The farmers who first planted avocado trees on the coastal plain in the 1920s mashed the fruit into a pulp, added some chopped green (spring) onion, and flavored it with salt and lemon juice. Sometimes chopped hard-boiled eggs or mayonnaise were added to the pulp . The avocado soon became a winter delicacy.
The usual way of serving avocado in Israel is mashed, salted, and spread on a slice of bread. In addition to lemon juice, one can add crushed garlic, horseradish, paprika or chile pepper, Zhoug, soft white goat cheese, yogurt, sour cream, smoked salmon, or Labaneh, as in the following recipe.
Labaneh is a yogurt-based sour cheese found in Arab markets throughout Israel. It has become so popular that it can also be found in any Israeli supermarket, but it can easily be made from any good (organic) yogurt. At first I thought it was a type of yogurt when I tasted it. I learned later it was more of a cheese and a bit of yogurt. And this sauce/cheese/yogurt can be used for virtually anything, even on bread or plainly spooning it up (like me).
This sauce is easy to make, uses not much ingredients, but it takes a while before it’s finished. Some Dutch people tried keep the Labaneh in the cheesecloth for 30 hours. Well, you try it and tell everyone what it tastes then (the same).
8 cups (2 liters) yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
Cheesecloth or paper towel
Line a large colander with the cheesecloth or paper towel, making sure it overlaps the colander by a good amount. Mix the yogurt with the salt and pour the mixture into the lined colander. Tie the cheesecloth (or close the paper towel), place the colander over an even bigger bowl into which the mixture can drain.
The Labaneh will be ready in 10 to 12 hours. Transfer it to a dish and cover with olive oil. Place in the refrigerator.
Customizations with the Labaneh are of course possible, but you need to be careful not to overdo it (like I did). You could mix the yogurt with some fruit juice (but not too much). I used to mix it with strawberry juice and the color changed of course (like pink-ish), but it was an instant hit. The Arabs were looking wide eyed and flabbergasted at my sauce, smiled politely, but didn’t touch it. The kids loved it.
Chopped mint leaves
Another good customization of this recipe is mixing chopped mint leaves in the yogurt.