On the day I celebrated my culture, I made a recipe celebrating yogurt culture.
Try this Yogurt dip with lemon vinaigrette.
I remember well when I checked the labels at the yogurt shelves in an ordinary American supermarket for the first time. It was in June 2013 when we traveled for 10 days between San Francisco and Los Angeles, to find out if we wanted to life in California.
You know the answer.
But not yet my findings at the dairy isle. Let me tell you, it was as hard as in the Netherlands to find full fat Greek yogurt, but even harder to localize a ‘real’ yogurt. One made of “cultured pasteurized milk”. A yogurt as yogurt is supposed to be, made with live bacterial cultures.
Cheryl Sternman-Rule has a nicer way to put it. I quote:
“In addition to making sure the yogurt has live, active bacterial cultures, read the ingredients carefully. Some manufacturers use thickeners, stabilizers, and other ingredients to optimize the flavor, texture, mouthfeel, and shelf life of their products. These may or may not bother you, but it’s good to know what they’re called so you can be informed as possible.”
In her latest cookbook Yogurt Culture she explores .. well .. yogurt. Duh! And that is real yogurt, she even shows you how to make it yourself. But most of all, Cheryl shows you how yogurt can be more than a morning staple for your cereals. For this, she leaves the artificially colored, flavored constructs filled with sugar that mimic yogurt in their aisle, and travels abroad.
More specifically to the Mediterranean, Middle East and beyond. The area that celebrates yogurt in all its goodness, and has done so since it’s arise in the Neolithic times.
Turns out she didn’t find a dish you can’t add yogurt to.
A lot of the recipes I the book originate in the Middle East, North-Africa and Central Asia. But Cheryl’s culinary inspiration isn’t restricted to those regions, which makes the cookbook interesting for non-hummus and kebab lovers (are there any?) as well.
Would I have bought the book?
Well, I did buy the book. But would I have bought Yogurt Culture as I didn’t met Cheryl and got to know her as a warm, attentive and smart woman, who happened to be the one who gave me my first real American hug, and who invited me to the cookbook presentation?
Would I buy the book, just by itself?
Yes and no. The younger me, interested in the culinary regions Cheryl dived in for this book would have bought it in a sec. Present me hesitates, as she already knows how to cook so and every now and then uses yogurt in her savory dishes. A few yogurt dishes at the cookbook party persuaded me, though.
Yogurt is back on my dinner plate!
With this blogpost I want you to encourage to buy the cookbook Yogurt Culture as well. If only because I must endorse it because Cheryl chooses to use the word ‘play’ when she describes her goal with the cookbook Yogurt Culture:
“to encourage you to play with plain yogurt”.
Since I have the book, let’s do so!
Yogurt dip with lemon vinaigrette
For our King’s Day Party I was looking for a nice yogurt dip for our raw veggies. On page 111 I saw what I needed, although I didn’t follow the recipe strictly to the rules. I served it the way Cheryl Sternman Rule prescribed in Yogurt Culture, although not with pita (which would have been great as well), but with carrots, celery stalks and cauliflower.
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
6 tablespoons of your best extra vierge olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon za’atar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
veggies and bread for dipping
Tip: Za’atar is a spice mix that contains wild thyme, sumac (sour red berries) and sesame seeds. You can buy it in Middle Eastern stores. Use it to marinate your chicken, pour it in a pilav or just dip some bread in olive oil and then in za’atar like Egyptians do for breakfast.
Beat the yogurt until light and smooth. Pour it in a nice wide serving bowl.
Make the vinaigrette. Zest the lemon and use 1 tablespoon of it. Mix it with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, add some salt and pepper and whisk. Slowly add the olive oil until emulsified. Pour over the yogurt.
Garnish the yogurt with the za’atar and chopped fresh parsley.
Tip: Both the dip and the vinaigrette stay up to at least a week. Maybe you want to cut a watermelon into nice bitesize cubes and mix it with the dip. Let rest for a few hours and enjoy in the sun.