Yogurt to the Max

I can remember way back when eating yogurt was the province of only the most hard-core, sandal-wearing health fanatics: you had to go to a health store to find it, and it was only plain and full fat, with none of the flavors you find nowadays. But that was long ago.

Since then I’ve seen Boston Cream Pie-flavored yogurt and White Chocolate-flavored yogurt and wonder if we haven’t lost our way, yogurt-wise. So this post is devoted to the many ways you can use plain, full-fat yogurt. We’ll start out by making a delicious yogurt cheese. Hope you enjoy!

This recipe for Dill Yogurt Cheese comes from a a Balkan Sephardic cookbook. (Sephardic means “Spain” in Hebrew and refers to the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled Iberia in the fifteenth century to escape the Inquisition. Just in case you were wondering.) I had always wanted to try yogurt cheese, and this recipe is fun and easy.

Dill Yogurt Cheese

2 cups full-fat yogurt
1 garlic clove, peeled and put through garlic press
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill, parsley, or scallions

Spread a double layer of cheesecloth in a colander. Combine all ingredients and spoon into the cheesecloth: bring up the corners and tie the neck off with a rubber band. Hang over the sink to allow excess liquid to drip off.

The next day, remove the cheesecloth, and your yogurt cheese is ready!

Below, photos of the yogurt mixture hanging from the faucet. (Warn people before you do this!) Second photo shows the yogurt cheese ready for unwrapping. Lastly, try to use the fine-textured cheesecloth on the right. I found this in the car product aisle of my supermarket–it’s used for waxing cars. Or it may be found in the canning product area.

Yogurt cheese has a smooth, creamy texture.

Another way I like to use yogurt is as a sauce. Just add one crushed garlic clove and a bit of salt to one cup of yogurt. Stir until smooth, and top with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil. This is delicious with grilled foods, but I like it with almost anything–baked chicken, stuffed peppers, you name it.

The yellow flowers above are buttercups. It’s buttercup season!

If you’ve had fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, here the fruit is on the top! For a single serving, use about two tablespoons yogurt. Top with one tablespoon of good quality fruit preserves. Here, the preserve is cherry, and I topped the whole thing with chopped almonds.

I used this delicious cherry preserve from Italy. Heating the spoonful of preserve in the microwave makes it easy to spoon over the yogurt.

You can also top the yogurt with honey, cinnamon and chopped nuts. The photo below shows the recipe from “Food From Many Greek Kitchens,” by Tessa Kiros. It calls for two dollops of yogurt, a tablespoon of coarsely chopped walnuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and about two teaspoons of honey.

I am lucky to live near an Italian grocery store that features food from all over the world (Caputo’s in South Elgin, Illinois). So I’ve been able to use top-quality yogurt for the above recipes, and that’s the key to their deliciousness. Look for full-fat yogurt without pectin or gelatin, or failing that, do the best you can.

One more recipe! It’s for a Bulgarian Yogurt Cake. It’s a soft, gentle, lemony tangy cake that tastes great with fruit such as strawberries.

Bulgarian Yogurt Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
the grated rind of one lemon
1 cup full-fat yogurt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar

Grease a 9″-square or 7 x 11″-rectangle baking pan, and then line with parchment paper. Lightly grease again. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream the butter and the sugar. Add eggs one at a time, then lemon rind. Beat until smooth. Stir in yogurt. Then stir in the dry ingredients, just until combined. The batter will be thick but fluffy. Scrape into the prepared pan, and smooth with a knife. Bake for about 33 to 35 minutes. Cool and dust with powder sugar.

Baking notes: This plain but delicious cake cries out to be served with fresh fruit, such as sliced strawberries or peaches. Be sure to use full-fat yogurt. I forgot to dust the cake with powdered sugar, but it would look nice!

 Lastly, a robin (not yogurt-flavored, as far as I know) showing off his beautiful feathers. Peace to you. Fran

2 thoughts on “Yogurt to the Max

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