Sunday, August 23, 2009

a little culture...

I recently made a traditional Syrian dish, Labanee, for myself and some of my friends to enjoy.

People are often shocked to find out that I am 1/4 Syrian ( I guess the red hair and freckles don't scream Syrian)  But the truth is that my grandmother (my Sitto), my fathers mother, was the first of her Syrian family to be born in the US.  

I am quite proud of my syrian ancestry.  I adore my uni-browed cousins and dark-skinned aunts, who love any excuse to dance and pinch my cheeks and, of course COOK.  I have found that Syrians although not shy in their affection, love to show their love through food.  As a child my Sitto would come to stay with my family over the winter holiday, and the first thing she would do was make a large batch of talame (flat bread).  The rest of the winter was spent in a warm kitchen watching and helping her make anything from traditional foods, like fatayer and kibby, to snickerdoodle cookies.

In my more recent attempts to become a cook I have yet to try her recipes, they seem in my mind to take all day and require an amount of patience that I am sorely lacking.  So I undertook a recipe that turned out to be quite easy.   I had never seen my grandmother make Labanee (yogurt cheese), but I had seen my cousin, Amy do it.  

In the end it was really simple and a nice treat, that was enjoyed by all!

Here's how I made it:
-2 quarts yogurt (I used the plain greek kind)
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon cumin
-1/2 teaspoon red pepper
-chopped basil
-chopped thyme

  Let the yogurt strain through cheesecloth over a bowl, overnight.  Remove cheese the next day and add the salt and other seasoning as well.  I returned the cheese to the fridge for a couple of hours so that it could harden again after mixing it.  Spread on crackers or bread. Enjoy!