Straining yogurt overnight is a hands-off process that bestows two edible gifts: labneh—a thick spreadable yogurt with a supremely creamy texture that can be used as the base for a dip or slathered on a sandwich—and whey. Whey is slightly sweet with milky-tangy undertones that’s great in drinks (like this sharbat), dressings, or marinades. Using plain, full-fat yogurt will yield the best of each post-strain by-product, but if you’re in a hurry you can start with Greek yogurt, which has already been partially strained.
Once you make labneh (which originated in the Levant region thousands of years ago) and have it stashed in your fridge, you’ll find out just how versatile it is: Spread it in the bottom of a shallow bowl and top with leftover roasted or grilled vegetables (see this blistered asparagus), then drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil plus harissa, za’atar, or sumac for an easy lunch. Blend in some fresh herbs, lemon zest, and lemon juice and serve with pita chips as a party starter. Pair it with baba ghanoush, muhammara, and/or hummus for a meze platter dinner. Or swap out the cream cheese in your favorite cheesecake recipe.
Look for fine muslin cheesecloth, which will do better to separate the curds from the whey than an open-textured fabric. It’s a worthwhile investment as you can reuse it to strain homemade stock, big pitchers of iced tea, or a second batch of labneh while you’re busy using the first.