Greekly & Godly

Sometimes the most innovative foods you can discover are some of the oldest and most classic. That is why you need to discover Greek yogurt if you have not already. This stuff will blow your mind with its taste, health, cost and versatility. And even if you have discovered it already, perhaps I can add a few tips to advance your repertoire even further.

So what did I promise you? Taste. Greek yogurt is like a thicker, creamier and slightly less tangy version of plain yogurt. It doesn't seem to have as much of the “cultures” taste, yogurt's usual twang that sometimes is aversive to people, especially when used in their food. Yes, so Greek yogurt is a little milder, and along with the added richness, turns yogurt into an ideal culinary ingredient. Almost more like a mild sour cream than a mild yogurt.

You scream, “but you said this would be healthy, right?” And it is! There is a full fat version and a skim version available at most stores now, and the nonfat version is incredible. The full fat version is actually not even that unhealthy, but when there's a nonfat version that is better than the full fat version, I would rather just ignore the latter. But nonfat can be a misnomer or still be hiding other negative health aspects. Nope. Not here. It is completely free of all fat and simultaneously only has a small amount of sugar in it -- far far less sugar than in skim milk or other nonfat plain yogurts. And it is also very low in sodium as well. So buy the nonfat version and go crazy -- it's nearly guilt free. And while I'm mentioning “buying,” I'll discuss cost. It's cheap! Less expensive than sour cream or regular yogurt. So go even crazier!

“Go crazy,” you ask. “But how the heck do I use this stuff?” Well if you haven't gotten my hints thus far, you can start by using this how you would want to use sour cream. Put a dollop in your soups, have some with tacos or burritos, use it as the base for a French onion dip. Heck, you could eat it on a cracker! But it goes farther than that. You can use it to make some Greek specialties like the famous tzatziki cucumber-lemon-yogurt sauce, but that is what Greek yogurt is known for. I'm about what it's not known for as well. Use it to thicken sauces and soups that need a little extra rich flavor and texture but no extra fat. Or use it to fill some wontons, mixed with scallion and shredded, cooked chicken. Or as my friend suggested recently, use it as a lower fat white cream sauce base with pasta. Or you can mix it with lemon juice, or chipotle, or basil, or cilantro, or even chocolate in a sweet application and get creative to your heart’s content.

But you want the absolute best use for Greek yogurt? Concentrate it and turn it into the best nonfat cheese you can imagine. All you need to do is line a colander with a layer or two of paper towel and place the colander over a large bowl. Empty a container of Greek yogurt into the paper towel and cover it. Leave it at least 24 hours in the fridge. What will result is an incredibly thick version of the yogurt, as all the water seeps out overnight, so much so that it is like a rich, soft cheese. You can crumble it on salads, dip pitas into it, spread it on a sandwich, even top bread rounds and toast it under the broiler (yes, it even browns like cheese). It tastes terrific and allows you to cut out fat and sodium in so many places and still allow for a similar, if not better, replacement for cheese, sour cream, spreads, dips and the like.

This is a food fit for the Greek goddesses and gods. And who knows, they may have created it!

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