Nov 11, 2015

YOGURT – "Food Of The Gods"

Most historical accounts attribute yogurt to the Neolithic peoples of Central Asia around 5000 B.C.. Herdsmen began the practice of milking their animals, and the natural enzymes in the carrying containers (animal stomachs) curdled the milk, essentially making yogurt. Not only did the milk then keep longer, it is thought that people preferred the taste so continued the practice, which then evolved over centuries into commercial yogurt making.

In the ancient cuisine of India, the combination of yogurt and honey is called "the food of the gods". The "milk" in the biblical reference to "the land flowing with milk and honey" was actually a fermented yogurt style drink.

Nomadic Turks
The word yogurt comes from Turkish, indicating that it arrived in Europe from the Ottoman Empire. It was brought to Vienna by the nomadic farmers of the Balkans and the Turkish army.

Turkish immigrants brought yogurt to North America in the 1700s but it really didn’t catch on in the United States until 1929 when Armenian immigrants, Rose and Sarkis Colombosian first commercially produced and sold yogurt in the United States, which later became Colombo Yogurt. In the 1940s, Daniel Carasso took over a small yogurt factory in New York – the company is now called Dannon. Yogurt is often sold sweetened and flavored, or with added fruit on the bottom, to offset its natural sourness. If the fruit is already stirred into the yogurt, it is sometimes referred to as Swiss-style.

Greek “full” yogurt is made from milk that has been blended with cream to a fat content of exactly ten percent. Standard (5%), low-fat (2%) and non-fat (0%) versions are also made. It is often served with honey or fruit preserves as a dessert.

The popularity of yogurt soared in the 50s and 60s with the boom of the health food culture and is now available in many varieties to suit every taste and lifestyle.

Beneficial, friendly or helpful bacteria: Bacteria that naturally inhabit our digestive tracts and help us to digest foods and help keep our bodies healthy by controlling harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. Yogurt is nutritionally rich in protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.

A variety of plant-milk yogurts appeared in the 2000s, using soy milk, rice milk, and nut milks such as almond milk and coconut milk. The products are aimed at vegans, as well as consumers who prefer plant milks or are unable to tolerate dairy products.

Today, yogurt is one of the most universal and diverse foods in the world, even here in Hawaii.

How to Store Yogurt:
• Before you buy yogurt, check the best before date on the package and choose the product with the furthest date.
• Refrigerate yogurt immediately after you buy it and store it on the colder shelves rather than in the door. The coldest part of most refrigerators is the bottom shelves. Cold air is denser, and tends to sink.
• Do not eat yogurt after the best eaten before date, usually printed in small type just below the lid.
• Once the package is opened, eat the yogurt within 3 days.
• Protect yogurt from other foods with strong odors by sealing it tightly.
• Spoon as much yogurt as you are going to eat into your bowl with a clean spoon. To avoid cross-contamination (which will speed up spoilage), do not return unused portions to the original container.
• Do not freeze yogurt. Freezing will affect the texture and flavor. However, it will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month if you do decide to freeze it.

I am always looking for new ways to prepare food, all you have to do is look back in history to see that yogurt has been around for centuries. Now that you are yogurt savvy, here are a few recipes to try:

Yogurt Hawaiian-Style
Life is simple here in Hawaii, and so is this decadent dessert, truly "the food of the gods".

Yogurt – Hawaiian Style
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1/2 cup wild honey
1/3 cup macadamia nuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks for garnish, optional

Divide Greek yogurt into two servings. Sprinkle each serving with toasted macadamia nuts, fresh pineapple chunks, then drizzle with wild honey. Makes 2 servings.

Poached Eggs In Yogurt (Cilbir)
This is typically a breakfast/brunch recipe from Turkey, however it can also be presented as a creative dinner, served with a mixture of lentils and rice, or saffron rice pilaf and a tossed salad.

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup unsalted butter ( 1/2 stick)
12 fresh sage leaves, cut into thin ribbons
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon dry crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
8 eggs
Watercress for garnish
chunks of warmed crusty bread

Stir yogurt and garlic in small bowl to blend and then season to taste with salt.
Divide the mixture equally among 4 plates, spreading to coat the the center of each plate.
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the sage ribbons, smoked paprika and red pepper and stir just until the butter sizzles; remove from heat and season with salt.

