Greek yogurt (Recipe: turkey, cranberry and basil meatballs)
If you're not planning to roast "the big bird" for Thanksgiving, you'll love this week's recipes. Welcome to Not Quite Turkey Week, Day One.
Americans learned to love yogurt in the 1970s, when a major yogurt company ran a series of television ads featuring 100-year-olds from the Republic of Georgia, and claimed that yogurt contributed to long life.
I've never really liked yogurt, but oh-boy do I love cooking with Greek yogurt.
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.
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. With the whey removed, what remains is a higher concentration of protein, fewer carbs, and less lactose.
The resulting yogurt is thicker and more acidic than traditional yogurt, more like what we call "yogurt cheese", so in cooking it adds richness without extra moisture. Also, it doesn't separate, and the creaminess provides great "mouth feel."
It's easy to make your own Greek yogurt, but over the past year or so it's become easy to find in almost every supermarket, even the one in my small town, which stocks both Fage and Oikos. Use it as a low-fat (or zero-fat) substitute for sour cream, whipping cream, butter or creme fraiche in many recipes.
Turkey, cranberry and basil meatballs
When Janice and Liz, the Meal Makeover Moms, came for lunch last week, we served these meatballs over a green salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. A bit sweet from the cranberries, and absolutely delicious! Serves 4-6.
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1-1/4 lb ground turkey (93% fat free)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 large egg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place cranberries in a one-cup glass measuring cup, and fill with water to the 1-cup mark. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, yogurt, breadcrumbs, basil, egg, salt and pepper. Drain the cranberries, and add them to the turkey. With your hands, mix just until the ingredients are combined; do not overmix.
Using an ice cream scoop (the kind with a release, called a "disher"), form the meatballs and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a Silpat (silicone mat) or parchment paper. You should get 17-18 large meatballs.
Bake for 18 minutes. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold. A salad of greens dressed with balsamic vinegar makes a perfect base for the meatballs.