Savoring a New Obsession with Greek Yogurt
I am obsessed with savory yogurt and vegetable parfaits. There, I said it. Phew, its off my chest.
This obsession goes way beyond simple recipe development. It has become an almost daily ritual to come up with new savory breakfast and lunch (and sometimes even dinner) combinations of veggies and seasonings to top off my plain Greek-style yogurt.
Yogurt is a great source of the healthy bacteria that colonize our bodies, helping to boost our immune functions and metabolism. Greek-style yogurt – yogurt that has been drained of most of its liquid whey – is not only thick and creamy, but is also a great source of protein. For everyday consumption, I stick with a 1% or 2% milk fat yogurt, although we do occasionally splurge on a whole milk option. I make my own yogurt pretty often (it’s really easy) but feel free to buy your favorite supermarket brand of yogurt. Look for brands that specifically state that they include live cultures, and check ingredients lists for gums and fillers such as cellulose and pectin, trying to stay as close as possible to a list limited to just milk and cultures.
I’ve cooked with Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream for years, so the idea of using it as an ingredient in a savory dip or spread wasn’t new. We are big tzatziki and raita fans here – used to mixing garlic, herbs, and veggies into yogurt as a cooling sauce. One of my daughter’s favorite recipes is Yotam Ottolenghi’s sautéed chard dish topped with a dollop of yogurt mixed with olive oil and salt. But my obsession with using yogurt and savory ingredients in parfait-style arrangements that have changed how I compose a meal.
I often lightly sweetened my plain yogurt with honey, agave or maple syrup and used it to top a bowl of fruit, but that got boring and sometimes felt too sweet for breakfast. My veggie yogurt parfaits are high in fiber and protein, lower in carbohydrates, and honestly give me a lot more interesting flavors to enjoy.
It all started a few weeks ago when my daughter and I sampled Sohha’s savory yogurt and mix-ins at the Mamaroneck Farmers’ Market. Not only do they make an outstanding, rich, creamy yogurt with just a touch of sea salt, they also sell a number of olive oil-based seasoning blends to add to the yogurt. We tasted them all, and although the Za’atar blend was really good, we opted for the Everything Bagel blend of sesame, poppy, toasted garlic, caraway seed and salt. At home, I mixed a little of the seasoning with a container of their low-fat yogurt and used it as a dressing for a salad of shredded kohlrabi and apples with crumbled blue cheese over baby arugula. So delicious!
The door was open and I was not going back. The next day I breakfasted on a bowl of chopped raw red and yellow peppers, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and parsley topped with plain yogurt and a drizzle of the Everything blend. When we ran out of the premade blend I began making up my own combinations, raiding my spice cabinet and crisper drawer for new ideas. Paprika and chopped garlic? Check! Cumin, coriander and chili powder? Yup. Then we hit the spice blends. The same combination of chopped vegetables tossed with a little lemon juice – basically a quick Israeli salad – was topped with a dollop of plain yogurt, drizzled with a teaspoon of good olive oil, and then sprinkled with Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mixture featuring sesame seeds, hyssop, and ground sumac. Dukkah, a north African spice mixture featuring toasted, ground hazelnuts got subbed in the next day and the combination of the creamy yogurt, vegetal olive oil, and rich hazelnuts was mind blowing.
On Monday night, my “to go” dinner for a late meeting was a bowl of baby spinach topped with red and yellow peppers sautéed in roasted garlic oil, cubes of toasted multigrain sourdough bread, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and za’atar. Today’s lunch is a bowl of left over roasted vegetables – eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and fennel – topped with yogurt and some leftover pesto sauce. I layer the ingredients in the bowl parfait-style and then dig through the layers with a spoon, getting a slightly different combination of flavors with each mouthful. Next up on the list to try is a bowl of rainbow quinoa and chopped raw veggies topped with yogurt and dukkah.
Try opening up your spice cabinet and treating your next bowl of yogurt to some of your favorites and adding some raw or cooked veggies to the mix. Maybe you will become obsessed, too!
Interested in making your own yogurt? It’s really easy to do. Try Melissa Clark’s New York Times recipe. No special equipment is needed—just a pot and a warm location! Email Jenna@cooklearnlive.com for my tips and tricks for making great yogurt at home.