Add the vinegar to large skillet of simmering water and return the mixture to a simmer.

Crack the eggs into the simmering water and simmer until the eggs are softly cooked, about 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon or pasta server/fork, remove the eggs from the water, drain briefly and place 2 eggs atop the yogurt on each plate.

Rewarm the butter mixture, if necessary, and spoon over the eggs. Serve immediately garnished with a bunch of watercress and chunks of warmed crusty bread to wipe up every luscious drop. Makes 4 servings.

Cucumber Yogurt Dip  (Tzatziki)
Grated cucumber marries with chopped herbs and aromatics in this iconic Greek yogurt condiment.

1⁄2 large English cucumber, peeled
1 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 cups plain full-fat Greek yogurt
3 tbsp. finely chopped dill
2 tbsp. finely chopped mint
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. olive oil
Paprika, for garnish

Grate cucumber using the large holes of a box grater; transfer to a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Toss cucumber with 1 tablespoon of salt; let it sit 10 minutes. Squeeze excess water from cucumber and transfer to a bowl. Stir in yogurt, dill, mint, lemon juice, garlic paste, shallot, salt, and pepper; drizzle with oil and sprinkle with paprika to garnish. Makes 2 cups.

Carrot-Pineapple Salad with Yogurt-Mayo Dressing
Ingredients for the salad:
4 medium sized carrots, freshly grated
1/3 cup Craisins (dried cranberries)
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup seedless red grapes, cut in half

Ingredients for the dressing:
1/3 cup Yogurt, whole plain
1/3 cup mayonnaise-4
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Combine carrots, Craisins, pineapple, apple, grapes in a large bowl. Mix mayo, yogurt, sugar and salt together, and pour over carrot mixture. Toss until well combined and serve cold. Makes 4 servings. 

Baked Salmon with Asparagus & Yogurt Sauce
Ingredients for fish:
1 (2 1⁄2 pound) boneless, skin-off salmon filet, cut into 4 equal pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon dried dill

Ingredients for asparagus:
1 pound asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for yogurt sauce:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chile powder or paprika

Heat oven to 500˚F.

Rub each piece of fish all over with olive oil. Put salmon pieces on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, leaving about a 1/4" of space between each piece, then season the top of the fish with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with dill. When the oven comes to temperature, bake fish, until crisp, lightly charred, and cooked through, about 20-25 minutes. Remove fish and cover with foil to keep warm.

Reduce oven heat to 425˚F. Place asparagus on another foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 12-15 minutes or until tender, stirring once halfway through.

Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce: In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and pepper.

Using a large metal spatula, transfer salmon and asparagus to a serving platter, or individual plates, and serve with the yogurt sauce. Sprinkle some chile powder or paprika over the top of the sauce and serve with a wild rice casserole on the side. Makes 4 servings.

Broiled Pork Kebabs with Yogurt Mint Sauce
Whether you broil or grill the pork kebabs you will have a treat in store for you, especially with the yogurt mint sauce.

2 cups red wine
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2" cubes
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the Yogurt Sauce and Garnish:
1 cucumber (about 12-ounces)
1 1⁄2 cups yogurt
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
4 pita breads, warmed

For the marinade: Whisk together the wine, oregano, cumin, salt, thyme, cinnamon, and garlic in a large bowl. Add the cubes of pork and toss well to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Meanwhile, make the yogurt sauce: Trim the ends off the cucumber and peel it. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scrape out and discard the seeds from each half. Finely chop the cucumber and transfer it to a medium bowl. Stir in the yogurt, mint, oil, and garlic, and season with salt. Cover the sauce with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. (The sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

Arrange an oven rack 7-8" from the broiler element and heat broiler. Remove the pork from the marinade (reserve marinade), thread the cubes onto 4 metal or wooden skewers, and arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet. (If using wooden skewers, make sure to cover the ends completely with the pork cubes, to prevent the skewers from burning.) Season the pork with salt and pepper. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Broil the kebabs, generously basting with the marinade occasionally, until browned on all sides and cooked through, 20-25 minutes. (Alternatively, the kebabs may be cooked over a medium-hot grill for the same amount of time.)

