Weeknight Cooking

One Tub of Yogurt, Six Dinners

January 14, 2013

Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples every which way. 

Today: fiveandspice -- you may remember her from this -- challenges yogurt to a six-dinner duel and gives us a recipe for Yogurt Soup, below.


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My husband has a habit of populating our refrigerator with cultured dairy products -- mostly sour cream -- just so I have to work them into our meals. Unsurprisingly, it was his suggestion that I stretch dairy into a week of dinners. I think he was envisioning evenings filled with nachos and stroganoff.  

Instead of sour cream, I turned to our giant container of yogurt, always there, always waiting to helpfully pull a meal together. If yogurt is a staple in your house, you might keep it for granola and smoothies -- but it is capable of so much more. Or even better: if you, like one of our Turkish friends, happen to make your own yogurt in gallon-sized quantities each week, then your stash is capable of underpinning an entire cuisine. I figured mine could certainly do the same.

Winter Vegetable Fattoush
Inspired by the copy of Jerusalem that I received for Christmas, our first yogurt-y meal was a winterized version of Na'ama's fattoush. Mix together roasted winter vegetables with large handfuls of fresh parsley and mint. Toss this with shards of toasted Turkish flatbread, a dressing of yogurt, garlic, and lemon juice, and a liberal sprinkling of sumac for a winter salad that won't leave you chilled.

Saag Yogurt
My attempt to make paneer from yogurt was a fail (though in truth, making labneh instead can hardly be considered a failure). But, using a cup and a half of thick yogurt plus a splash of vegetable stock in place of the buttermilk and cream in Merrill's Saag Paneer makes for such a splendidly filling supper over rice and roasted cauliflower, we didn't miss the cubes of cheese one bit.

Yogurt Dumplings  
The next evening I began to muse about whether drained yogurt could be subbed in for ricotta to make gnudi. The answer: yes. Stir together two cups of Greek-style yogurt with an egg, a quarter cup of grated Parmesan, and one cup of flour. Coat a work surface generously with semolina and mound 2-tablespoon-sized heaps of the yogurt dough (it will be very delicate and wet) onto it. Sprinkle the tops of the dumplings with more semolina. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then gently lower the dumplings in with a slotted spoon or spatula. Boil until they bob to the surface, then continue to cook them for two minutes more before removing them from the water with the slotted spoon. To top it off, a rich mushroom sauce like Deb's bourguignon (my version was minus the pearl onions but plus some bacon ends leftover from brunch). 

Hot Yogurt Soup with Lamb Meatballs
Back to Turkey now -- these people really know their way around yogurt. You can make a simple warm yogurt soup (very traditional, I'm told) by cooking together onion, garlic, and a big handful of rice until golden, then stirring in several cups of water to simmer until the rice is tender. Finally the yogurt, a good two cups, goes in along with salt and pepper.  Ladle the soup around little baked meatballs made of ground lamb mixed with plenty of garlic and herbs, then top the bowls off with even more chopped herbs (more parsley and mint or perhaps cilantro, if you have it). 

Yogurt and Mustard Marinated Salmon  
A friend of ours is a salmon-fisherman in the summer (and a maple-syruper in the winter -- a very good friend to have), so salmon is another staple in our kitchen. Instead of a more typical tandoori-style yogurt marinade, I decide to flavor mine with mustard. Stir together a half-cup of yogurt with a couple spoons of grainy mustard, a smashed clove of garlic, and a little drizzle of maple syrup. If you wish, you can add a spoonful of horseradish as well. Salt your salmon fillet, spread the yogurt marinade all over it, and set it aside to marinate at room temperature for half an hour. Roast your salmon until it flakes easily with a fork, and serve it with lots of vegetables.

Baked Eggs and Yogurt
A bonus breakfast because I had just a few spoonfuls of yogurt left. This is, in fact, a staple breakfast in our house because of its ability to use up vegetables, and because I love the texture yogurt takes on when baked. Use last night's roasted vegetables (my favorites are sweet potato or parsnip cubes, cooked greens, or roasted Brussels sprouts) and put them in a small baking dish. If I have some nice lunch ham around, I usually steal a slice or two and add it, thinly sliced, as well. Crack an egg per person over the vegetables, dollop spoonfuls of yogurt (preferably the thick kind) all around, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the egg whites are set but the yolks are runny, a mere 10-12 minutes in a hot oven. Serve with yogurt biscuits if you really want to go wild. Of course, this can also double as dinner. You needn't have even asked.

Turkish Yogurt Soup with Lamb Meatballs by fiveandspice

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pinch chile flakes
1/4 cup rice
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro, to serve
Lamb meatballs, to serve

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Emily Vikre

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I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (www.vikredistillery.com), where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.


Foodiewithalife January 21, 2013
The yogurt soup with lamb meatballs is right up my alley! It's been so chilly in Seattle lately, all I want is warming soul Mediterranean soul food. Thanks for these fab recipes!

fiveandspice January 21, 2013
It would be good for a chilly Seattle winter evening, for sure!
Nataliia T. January 21, 2013
Thank you so much for wonderful advices. I used to make yougurt by myself now and will try to prepare salmon just immideately!
fiveandspice January 21, 2013
Hope you like it!
Sunday@FIve January 20, 2013
these look wonderful. Do you start wwith greek or plain yogurt? DO you have Scandinavian blog, too?
fiveandspice January 21, 2013
I use a strained Greek-style yogurt. I don't have a blog that is specifically Scandinavian. I blog about all sorts of food, but that does include a variety of Scandinavian - especially Norwegian - foods, from time to time.
Sunday@FIve January 21, 2013
Can you direct me to some of your Norwegian blogs I want to have a Scandinavian dinner thanks
fiveandspice January 21, 2013
Here are a handful of Norwegian recipes i make from my blog and that I've put on this site! I hope they're helpful. Norwegians also just eat a lot of simply poached salmon with dill and new potatoes or cod with butter sauce! http://food52.com/recipes/6239_moms_norwegian_meatballs_with_gravy_kjttkaker_med_brunsaus http://fiveandspice.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/in-praise-of-casual-cooking-and-of-this-lemon-cream-roasted-salmon/ http://fiveandspice.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/roasted-chicken-with-dill-and-leeks/ http://fiveandspice.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/sweet-and-sour-red-cabbage-r%C3%B8dkal/ http://fiveandspice.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/whipped-parsnips-with-sour-cream/ http://fiveandspice.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/lefse/ http://fiveandspice.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/norwegian-pancakes-pannekaker/ http://fiveandspice.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/boller-med-rosiner-cardamom-raisin-buns/
Sunday@FIve January 21, 2013
Beautiful, M. January 15, 2013
This is fantastic!
fiveandspice January 16, 2013
Fairmount_market January 14, 2013
What wonderful ideas! I love the inspiration for yogurt dumplings since I always have yogurt around but not always ricotta.
fiveandspice January 15, 2013
Thanks FM! I was glad I tried it. They were like gnudi or dumplings with a pleasant tang.
emily O. January 14, 2013
so many great recipes and ideas in this post. i buy plain yogurt by the tub and often wonder how it could work into savory meals.
fiveandspice January 15, 2013
Yay! Glad you found some of the ideas helpful.
healthierkitchen January 14, 2013
Wonderful ideas! I am going to try your version of the saag paneer immediately!
fiveandspice January 15, 2013
Thanks! I hope you like it as much as we did.
Nicholas D. January 14, 2013
This is genius, Emily. I owe you.
fiveandspice January 15, 2013
I feel the same way each time I read your column!