Cherry Tomato Raita, Chilled Avocado & Yogurt Soup with Tomato Salsa, and Greek Yogurt Sorbet from YOGURT by Janet Fletcher

Americans have fallen in love with yogurt, thanks to its creamy texture, tangy flavor, and health-promoting probiotic cultures. In Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch,and Dinner , a fresh and modern full-color cookbook, author Janet Fletcher demonstrates the versatility of this dairy superstar in more than fifty recipes for appetizers, salads, soups, beverages, and desserts. From roasted tomato bruschetta with yogurt cheese to meatballs in a warm yogurt sauce to a golden yogurt cake, these recipes showcase yogurt in dishes both rustic and sophisticated.

Drawing inspiration from the culinary traditions of Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, India, and beyond, this useful handbook includes a guide to purchasing yogurt (all of the recipes work with quality store-bought brands), advice on choosing a yogurt maker, and easy methods for making yogurt, Greek yogurt, and yogurt cheese at home.

Horizontal RuleJanet Fletcher signs copies of Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch,and Dinner at Omnivore Books on Food on Tuesday, May 19 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Free.

YogurtCoverReprinted with permission from Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch,and Dinner by Janet Fletcher, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photo of Janet Fletcher by Douglas Fletcher © 2015. You can purchase Yogurt from your local bookstore or through our affiliate links with Amazon or IndieBound.

Horizontal RuleCHERRY TOMATO RAITA

CherryTomatoRaitaServes 4

  • 1 cup plain drained yogurt (page 22) or Greek yogurt (not nonfat)
  • 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ⁄ 4 cup finely minced red onion
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely minced (see note, page 88)
  • 1 ⁄ 2 serrano chile, finely minced (remove seeds for less heat, if desired)
  • 1 ⁄ 2 pound cherry tomatoes, preferably mixed colors
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • Kosher or sea salt

When your garden or farmers’ market yields sun-sweetened cherry tomatoes, remember this raita— an Indian-style yogurt salad with warm toasted spices. I could happily have it for lunch with nothing but flatbread or warm pita, but like other raitas, it complements grilled foods. Add it to the menu whenever you’re serving grilled lamb, chicken, burgers, or fish. For a meatless meal, serve it with saffron rice and charcoal-grilled summer squash.

In a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the sugar. Stir in the red onion, cilantro, garlic, and chile.

Halve the cherry tomatoes, or quarter them if large. In a 10-inch skillet, warm 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil over high heat. Add the tomatoes and sauté briskly until the tomatoes soften and render some juice, 1 to 2 minutes, depending on ripeness; don’t allow them to collapse into a sauce. Scrape the tomatoes and their juices into the yogurt.

In a small skillet or butter warmer, warm the remaining 2 teaspoons vegetable oil over medium heat. Have the skillet lid handy. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Protecting your face with the skillet lid, cook until the mustard seeds pop and the cumin darkens and becomes highly fragrant, 1 minute or less. Pour the hot oil and seasonings over the yogurt and stir in.

Let the raita rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. You can cover and refrigerate the raita for a couple of hours, but remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off. Just before serving, season to taste with salt. The raita should be loose and spoonable, neither soupy nor stiff. Thin with a little water if necessary.

Note—Grating Versus Mincing Garlic:

I typically use a Microplane‚ a rasp-style grater available at kitchenware stores‚ when adding garlic to yogurt. You can also mince the garlic finely with a knife‚ but I find that grated garlic infuses the yogurt better. It practically dissolves‚ so you don’t perceive any little bits of garlic in the yogurt. However‚ for a dish with sautéed garlic‚ such as Orzo with Spicy Lamb‚ Chickpeas‚ & Yogurt‚ I prefer to mince it‚ as grated garlic produces too strong a flavor.

Making Drained Yogurt:

I often drain yogurt, especially homemade yogurt, even if only for an hour. Draining dramatically improves the texture, making any yogurt thicker, creamier, and more mellow by removing whey. Draining also extends the yogurt’s life by removing water and lactose. Reducing the yogurt’s lactose deprives bacteria of their food source. And if you are lactose-sensitive, you should find drained yogurt more digestible.

To drain homemade yogurt, chill it thoroughly first until it is firm. You can drain it as soon as it is cold. Store-bought yogurt has already been chilled, so you can drain it immediately after opening.

Line a large sieve or colander with a triple thickness of dampened cheesecloth or—my preference—with Plyban, a reusable cheesecloth made from a food-grade resin (see Resources, page 135). Plyban’s weave is tighter than cheesecloth, so you don’t need multiple layers, although with very thin yogurt I might use a double thickness.

