Cooking with Culture
When you open the fridge in search of a quick breakfast ormidafternoon snack, there's a good chance you'll reach for a cartonof yogurt. The dairy product has never been more popular. And allyou have to do is visit the dairy aisle at the local supermarket tosee that yogurt has come a long way since the 1970s, when thefermented-milk confection enjoyed its first wave of mainstreampopularity in the United States.
Yogurt's appeal goes beyond convenience. It's a good source ofprotein, calcium, B vitamins, and other nutrients. And because ofthe live bacterial cultures used to turn milk into yogurt, "it'sactually more easily digested than milk. The good bacteria used tomake yogurt also break down lactose, the milk sugar some peoplejust can't handle," says Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., associate professor,Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at TuftsUniversity, and author of Strong Women Eat Well.
Eating yogurt has long been associated with good health and along life. The ancient Assyrians called it lebene (life), andtoday, food scientists consider yogurt a probiotic food. (Probioticis the term for a category of cultured foods that containbeneficial bacteria.)
Yogurt has always been a staple food in Mediterranean and Indiacuisine. Cucumber raita is a refreshing cool yogurt relish thataccompanies nearly all Indian meals. "I find yogurt most useful asa remedy for too much chile heat," says Anne Willan, author of Good Food, No Fuss. "A quick spoonful of cucumber raita, andthat fiery burn is calmed at once."
But "yogurt is funny stuff in the kitchen," Willan says. "If youheat it, it separates." Her advice: Stir yogurt into hot dishes atthe last minute, after they've been removed from the oven orstovetop. Also, heat kills the live and active cultures in yogurt,so a recipe for grilled chicken marinated in yogurt and cumin mighttaste great and boast protein, calcium, and B vitamins, but itwon't have probiotic health benefits. If you want to incorporateyogurt into meals and maintain its probiotic qualities, use it incool dishes, such as cold soups, dips, or salad dressings. Yogurtis also good as a creamy dessert topping.
Get cooking. Below are recipes that incorporate yogurt.