If planned in advance, this thick, creamy strained yogurt is simple to make. All you need is cheesecloth and a strainer. Once the labneh is ready, the appetizer can be put together quickly. You’ll enjoy different sensations in every bite: tang from the labneh, sweetness from the sautéed garlic, heat from the chili and crunch from the hazelnuts.
Over medium bowl, place 2 layers of cheesecloth into 6- to 8-inch fine-mesh sieve. Transfer yogurt into cheesecloth and tie top into knot. The bowl will catch whey as it drains from yogurt. Let rest in refrigerator at least 24 hours, and up to 48 hours. When ready, discard whey. Transfer labneh from cheesecloth to medium mixing bowl.
Heat oven to 350ºF. Place hazelnuts on baking sheet. Toast on middle rack of oven for 10–15 minutes, or until skins look darkened and blistered. Let hazelnuts cool slightly, then rub with fingers to remove skin. On chopping board, crush hazelnuts with flat side of chef’s knife. Chop fine.
Warm olive oil in small skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, or until golden. Add chopped hazelnuts and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove mixture from skillet, and allow to cool. Transfer to mixing bowl with labneh. Add remaining salt, and mix with spatula. Spread mixture in thin layer on wide serving platter, in concentric circles. Drizzle with olive oil, and top with chopped red chili. Garnish with thyme sprigs and sumac.
Enjoy with crudités, crackers, kettle-cooked potato chips or flatbread. Serves 4–6.