Growing up, I loved watching my mother make meringues, which she'd whip up on occasional evenings and bake slowly overnight.
Come morning, and I'd excitedly run to the kitchen, pull open the oven door, and marvel anew at how frothy egg white could be transformed into snow-white, brittle domes.
I feel the same sense of wonder today when producing my own cream cheese...though the process is way easier than meringue-making.
Simply spoon a couple of tubs of plain laben into a lined sieve, add a splash of olive oil, and flavoring of your choice, and then leave to drain in the refrigerator overnight.
Come morning, you'll be able to enjoy the creamiest, dreamiest cheese to spread on crackers or toasted bagels, transform into cheesecake, add to your lunchtime salad, or use as a dip for crudites.
This method can also be used to make Greek yogurt as detailed in notes.
Low in fat, amazingly economical, with the added bonus of 'made-it-myself' satisfaction, it lasts in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, though you're likely to use it up way before.
Laben tubs (I buy Gil as shown)
Flavoring of your choice*
* Options include chopped sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts, crushed garlic, dill and chopped smoked salmon, olives, roast eggplant, chili flakes, lemon pepper, zaatar, honey and chopped dates etc.
1: Line a sieve or colander with thin fabric or tee-shirt material - I use a white cleaning wipe sheet which can be bought in large rolls from any supermarket or disposables store as shown - and spoon in laben.
2: Mix in a drizzle of olive oil and salt to taste, place over a deep bowl, and allow to drain in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours, though it gets firmer the longer it sits.
3: Add the flavorings of your choice and store in a closed tub in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
COOK'S NOTES: Make your own super economical and low fat Greek yogurt using this method. Instead of laben, use 3% plain yogurt, don't add olive oil or salt, and allow to drain for approximately 3 hours. I haven't given quantities above as you can make as little or as much as you'd like. Gil laben costs NIS 1.40 per tub so you can't really go wrong. See news of cracker arrivals below for fitting partners.