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Friday, June 12, 2015

Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule + recipe

Yogurt is one of the most popular and talked about foods in the United States. Whether it is protein, calcium, or probiotics that you need, there are many yogurts on the market that will fit your bill. Since I was little, yogurt has been a sweet snack of vanilla flavored yogurt either pre-mixed with fruit or fruit on the bottom. As my culinary world started to grow, I noticed that many cultures use yogurt in savory ways such as those from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and India. Cheryl Sternman Rule also explored the world with her yogurt travels to see how many different cultures use this very versatile food. She shares her knowledge of yogurt and shares her travels via recipes.

Melissa’s culinary team prepared the dishes below with the utmost expertise and care.

“Dips, Dress, Drizzle, Spread” chapter is about social dishes that are meant to be simple and shared in a casual way – friends and family get-togethers, potlucks, etc. Nothing wows your guest more than saying, “This dish is so simple. I just whipped it up.” Greek Yogurt with Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below) is made with 6 ingredients. Cheryl ate a version of this on her travels in Israel. This is a great gateway recipe if you are new to the savory world of yogurt. The Greek yogurt is thick, rich, and creamy and the lemon vinaigrette balances the richness with a light citrus kick. The recipe says to serve with whole-wheat pita triangles, but this would also work well with crudités, plain tortilla or potato chips, naan, or used as a spread inside a sandwich.

Greek Yogurt with Lemon Vinaigrette (Excerpted from Yogurt Culture, © 2015 by Cheryl Sternman Rule. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.)
Makes 2¼ cups

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, preferably whole milk
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
  • ¼ teaspoon za’atar*, or few leaves of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Warm whole-wheat pita triangles for serving


*Za’atar is a type of wild thyme often mixed with sumac (a brick-red, sour spice), salt, and sesame seeds. Look for it in Middle Eastern markets.


  1. In a large bowl, beat the yogurt until light and smooth.
  2. Scrape it into a shallow, wide serving bowl and smooth with the back of a spoon to create a wide indentation.
  3. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the oil and lemon juice until emulsified; season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the vinaigrette over the yogurt so it floods the indentation.
  5. Sprinkle with pine nuts and za’atar or parsley.
  6. Taste, adding a bit more salt, if desired.
  7. Serve with warm pita.


In the “Sip” chapter, yogurt is not just about sweet drinks. They also flow into the savory side like Turkish ayran, Persian doogh, or Indian chaas where salt is used instead of sugar. Pineapple Lassi is a drink from India. Usually made with mango, pineapple actually makes a refreshing twist on this drink. It is like an Indian smoothie with smooth texture and tropical sweet flavor.

In the “Slurps” chapter, Cheryl explores yogurt soups which can be hot or cold, sweet or savory, richly spiced or very simple. Cauliflower-Bacon Soup with Saffron Yogurt actually looks like cheddar cheese soup. It looks rich and heavy, but is actually light and creamy from the cauliflower and yogurt. Everything is better with bacon and it adds a smoky, salty flavor to the mix. This would be great on a gloomy rainy day as the color will definitely perk up you up visually and make the taste buds happy.

The “Dine” chapter shows that yogurt is not just a breakfast ingredient from incorporating into sandwiches by layering with labneh as it helps to keep the bread from getting soggy; used as part of stuffing for peppers or mushroom caps; marinating meats as the yogurt acts as a tenderizer; or adding to sauces and curries. Labneh-Stuffed Peppers with Feta and Pistachio is like a popper or chile relleno without the deep-fried coating on the outside. The labneh holds up well to the heat and works well feta with its salty whey flavor. The sweet peppers add a slight sweetness. If you use the small sweet peppers, they are the perfect size for parties and potlucks. Shiitake Frittata with Labneh, Kale, and Shallots is great way to make a meal. The kale lends a greenness to the dish and contrasts with the sweetness of the shallots. The mushrooms add an earthy flavor and meaty texture. The dollops of labneh are like puddles of creamy goodness resembling a thick ricotta. This would be great for brunch with a salad of mixed greens.

Yogurt has its advantages in the “Bake” chapter as it can be used as a flavor enhancer, leavening activator, moisture deliverer, and luxe filling. Mixed Fruit and Yogurt Sheet Cake for a Crowd is a definite crowd pleaser. The crowd will be wowed first by the visual – colors of blue, red, and purple on the cake like a painter’s palette. The cake texture is reminiscent of bread pudding. The yogurt gives the cake a richer flavor. The berries add a sweet and sour, yet refreshing flavor. This would be great in the morning for breakfast or for dessert with a cup of coffee.

Let Yogurt Culture take your taste buds on a world tour while keeping you healthy.

For more information:
Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule
Books can be purchased on Amazon.com

On the search for an ingredient that you can’t find in the store, check out Melissa’s Produce’s website or call +1.800.588.0151.

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