Yogurt has graduated from the confines of breakfast and evolved into a vital and beloved ingredient for dishes both sweet and savory. But wait: In the immortal words of Ron Popeil, there's more! Here are five other ways to put yogurt to good use.
Tenderize meat: Make tough cuts of meat like lamb shoulder more forgiving with a yogurt marinade. Whereas many acids in the classic oil + acid + seasoning = marinade formula can actually backfire, making the meat tougher because they denature (or "cook") the proteins, yogurt works in gentler ways. The acid in yogurt is milder than that of, say, lemon juice or vinegar, and the calcium activates enzymes in the meat, which helps break down muscle fibers. Buttermilk, yogurt's tangy cousin, also works well for this purpose. Use full- or low-fat Greek or regular yogurt in marinades—fat-free versions are too thin to cling well, and they're often made with added sugars and stabilizers to replace the flavor and thickness of lost fat.
Soothe a cooking burn: You learned the hard way that your oven mitt has a hole in it. Reach for yogurt, which helps draw out the heat and reduce inflammation. Simply spread the probiotic-rich dairy onto the scorched area (the thick Greek kind works best), let sit until tepid (about 10 minutes) and then rinse. It's a pretty flavorful way to treat tongue burns, too.
Ferment veggies: The "lacto" in lacto-fermentation doesn't refer to dairy but to lactobacillus, the bacteria that produces lactic acid. It occurs naturally in yogurt—and on the surface of raw vegetables. You can preserve nearly any vegetable by placing it in a very clean, airtight jar and covering it with (non-iodized) salted, distilled water. Add a little whey (the lactobacillus-filled watery substance you see at the top of your yogurt container; use full- or low-fat yogurt) to the water to kick-start the fermentation. See a detailed explanation of the process here.
Make cheese: Give bread the spread it deserves. Turn yogurt into labneh, a thick, tangy spreadable cheese popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, simply by straining out its additional moisture. Put regular plain full-fat yogurt (or Greek, if you're a boss) in a fine mesh strainer lined with a thin, loose-weave towel (like flour sack) or several layers of cheesecloth. Place over a bowl in the refrigerator and let the yogurt drain overnight or until it's as thick and tangy as you like it. So long, cream cheese.
Soften hands: To help slough, soften and hydrate skin, many upscale beauty products contain lactic acid. Guess what else does? It's no Crème de la Mer, but yogurt does a fine job of softening those dishpan hands, especially during prep, when you don't want to season your food with the taste of lotion. Simply rub a bit of plain yogurt over your hands then rinse.
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