how to make my own. All you need is a cheesecloth, a mesh strainer, bowl, salt, and plain yoghurt (not greek!). I grab whatever 32 oz tub of organic plain yoghurt that I can find at grocery store and I add a good amount of salt to it and mix it together so it isn’t watery anymore. Line the mesh strainer with your cheesecloth / tea towel and set it over a bowl. Pour your salty yoghurt mix onto the lined strainer, tie or fold the ends of the cloth together to cover the yoghurt, and place the strainer over the bowl it all in the fridge. After about an hour check the bowl, discard any drained liquid and place the yogurt back into the fridge overnight to drain the yogurt even further. In the morning, you’ll have labnah! Scoop your labnah into an airtight container and it will stay fresh for about a week. If you want your labnah to last longer, you can take an ice cream scoop and scoop globs of labnah into a jar of olive oil and keep in the fridge for a month.
Spread the love on pita, toast, in wraps, on crackers, in dips, whatever way you want! Even better: enjoy labnah, olive oil, kalamata olives, and tomatoes with pita bread and have beautiful conversation with someone you love.