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3 yogurt recipes from sweet to savory

Yogurt-orange tea cake. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Yogurt-orange tea cake. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

I discovered a love for yogurt when I took my first trip to Europe as a college student. What I tasted there was so different from the yogurt I grew up with, which was thick, gummy, and full of stabilizers and artificial flavors.  European yogurt was thinner, full of bright, sour, tangy flavors. I was hooked.

Over the years, yogurt in the U.S. has improved dramatically. You can find a wide variety of yogurt in most supermarkets, from thick Greek-style yogurt to low-fat yogurt, to thinner European-style yogurt similar to the yogurt I first fell in love with in my travels through France, Italy and Switzerland. Many yogurt makers also include stories on their packages about how they treat their cows, support family farms and practice organic and sustainable agriculture.  Some of my personal favorites come from the East Coast, including Butterworks Farm organic yogurt from Vermont, Brown Cow yogurt from New Hampshire, and Stonyfield Farm yogurt, also from New Hampshire.

The Straus family in Northern California is a leader among the newer generation of American yogurt makers. On a recent bright, sunny morning I drove to Marin County, north of San Francisco, to meet Albert Straus, the owner of Straus Family Creamery. Their organic yogurt is tart and creamy, and the backstory of Straus Dairy is as compelling as the products they produce.

Straus advertises itself as the first organic creamery in the nation. Albert Straus is something of a trailblazer when it comes to developing environmentally sustainable farming methods and supporting small dairy farmers. His company has committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2030 on his farm and a dozen other farms that supply Straus Dairy with milk.

Cows graze near Tomales Bay. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

We walked around the farm and learned about Straus’ farming philosophy and met a few of the cows. The surrounding green hills, where the herd roams freely, rose up against the bright blue of Tomales Bay, a long, narrow inlet of the Pacific Ocean. The intense green of the grass and the idyllic backdrop helped me understand why Straus yogurt is so rich and full of flavor and nutrients.

One of the distinguishing features of Straus farms is the method they use to make their yogurt.  According to Albert Straus, most yogurt is made with heated milk, added cultures and put into a plastic container to set and incubate. (This is called “cup set.”)

But at Straus, Albert explained, “We don’t like putting warm liquids in a plastic cup. Instead, we incubate the milk in stainless tanks and then cool it before it goes into a plastic cup.”

This method also increases the milk solids creating a thinner, more pourable, rich European-style yogurt.

“Straus yogurt,” Albert claims, “has more body, more protein, a higher concentration of milk.”

When asked to describe the flavor profile of his yogurt he doesn’t miss a beat: “The terroir of this land has a huge influence. Salt air and coastal climate, sweet grasses and no pesticides or fertilizers help us create yogurt that is a complete protein, a natural source of calcium. Our yogurt has a clean, tart flavor, without any bitterness.”

Straus makes several types of yogurt (European-style, Greek and vanilla as well as products including milk, butter, sour cream, kefir and ice cream.) Their products are available in several markets, including Sprouts, Safeway and Whole Foods. Find Straus yogurt near you here. Learn more about Straus here.

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Keep in mind that yogurt can be a blank canvas. While it is full of creamy tangy flavor, it takes on other flavors beautifully. These days, I eat yogurt in the morning, topped with granola and fruit, in salads and vinaigrettes, as a glaze for poultry and fish, a topping for soups and stews, and as a creamy element in cakes and cookies.

Here are three new recipes that show off yogurt’s potential in a yogurt and spiced marinated chicken dish, a yogurt-orange tea cake, and a silky yogurt panna cotta.

Spiced yogurt marinated chicken

There are such big flavors in this grilled chicken dish that you’ll wonder how it can be so simple. Yogurt not only adds a wonderful creamy, slightly sour flavor to the chicken but acts as a tenderizer for the meat. Oregano, cumin, cinnamon and lemon flavor the yogurt marinade. The chicken should soak in the marinade for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Place the chicken on skewers and grill outdoors or broil indoors. Serve with warm pita bread, a cucumber, parsley, sweet pepper, tomato salad and the yogurt sauce below.

Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients

Spiced yogurt marinated chicken. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

The yogurt marinade and chicken:

  • 1 cup plain whole yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon dried ground oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice from the lemon you zested
  • Dash chili flakes or hot pepper sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs, with or without skin, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces


Yogurt sauce

  • 1 cup whole plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 2 scallions, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint, plus a few mint leaves for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hot pepper sauce to taste, optional


Instructions 

  1. In a large bowl or plastic bag mix the marinade: Mix together the yogurt, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, lemon zest, lemon juice, chili flakes (or hot pepper sauce) and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Add the chicken, toss to thoroughly coat and marinate for 1 hour up to 12 hours.
  2. If using wooden skewers, soak 6 wooden skewers in a large bowl of cold water for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. If using metal skewers skip this step.
  3. Make the yogurt sauce: Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl and taste for seasoning. The sauce will keep for several hours covered and refrigerated.
  4. Thread the chicken pieces on 6 skewers, wooden or metal.
  5. Preheat the grill to medium-hot, about 375 to 400 degrees. Alternately preheat the broiler. Grill the chicken about 6 minutes per side until cooked through and browned and no signs of pink when cut through the middle of one piece. If broiling, place the skewers on a rimmed cooking or baking sheet and place about 1 inch from flames; cook about 5 to 6 minutes per side.
  6. Serve hot with the yogurt sauce on the side. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.


Yogurt-orange tea cake

Yogurt-orange tea cake. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

It looks like a pound cake but it’s lighter and tangy and bursting with the flavor of fresh orange. This yogurt-based cake will last for days and is superbly topped with any kind of citrus marmalade, store-bought or homemade. Here’s my recipe for marmalade.

You’ll need a 9 x 5 or 9 x 4-inch loaf pan for this cake.

Makes one loaf.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil or butter, for coating the loaf pan
  • 1 ½ cups flour  (215 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Grated zest of one orange, about 1 ½ teaspoons
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice, from the orange you zested
  • ¾ cup whole plain yogurt, or Greek yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional topping: about 1 cup citrus marmalade


Instructions

  1. Grease a 9 x 5 or 9 x 4 inch loaf pan with the oil or butter and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the sugar and the orange zest by stirring them together with your fingers.  Whisk in the yogurt, eggs, and orange juice. Add the flour mixture, stirring well to combine. Add the melted butter and vanilla and mix to combine all the ingredients. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
  4. Bake on the middle shelf for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and bake another 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Let cool on a cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Then using a flat kitchen knife, release the cake from the sides and bottom of the pan. Invert onto the cooling rack and flip the cake over again. Let cool.
  6. If you want to top with marmalade and it’s very thick, place the jar in a microwave for 20 seconds or warm it in a pot of simmering water until it almost liquifies. Then spoon or spread the marmalade on top with a pastry brush.


Maple yogurt panna cotta with caramelized pistachio topping

Maple yogurt panna cotta with caramelized pistachio topping. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Panna cotta literally means cooked cream in  Italian, but here I make this creamy dessert using a combination of yogurt and heavy cream. The panna cotta is also flavored with maple syrup and vanilla and, if you have a few extra minutes, a delicious topping of caramelized pistachios. The sweet and salty nut topping is the perfect contrast to the silky smooth panna cotta.

The panna cotta needs to chill in the refrigerator for about 2 to 3 hours, so plan your time accordingly. You’ll need two one-cup ramekins or custard cups.

Serves 2.

Ingredients

The maple yogurt panna cotta

  • ½ tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • ¾ cup whole plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


The caramelized pistachio topping

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ⅓ cup shelled salted pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Sea salt


Instructions

  1. Make the panna cotta: In a small bowl, mix the gelatin and cold water and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl mix the yogurt and ¼ cup cream.
  3. In a medium saucepan mix the remaining ½ cup cream with the sugar, and maple syrup and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in gelatin mixture and then whisk in yogurt, cream, and vanilla to create a smooth mixture. Divide between two 1 cup ramekins or custard cups and cover with plastic wrap or plastic wrap alternative. Chill for about 2 to 3 hours or until set; it shouldn’t feel wet when you gently wobble the panna cotta.
  4. Meanwhile make the pistachios: place a sheet of parchment paper on a clean work surface.
  5. In a medium skillet, heat the butter over moderate heat. When just beginning to sizzle add the nuts and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Drizzle on the maple syrup and cook for 2 minutes, until the syrup begins to thicken and caramelize the nuts. Remove from the heat and, using a soft spatula, spread the nuts on the parchment paper and pour any syrup from the bottom of the skillet on top. Lightly sprinkle with salt and let it harden. When the nuts have cooled and hardened, separate them into small pieces.
  6. To serve, place a few pieces of the pistachios on the side of the panna cotta and serve cold.


Find more yogurt recipes here

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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