Make it Naked

Greek Yogurt Labneh (Cheese Balls)

OK so I’m done shoving cookies in your face for a while. I hope you enjoyed a lovely holiday. We’ve got about 72 hours left in 2012. Which means we’ve got less than 72 hours until we’re watching Ryan Seacrest and Taylor Swift in Times Square, eating plates full of finger foods and drinking copious amounts of Champagne. So for the next few days Make it Naked’s having a NYE party where I’ll be stuffing you full of appetizers. Let’s start with this one. I made cheese again. Labneh. It’s a Middle Eastern type dish where Greek yogurt is strained and rolled into light, spreadable cheese. These yogurt articles show the hundreds of things you can do with yogurt; it’s so versatile as well as being such a healthy option. This recipe takes some planning but the actual labor that goes into this dish is less than 10 minutes. Trust me, I made it on Christmas morning while grilling a 10 lb pork loin, mashing potatoes, roasting parsnips and sautéing green beans. The simplicity was welcomed. I wanted to make an appetizer that was quick yet different. I wanted something healthy. But most of all I wanted to show off my awesome new olive oil. Recently Nudo Italia sent me a complimentary shipment of the prettiest packaged olive oil I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t heard of Nudo, let me introduce you. Nudo means “naked” in Italian, so obviously it was meant to be. I’ve fallen hard. Totally in love. I’ve been using it daily for about a month now. I told Nudo I would cook something with the oils and post my thoughts. But here’s what I think. I don’t want to cook with it. I want to drink it. The package included three tins of infused olive oil. The flavors they sent included thyme, garlic and lemon. They are all absolutely delicious. The thyme infused oil is amazing on roasted potatoes along side a steak. The garlic, well that’s been my salad dressing for the past month. And the lemon, it’s my favorite. It’s surprisingly bright and slightly sweet, and it is absolute perfection with this appetizer. The combination of fresh herbs, light creamy cheese and lemony oil make for a very refreshing dish. Yogurt is strained, rolled into balls and marinated in fresh lemon oil and herbs. They’re perfect for spreading on a cracker, if you’re well-mannered. Or they’re perfect for popping in your mouth plain, if you’re me. Not only will they be a welcomed addition to any New Year’s Eve party, but you also get to say “I made cheese.” People immediately think you are totally fancy-over-the-top when you say you made cheese. It’s our secret that you really didn’t do much at all. I realize not everyone has infused olive oils, so I’ve given you some options below. Just be sure to use a good quality olive oil. It’s one of the main components of the dish and really shares the spotlight with the cheese. You know that extra light olive oil that you found in the back of the pantry that went bad last year but you’re thinking about using? Not that one. A good olive oil is one ingredient I think is worth splurging a little, especially here. Thanks to Nudo for such a wonderful product. You can read more about the company and their products here. You can even adopt an olive tree and they will ship you oil straight from your tree! How cool is that?! Get some and Make it Naked Nudo! Greek Yogurt Labneh (adapted from Bon Appetit) Ingredients: 2 cups plain 2% Greek yogurt 1/3 cup lemon infused extra virgin olive oil* 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt *if you do not have lemon infused oil, add about 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest Directions:

  1. Line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth, as shown here. Place the yogurt in the sieve and fold over the edges of the cheesecloth, covering the yogurt. Press down. Place something fairly heavy on top and let sit in refrigerator for 2-3 days (see note 1 below).
  2. When the yogurt is thick (like goat cheese) remove. Using your hands, roll the yogurt into 1/2” balls. Place the balls in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk together the oil, herbs and salt and pour over the balls. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Gently stir the Labneh around every so often to be sure each is coated, much like you’d move meatballs around a pan to brown each side.
  4. Serve chilled with crackers. Enjoy!


  1. I think the drainage time will depend on the type of yogurt you use. I used Fage 2%. It is a fairly thick yogurt and not much whey drained out of it in the two days I let it sit. I think it was about the same on day 2 as it was on day 1. The yogurt gets to be the consistency of goat cheese. When it’s there, go with it, no matter how long it’s been draining.
  2. I think any herbs will do here. The addition of basil would have been lovely but I didn’t have any.
  3. Cheesecloth can be found in most grocery stores. It’s normally in an odd spot, like hanging randomly next to swirly straws next to the granola bars, so be sure to ask if you can’t find it.
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  5. Stay tuned for a few more quick appetizers this weekend to help ring in the new year!

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Posted on December 28, 2012

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