29 September 2015

Yogurt Culture

 We have never been big on milk around here, so yogurt was never at the top of our list of fave foods or ingredients for that matter.  But we have come around. While we still shy away from pulling a container out of the fridge and snacking away, we are growing partial to it.

One problem is the yogurt one finds in the grocery store. Until very recently, much of that stuff in those little containers was so filled with sugars and artificial crap that it was crime to even refer to it as yogurt.  A recent commercial for a gigantic "yogurt" producer praised themselves for removing high fructose corn syrup from their yogurt.  If it had high fructose corn syrup in it, was it really yogurt?  Is yogurt milk with a bit of culture added?  Does yogurt really need a candy topping? Enough said.

It is now possible to find an actual yogurt on the market, though one must wade through a sea of brightly colored, sugar filled, cookie infused impostors.

Cheryl Sternman Rule published Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World's Healthiest Food.  She also tells you how to dip, lick, dine, and slurp, but clearly that would have made the title way too long. It will give you an idea of how the book is divided to make your yogurt consumption easier.

Sometimes yogurt is the star as in smoothies,soups, and sauces. Other times it is an unseen ingredient as in cakes and breads.  Sometimes it is a supporting character, as a pillowy base for compotes. And sometimes, it is as its best just slightly dressed, like this.

Greek Yogurt with Lemon Vinaigrette

2 cups plain Greek yogurt, preferably whole milk
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
¼ teaspoon za’atar*, or few leaves of fresh parsley, chopped
Warm whole-wheat pita triangles for serving

 *Za’atar is a type of wild thyme often mixed with sumac (a brick-red, sour spice), salt, and sesame seeds. Look for it in Middle Eastern markets.

In a large bowl, beat the yogurt until light and smooth. Scrape it into a shallow, wide serving bowl. And smooth with the back of a spoon to create a wide indentation.In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk the oil and lemon juice until emulsified; season well with salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the yogurt so it floods the indentation. Sprinkle with pine nuts and za’atar or parsley. Taste, adding a bit more salt, if desired. Serve with warm pita.

Now that's a fine appetizer with little fuss and big rewards.

If you are terrible ambitious, there are several recipes to make your own yogurt, so you can skip that tutti frutti isle at the grocery.  Either way, yogurt might just be the most versatile ingredient in your kitchen and Rule can show you some of the best ways to use it.

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