A simple, satisfying vegetarian lunch: Savory Yogurt with Brown Rice and Pistachios

by Marion on May 21, 2014

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.

Savory Yogurt with Brown Rice and Pistachios

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.

Wegmans Food Markets Yogurt Case

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
Serves 2

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.

Kitchen Notes

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.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John@Kitchen Riffs May 21, 2014 at 10:34 am

I have to read my yogurt labels! I didn’t even realize cornstarch was in some. And pectin is weird — I can see why it’d be useful, but in a good yogurt I can’t imagine it being necessary. We usually have yogurt in our refrigerator too. In fact breakfast this morning was a bowl of strawberries topped with a big scoop of yogurt! One of these days I really need to try Chobani. I do like Greek yogurt and we buy it often (a local brand), but Chobani gets so much buzz I should see what it’s about. Nice recipe, good post – thanks!

sharon May 21, 2014 at 1:52 pm

…this i will try tonight.
i try to start each morning with yogurt. if rushing off to work, i slurp down 3 heaping spoonfuls right outta the carton. if time allows i sit with a partial cup of the stuff, drizzled-up with local honey. living in the depths of rural, i have no choice, i do Dannon. yeah, its cheap, but then so am i.
i use it regularly on my veggies. trying to make dressings with it – but could use some serious help (hint-hint). and soon, i will try my hand at yogurt cheese. oh, and older dated yogurt goes to the dogs.

Carol May 22, 2014 at 5:29 am

I never would have thought of this combination, but it looks delicious! And I love how it incorporates whole grains. Can’t wait to try it!

Linda @ Veganosity May 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I’m all about whole grains, nuts, and yogurt, although I will use an almond or coconut yogurt. This is an interesting combination, I bet quinoa would be good too!

Marion May 22, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Thanks, John! I am so in love with all the great yogurts that are out there right now – we have Chobani to thank for that!

Sharon, let us know how you like it. Somewhere on here is Terry’s recipe for a yogurt/dijon mustard/fresh dill sauce for grilled fish and meat – yes ma’am, we will think about a salad dressing using yogurt.

Carol, enjoy!

Linda, that’s a great suggestion – red quinoa is my thought. Also, kasha would be a completely different but also terrific flavor profile.

Terry B May 23, 2014 at 10:07 am

Sharon, here’s the yogurt/dijon mustard/fresh dill sauce recipe Marion was talking about. Also, kasha? Yum!

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