Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Greek Yogurt Craze: Just a “Fage” or Here to Stay?

America must be obsessed with Greek yogurt. How else can you explain the 2 billion dollar industry that is Chobani and Fage? Even Pinkberry has started selling Greek yogurt, topped to order, with a range that’s going past the sweet stuff and into truly savory territory—think yogurt topped with herbed tomatoes and balsamic. If you can’t picture yourself going to an ice cream shop for lunch, try this at home: open up a container of Greek yogurt and adorn it with the ingredients you were saving for salad. You’re going to love it, I promise.
Southern Living Magazine calls this concept picnic in a glass.

Yep, that’s Greek yogurt in there—and it’s the perfect, light fare for bikini season. If you’re watching your weight, it’s good to know that Greek yogurt has the same flavorful effect as Ranch dressing, sour cream and mayo.
But calorie counting isn’t the name of the game for us foodies. It’s about inspiration!  Many home chefs aren’t aware how trendy restaurants use Greek yogurt. It’s in cocktails! You can add it to fried Brussels sprouts and cauliflower for a creaminess and tang you never realized existed in cruciferous veggies; you can dredge your chicken through it (I do in my oven fried chicken recipe), and last but not least, make your smoothies infinitely better.

The most creative thing I’ve done with Greek yogurt, to date…..
Sauté a healthy-sized dollop over high heat, with the result of creating a Saganaki fried cheese knock-off. I bet you’ve ordered Saganaki in a Greek restaurant before and burned your tongue because it was so good you couldn’t wait for it to cool off. Hint: Cool down by mixing up one of these yogurt cocktails I found on yummly!

So where did this “plain muse”, as Bobby Flay puts it, start—at least for the USA? According the New York Times, it was back in the 80s, when small business owners from Greece were craving the yogurt their grandparents used to make, and just couldn’t find anything like it in the United States. I don’t know about you, but the idea of New Yorkers standing in line to taste a century-year-old recipe that originated on a window sill in the Mediterranean sunlight, made me want to try to make my own from scratch, too. 

Watch this Awesome Video About Making Your Own Yogurt. It’s Not Scary, I promise!

I’m struck by how easy it is. I found this youtube video, and encourage you to not only watch it, but scratch that fancy “yogurt maker” off your wish list. I almost never say that about kitchen gadgets, but you really don’t need one here. So long as you have milk, live cultures (cheap at any health food store), a jar with a lid, cheesecloth and oven in which to place the yogurt overnight, you don’t need anything else. Anyway, watch Tressa Yellig’s explanation of the creamy process in this video. She distinguishes between ordinary and plain yogurt, shows you the whey that gets drained off, and makes truly delicious Greek yogurt parfaits right before your eyes with so few kitchen gadgets, and with such simplicity, that I wonder what her food is like at Salt Fire and Time.   

Guess I’ve given you enough creamy 411 to get inspired—so get out there and buy (or make!) a tub of yogurt and start experimenting! Your Sunday Best inspirations are ready for the Mason Jars and pretty labels!  

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