Greek yogurt (Recipe: lemon walnut yogurt dessert)
Nine things I know, and one thing I don't know, about Greek yogurt (you'll be glad to know them, too):
- Greek yogurt (yiaourti) has been around for thousands of years; yogurt itself might be as old as 10,000 years, which is much older than the oldest Greeks. It didn't get popular outside Greece until the first wave of Greek emigration to Western Europe and the US after World War I.
- Why is Greek yogurt called "Greek", and not "Indian" or "Lebanese", when all three ancient cuisines use the thicker yogurt in their dishes? I honestly don't know. Do you?
- To make Greek yogurt, milk is heated and then cooled a bit, and active cultures are added. The mixture ferments, and then, while it's still warm, it's strained to remove the whey. The resulting yogurt is thicker and more acidic than traditional American-style yogurt.
- With the whey removed, what remains is a higher concentration of protein, fewer carbs, and less lactose. The higher protein content means you'll feel full with just a small portion. And with less lactose, it's easier to digest.
- The texture adds richness without extra moisture. If you have a sweet tooth, try adding Greek yogurt to cupcakes, rhubarb fool, chocolate mousse tartlets, or black cherry frozen yogurt.
- Prefer savory to sweet? Greek yogurt is great for cooking, because it doesn't separate, and the creaminess provides great "mouth feel." How about traditional tzatziki, a smoked salmon omelet, mushroom and yogurt tart, salad dressing, or baked peas with tarragon, yogurt and pistachios?
- Fage seems to have the widest distribution in grocery stores; Oikos organic is popular here in the Northeast US. If you're lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe's, try their brand; it's delicious, and much less expensive than the others.
- Use it as a low-fat (or zero-fat) substitute for sour cream, whipping cream, butter or creme fraiche in many recipes. Even the zero-fat varieties deliver full-fat flavor, so stick with the many nonfat options available.
- It's easy to make your own Greek yogurt. But yogurt is said to be the food of the gods, so if a Greek god offers to help you make it, don't turn him down!
- Is Greek yogurt an aphrodisiac? Very likely; after all, in Greece a bride and groom eat yogurt with honey and walnuts before their honeymoon.
Lemon walnut yogurt dressing
The nice folks at Stonyfield Farm sent me some nonfat Oikos organic Greek yogurt to sample. Stonyfield Farm is based in New Hampshire, which is near-enough local to Rhode Island. I've never been a huge yogurt lover; most American-style yogurt is too watery, and too sour, for my taste. But I love Greek yogurt, especially for dips and marinades. This recipe isn't really a recipe, but my husband Ted can't seem to get enough of it. Serves 6.
1 16-oz container of zero-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon curd, homemade or store-bought
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup walnut halves
In a bowl, stir together the yogurt and lemon curd (this can be done 1-2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate). Divide into 6 small bowls or ramekins (this makes small, but filling, portions). Sprinkle with lemon zest and walnut halves, and serve cold.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Grilled fruit with cardamom yogurt
Roasted vegetables with yogurt and fresh tomato sauce
Tandoori-spiced grilled lamb