cookbook spotlight: yogurt culture

words + recipe photo by Jennifer Jeanne Adams


Yogurt Culture, the latest cookbook from Cheryl Sternman Rule (author of the cookbook Ripe and the blog 5 Second Rule), is well-suited for summer with its fresh and homemade perspective. Sternman Rule demystifies yogurt with an approachable and informative take on its history, variations, and of course, health benefits.

Her recipes showcase not only the versatility of yogurt as both a sweet and savory ingredient, but also its standing as a staple food in many cultures. She allows for the ease of using quality store-bought yogurt, but also encourages readers to journey further with a chapter dedicated to making your own.

One recipe many will be familiar with is Greek tzatziki, which Sternman Rule explores in depth. Greek tzatziki is a versatile sauce that both enlivens and calms tastebuds. Recipes vary—some boast lemon juice and mint or parsley . . . sometimes dill calls the shots. All of the time, yogurt marries cucumber and garlic. Sternman Rule’s recipe for “Stella's Tzatziki” uses a head of garlic, and most definitely carries a mighty backbone of garlicky flavor, but it’s soothed by cool yogurt and shredded English cucumbers. After a few tastes, it grows quite addictive. This sauce pairs well with grilled steak, lamb, chicken, and salmon, or can simply be served as a satisfying dip with warm pita. 

Stella’s tzatziki

On the Greek island of Paros, Stella Leonetti's Restaurant Rafeletti serves an intense, creamy tzatziki flavored with a head of garlic. This may be the best tzatziki you'll ever have.

  • 1 1/2 English cucumbers, whole cucumber peeled, half cucumber unpeeled
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 medium head garlic (about 2 ounces), peeled
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
  • 4 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (see Yo!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Warm pita, for serving
  1. Prep cucumber. Using large holes of a box grater or medium shredding disk in a food processor, grate all cucumbers. Toss with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, transfer to a fine-mesh strainer set over a deep bowl, and let stand for 1 hour to drain. Spoon cucumber into a nut milk bag (a mesh bag generally used for making almond milk), cheesecloth, or large swath (and double thickness) of paper towels and squeeze dry.
  2. Make garlic paste. Put garlic cloves in a food processor. Add remaining 1 teaspoon salt and vinegar. Turn machine on, stream oil in through feed tube, and let machine run until it pushes garlic to sides. Stop machine, scrape down sides, push garlic toward center, and process again. You’ll need to do this five or six times, as blade will keep pushing garlic toward perimeter of machine before it has a chance to fully puree. Eventually, garlic will turn into a wet, mushy, emulsified paste. You should have about 1/3 cup. Transfer to a bowl and cover until ready to use.
  3. Combine and chill. Add cucumber and garlic paste to a large bowl. Stir in yogurt and white pepper. Combine thoroughly, sweeping sides and bottom of the bowl so garlic paste gets evenly incorporated. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Drizzle with more olive oil, and pass warm pita alongside.

Makes 5 cups.

Yo! You may use sheep's milk or cow's milk yogurt in this dip. (Leonetti likes both.) Give yourself plenty of time for the cucumber to drain and for the dip to chill. The flavors really pop after a few hours.

Excerpted from Yogurt Culture, © 2015 by Cheryl Sternman Rule. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Cover photography © Ellen Silverman.


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