Set the sieve or colander over a bowl to collect the whey. Gently pour the yogurt into the lined sieve or colander. Cover with a plate or cloth—you’re just protecting the yogurt, not pressing it—and refrigerate. Drain the yogurt until it has the consistency you like. After an hour, it will be noticeably thicker, and I usually stop at that point.

Scrape the drained yogurt into a clean container, cover, and refrigerate.

Wash the cheesecloth or Plyban well in hot, soapy water; rinse well and air-dry. You can usually get two or three uses out of cheesecloth before it frays. Plyban is much longer-lasting and easier to clean.

If you drain the yogurt more than you intended, no problem. Simply whisk some of the whey back in until you have a texture you like.

To keep the whey, pour it into a glass jar and refrigerate. It has many potential uses.

CHILLED AVOCADO AND YOGURT SOUP

Serves 6

  • ChilledAvocadoandYogurtSoup2 large ripe but firm avocados
  • 1 1 ⁄ 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1 ⁄ 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 heaping tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 ⁄ 2 serrano or jalapeño chile, seeds removed for less heat if desired, or more to taste
  • 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Kosher or sea salt

Salsa

  • 1 large plum (Roma) tomato, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1 ⁄ 4-inch dice
  • 1 ⁄ 4 cup finely minced white onion
  • 2 heaping tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 ⁄ 2 serrano or jalapeño chile, seeds removed for less heat if desired, finely minced
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice

All the flavors of guacamole meet up in this creamy soup, with yogurt adding body and refreshment. Serve with Pita Crisps or tortilla chips. For lunch, add a salad of frisée, jicama, and oranges. For dinner, serve in small portions and follow with grilled ribs, grilled salmon, or just about anything grilled.

Halve and pit the avocados. Set aside half an avocado for the salsa. Put the remaining avocado flesh in a blender with the buttermilk, yogurt, cilantro, garlic, chile, and cumin. Blend until smooth. Taste and add more chile if desired, and then blend again. Transfer to a bowl and stir in enough cold water to thin the soup to a pleasing consistency, about 1 ⁄ 2 cup. Stir in the lime juice, or more to taste, and season with salt. Chill thoroughly.

Just before serving, prepare the salsa: In a bowl, stir together the tomato, onion, cilantro, chile, and garlic. Cut the reserved avocado half into 1 ⁄ 4-inch dice and fold it in gently, and then season to taste with salt and lime juice and stir again gently to avoid mashing the avocado.

If the soup has thickened in the refrigerator, whisk in ice water to thin it to the desired consistency. Taste for seasoning. Divide among 6 bowls. Top each serving with a spoonful of salsa and serve.

Toasting and Grinding Cumin Seeds:

Ground cumin is much more fragrant if you make it from whole seeds that you toast and grind only as needed. Put the seeds in a small dry skillet and cook over moderate heat‚ swirling the pan often‚ until the cumin darkens and becomes fragrant‚ 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool‚ and then grind into a fine powder in a mortar or spice grinder.

GREEK YOGURT SORBET

Serves 6

  • GreekYogurtSorbert4 cups whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 3 ⁄ 4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ⁄ 4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, sieved to eliminate lumps
  • 1 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ⁄ 4 teaspoon kosher salt

When sweetened and churned in an ice-cream maker, Greek yogurt tastes like lemon cheesecake. Serve it with summer fruits, fresh or cooked; with fruit pies, cobblers, and crisps; or blanketed with a warm fruit sauce. I love it with fresh apricots or peaches dotted with butter and brown sugar, then broiled until they begin to caramelize. And with or without the fruit, a drizzle of honey never hurts.

In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Chill well, and then freeze in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a lidded storage container, cover, and freeze for at least 1 hour to firm.

At serving time, remove the sorbet from the freezer. If it is hard or icy, let stand at room temperature until soft enough to scoop. Put a generous scoop in each of 6 serving dishes.

Horizontal RuleJanetFletcherJanet Fletcher is the author or coauthor of more than two dozen books on food and beverages, including Cheese & Wine, Cheese & Beer, and The Cheese Course. Her weekly email newsletter, Planet Cheese, is read by cheese enthusiasts internationally, and she is a member of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers. A longtime contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, Janet has received three James Beard Awards and the IACP Bert Greene Award for her newspaper journalism. Her food and beverage writing has also appeared in numerous national magazines, including Saveur, Bon Appétit, Fine Cooking, Culture, and Food & Wine. She lives in Napa Valley but teaches cooking and cheese-appreciation classes around the country. Visit www.janetfletcher.com.

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