For a quick, healthy, delicious lunch, top warm brown rice with Greek-style yogurt, pistachios, fresh rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil. Recipe below.
Yogurt is having more than a moment. It’s experiencing a seismic shift. North America is eagerly discovering Greek-style strained yogurt, with its higher protein content, thick luxurious mouth feel and tangy flavor.
The picture below shows just a portion of the yogurt case in the Wegman’s supermarket in East Syracuse, New York—maybe 20 percent of the yogurt on display. The shot doesn’t even include the vast part of Wegman’s yogurt case that features the star of the show and the hero of the new American yogurt story, Chobani.
A few months back I realized there is always a 32-ounce tub of Chobani plain nonfat Greek yogurt in our fridge. It has somehow made itself part of our family by being so generally useful—for topping a baked potato or sparking up a potato salad, mixing with fresh-sliced fruit, stirring into morning cereal instead of milk. One of my favorite snacks when I come home at night from tap class is some plain Chobani yogurt with a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup.
Founded in 2005, Chobani is credited by many for bringing New York dairy farms back from death’s door. It is also inspiring a craft revival. We’ve seen this creative phenomenon before, in the world of coffee. Much in the same way that the rise of Starbucks does not eradicate, but rather inspires other coffee roasters, Chobani has created a sophisticated audience and thus opened the doors for others to launch their products to this more discerning public. Yes, the marketplace is being stuffed with aggressive industrial fakes, high in sugar and thickeners. But we are also seeing the rise of numerous, often tiny brands—farm-based operations creating delicious top-quality yogurts—Greek style yogurt, Icelandic and French and Australian style yogurts, drinkable yogurts (here in Chicago at Eataly, a big part of the dairy case is half-gallon bottles of drinkable yogurt), yogurts made from sheep or goat milk, even a brand that lets you know the identity of the very cow whose milk you are enjoying.
Of the many new brands of yogurt, here are a few that we love.
Maple Hill Creamery is from 100% grass-fed certified organic cows who live on small farms near Stuyvesant, NY. It is very tangy, and if you can find it, I recommend the maple and the (very puckery) lemon.
Old Chatham Sheepherding Company is made from sheep’s milk and is tangy and suave. I am eating the maple flavored yogurt as I write this. Another tasty sheep’s milk yogurt is Bellwether Farms from Sonoma County, California.
Blue Hill Farm, the great farm-to-table New York restaurant, now makes yogurt too. In a crowded market of micro-manufacturers, here are a couple of the things that make it stand out: (1) It is not flavored with fruit. It is flavored with vegetables. Butternut squash. Carrot. Beet (with a zip of raspberry vinegar—if, like me, you love borscht, then you will love this yogurt). Tomato (subtly flavored with maple). (2) When you peel off the foil top, its underside tells you the name of the cow who gave the milk, and what kind of cow it is—your very own Portlandia moment.
Siggi’s is Icelandic-style yogurt. It has zoomed from a hyperlocal brand to a national brand in just a few years, with both familiar favorites like vanilla and refreshing, unusual flavors. Try the mango-jalapeno—it is just wonderful, mildly tangy, slightly spicy. And if you can find Siggi’s nonfat drinkable yogurt shots (available at some Whole Foods), well, they are worth every penny.
Here are a few other thoughts on these yogurts.
Are they expensive? Compared to Yoplait and Dannon, yes.
Are they better? You’re kidding, right? In comparison, Yoplait and Dannon taste like, and indeed are more like, cheap candy.
Which do I like the best? ALL OF THEM. I love living at a moment when all these high quality, delicious products are surging into the marketplace.
And finally, here is a simple, vegetarian lunch that depends on a fine, flavorful plain yogurt. It also includes brown rice, which is not only loaded with important nutrients, but high in fiber. So it satisfies your hunger quickly and keeps you full longer. Best of all, you feel like you are treating yourself, and you are.
Savory Yogurt with Brown Rice and Pistachios
1 cup warm, cooked brown rice, lightly salted
4 to 6 ounces plain Greek-style or Icelandic-style yogurt
2 tablespoons toasted pistachios
2 or 3 teaspoons olive oil—use the good stuff
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Divide brown rice between two shallow bowls. Spoon the yogurt over the warm rice, sprinkle with pistachios and rosemary. Drizzle on a little olive oil, and there you are—a comforting, healthy, simple lunch you can eat with a spoon.
Use your favorite Greek-style yogurt for this recipe. If you want to splurge with one of these high-end yogurts, by all means do so. We find that plain nonfat Chobani itself is excellent with this simple, rewarding dish.
What should I look for at the store? When you are trying to decide which brand to try, first, as always, read the ingredient list. For plain yogurt, if you see cornstarch or carrageenan or gelatin or malic acid or pectin, well, just set that yogurt right back in the dairy case.