In this week’s Minimalist Column in the New York Times, Mark Bittman writes about yogurt cheese, or, in other words, strained yogurt. Strained yogurt! I started straining yogurt once I moved to Bombay because sour cream and Greek yogurt were difficult to find. We (and many families in India) make yogurt , or dahi, every morning with leftover milk and yogurt culture. With so much yogurt in our house I realized that using the strained, thick version of it is a wonderfully healthy way to incorporate the creamy taste of sour cream or mayonnaise without the additional calories and fat. After making it a few times, I also realized how much easier it was to let yogurt drip in my kitchen for a few hours than to brave the Bombay traffic for a trip to the grocery store to hunt for a product, like sour cream, that it probably didn’t carry.
We strain yogurt at least once a week for our recipes- I use it as a substitute for mayonnaise for coleslaw dressings; as a substitute for sour cream; in my beet tzatziki and eggplant tzatziki, and to make a creamy chipotle mayonnaise for Mexican food. Strained yogurt is also the main ingredient for Shrikhand, one of my favorite Indian desserts, a spiced saffron yogurt. It’s also delicious eaten plain, or with a drizzle of honey, or with some fruits.
Mark provided a recipe for an eggplant dip using strained yogurt which was similar to my eggplant tzatziki recipe– the difference being that he mashed the roasted eggplant and mixed it with the strained yogurt, while I kept my roasted cubes of eggplant whole, and gently folded them into a mixture of the strained yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and dill for a thick and creamy eggplant salad.
To make Sour Cream from Strained Yogurt:
1. Tie up yogurt in a thin cloth (you could use a cheesecloth but we just use a cloth that has the woven density and thickness of a handkerchief) and suspend it somewhere. We tie the yogurt in a ball in the middle of the cloth and then tie the other ends of the cloth to a cabinet handle. Place a bowl underneath the suspended yogurt to catch the water, which you can freeze for later use.
2. After a couple of hours, untie the cloth and empty out the now thicker yogurt into a bowl. Add a few squeezes of lime or lemon juice and viola- a healthy sour cream that I’ve used in baking recipes and for Mexican meals.
To make Chipotle Mayonnaise from Strained Yogurt:
1. Follow step 1 in the above recipe to strain the yogurt.
2. Then add the adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers, lime juice, and the tiniest pinch of salt and sugar. Mix well and serve alongside Mexican food.
Mark says he doesn’t save the water, or whey, that drips down from the yogurt while it’s straining but we freeze ours, and then add it into soups that require broth or water for a protein kick.
The next strained yogurt recipe I aim to try is Labneh, which I think involves mixing yogurt with salt before tying it up and then straining it for 12 hours instead of 2. We don’t get cottage cheese in India but I’m hoping homemade labneh will satisfy that craving.
Other strained yogurt posts on The Gourmet Cartographer: