Breakfast of (Lazy) Champions

By Salma Abdelnour Posted February 22, 2007

As far as I’m concerned, the dish with the happiest ratio of deliciousness to simplicity has to be lebneh, the Lebanese yogurt spread. When I was growing up in Beirut, I had lebneh for breakfast almost daily—save for a brief, passionate fling with Trix—and often as an afternoon or bedtime snack. To make it, all you do is strain yogurt (full-fat is best, of course) for a few hours until it’s thick and creamy, then sprinkle in some salt and you’re done. You can add a clove or two of crushed garlic, but for daily (or thrice-daily) snacking, the basic salted version is nice to have around. The best way to eat lebneh is on pita bread—though toasted baguette works beautifully too—with a dollop of olive oil and a little za'atar, the spice mix made with thyme, sumac and sesame seeds (available at many specialty-food shops, like Kalustyan’s in New York City). Last night, at a special dinner hosted by my favorite Lebanese cookbook author, Anissa Helou, at the Manhattan restaurant Devi, Helou served a brilliant, why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-this-before spin on lebneh: She mixed olive oil and za'atar right into the strained yogurt, giving the usually snow-white spread an appealing olive-tinged color—and saving the trouble of having to stir in the za'atar and oil at the table. Sure, her version adds an extra 10 seconds to the preparation time, but that’s a recipe twist even an impatient cook like me can handle.

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