Arrange the skewers on a platter and scatter the scallions and parsley over them. Serve with the yogurt sauce and the pita. Makes 4 servings.

Rosemary Mashed Potatoes with Greek Yogurt
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup half and half, plus more if needed
1/2 large garlic clove, finely minced
1 tablespoon green onions, chopped (plus another tablespoon for garnish)
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Put potatoes in a pot covered with water. Add the rosemary and boil until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove, and discard the rosemary. Roughly mash potatoes and add remaining ingredients until all ingredients are evenly incorporated. I like a few lumps in my mashed potatoes. Add more half and half, one tablespoon at a time, if potatoes are too dry. Garnish the top with more chopped green onion for garnish. Serve warm. Makes 2 servings.

Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce
2 large eggplants
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
olive oil for frying

1 cup plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Slice eggplants 1/2 inch thick. Lay slices flat and sprinkle with half of the salt and half of the lemon juice. Turn slices over and sprinkle the other side with the remaining salt and lemon juice.

Put eggplant aside while preparing sauce.

Whisk yogurt until smooth. Add garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk until well blended. Cover and chill.

Heat 1/4 inch of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add eggplant in a single layer. Fry each side until browned. Place finished slices on a serving platter, and keep warm in the oven while frying remaining slices.

Serve eggplant hot, accompanied by the yogurt sauce. Makes 6-8 servings.

Yogurt Bundt Cake with Lilikoi Sauce
A tropical yogurt bundt cake with the tang of lilikoi (passion fruit) fruit syrup.

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more
3 eggs
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup frozen passion fruit purée, defrosted
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Heat oven to 350°F. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat 1 cup sugar and the butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in yogurt and vanilla. With the motor running, slowly add dry ingredients until batter forms. Transfer to a greased 10" bundt pan, and smooth top. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean, 45 minutes to an hour. Let cake cool completely, then invert onto a serving platter and slice.

Bring remaining sugar, the lilikoi purée, and 1⁄2 cup water to a simmer in a 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and sauce is slightly thickened, 1–2 minutes, and let cool. Drizzle sauce over cake slices; garnish with sesame seeds. Makes 8 servings.

Yogurt Doughnuts
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs
Juice of 1 lemon
1 heaping tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying
1⁄4 cup confectioners' sugar

Sift flour and baking powder together into a medium bowl and set aside. Put granulated sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, honey, and 1 tablespoon of the oil into another medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture, beating with a wooden spoon until batter is smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until batter is chilled, 30-60 minutes.

Pour oil into a wide medium heavy-bottomed pot to a depth of 2" and heat over medium heat until temperature reaches 325°F on a candy thermometer. Working in batches to avoid crowding with the pot, carfully spoon a scant 1⁄4 cup of the batter into hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until doughnuts are deep golden brown all over and cooked through, 5-7 minutes per batch. Transfer doughnuts with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Dust with confectioners' sugar while still hot. Makes 14 doughnuts.

Dark Chocolate-Yogurt Dip
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons Hershey's unsweetened 100% cocoa powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until it is an even dark color and all of the brown sugar granules have dissolved, about 3 minutes.

For dipping, serve with fresh Maui strawberries, fresh pineapple sticks, sliced apple bananas, marshmallows, graham crackers, pound cake cut into squares, macadamia nuts, etc..

Makes 1 serving.

Mango Lassi
A thick, yogurt based, drink from India

2 cups plain, full-fat yogurt
1 cup ice cubes
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1" pieces, plus more for garnish
Vanilla ice cream or heavy cream, for topping (optional)

Purée yogurt, ice, milk, sugar, vanilla, and mangoes in a blender until smooth. Pour into glasses and top with 1–2 tablespoons ice cream or heavy cream if you like; garnish with additional mango. Makes 2-4 servings.

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