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Friday, February 4, 2011

Best Thing to Do with Yogurt: a Gut Check


Panna Cotta: A Cream Supreme

Has it escaped anyone that Dannon Activia is a major sponsor of Salon?  Just saying.  
Go, you probiotics go! Do your thing.

Anyway...
Once, early on in our married life, long before Crate&Barrel and the Le Creuset craze, during the dark ages of Dansk and fondue pots, and recipes with Hamburger Helper and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom, there lived among our many kitchen gadgets a yogurt maker. This was my husband’s purchase.  I personally never touched the stuff, but my husband, the M.D. specialist in gastroenterology, a man exquisitely attuned to gut health, felt it was his God-given duty to make yogurt on a weekly basis.   
And so he did.   Until he got sick of the novelty, and turned to making blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  Every Sunday.  My husband is a man of good habits, as I was saying.
Anyway...
As breakfast choices go, yogurt is always a good and healthy one, as long as you watch the sugar content and quantity consumed, especially when you dress it up with honey and nuts and handfuls of granola.  Fruit at the bottom?  Apply to hips not lips.
Anyway...
Throwing probiotics and health benefits to the winds, (uh, so to speak) I offer you the most heavenly, sinfully delicious, and mindlessly simple thing to do with plain yogurt.  
Panna Cotta. A Cream Supreme. 

Literally, the words panna cotta translate to “cooked cream.”  Lightly gelled and chilled, the dish has the pleasant consistency of a rich yogurt.  
I learned to make panna cotta at the Schoolcraft College Culinary School in Livonia, Michigan-- where I bought the last available ticket for a lunch and cooking demo with the wonderous Lynne Rossetto Kasper of NPR’s Spendid Table.  Lynne -- in spite of a head cold - was indeed splendid that afternoon, promoting a new book, and making quick work of an entire menu of simple delicacies.  She finished us off with panna cotta and the following recipe.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar, or more to taste
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8-ounce container) sour cream*
  • Optional Topping: 2 cups pitted fresh cherries, strawberries, raspberries, or sliced peaches or pears or 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons artisan-made balsamic vinegar or 2 to 3 tablespoons Saba syrup or Vin Cotto
No yogurt?  None in Lynne’s recipe.  But yogurt is easily substituted for the sour cream in this recipe without compromising the flavor or the texture of the finished dish. 
Here’s what you do: 
1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a 3-quart saucepan, warm the cream with the sugar, salt, and vanilla over medium-high heat. Do not let it boil. Stir in the gelatin until thoroughly dissolved. Take the cream off the heat and cool about 5 minutes.
2. Put the yogurt in a medium bowl. Gently whisk in the warm cream a little at a time until smooth. Taste for sweetness. Rinse 8 ramekins or custard cups, with cold water and fill each one three-quarters full with the cream.  (A springform or pie pan works just fine, as well. ) Chill 4 to 24 hours.
3. To serve, either unmold individual servings onto a dessert plates or serve out of their containers. 
4. Top with berries or fruit, and a  drizzle of honey

An alternative, less cream, more yogurt
  1. 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  2. 2 tablespoons cold water
  3. 1 cup heavy cream
  4. 1/3 cup sugar
  5. 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  6. One 17.6-ounce tub of Greek yogurt, such as Fage Total brand (2 cups)
  7. 1 cup dried apricots
  8. 1 cup semi-dry white wine, such as Vouvray
  9. 1/4 cup honey
(Follow same method of prep as first recipe.  Note to simmer vanilla bean with cream, then remove.) 
MORE TO DO WITH YOGURT

BAKE: substitute yogurt for milk, buttermilk and cream for fewer calories and tangier flavor.  
MARINATE: yogurt acts as a tenderizer. A good ingredient in Tandoori-Style Marinade, or a spicy marinade for grilled meats.
IN DRESSING: add to salads and dips. Like Tzatziki  or this Turkish Yogurt and Spinach Dip
FOR COOLER SMOOTHIES:     Like this Mango Lassi.
INSTEAD OF MAYO: for deviled eggs, potato salad and sandwiches
CHEESE SIMPLE: Straining yogurt for a few hours through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer. The process drains away excess liquid, resulting in a soft “cheese” that has a consistency similar to cream cheese and is great in this Sweet Yogurt Sundae with Saffron and Pistachios.
PARFAIT PERFECT: with fruit and nuts
FACIAL?  hmmm, google it, it’s out there. Do-It-Yourself Facial.
Anyway...
Thanks for dropping in
Yogurt jar Image source:iPhotos

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