NEW YORK—Leave it to the Greeks to know and extol the virtues of Greek yogurt—this ancient and simple food.
Maria Loi, chef and owner of Upper West Side restaurant, Loi, tells of its nourishing effects inside and out. It’s already known that Greek yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse, packing twice the protein of regular yogurt, and its probiotics are a boon to digestion and the immune system. The older generation is adamant about consuming it. “The elderly say, ‘I don’t need money, just as long as I can have yogurt,'” Loi said.
It is also an aid to healthy weight loss: the extra protein combines with calcium, and helps curb hunger, as well as inhibit the production of cortisol, the hormone that plays a part in fat accumulation around the midsection.
Greek yogurt is full of vitamins and minerals; the potassium in particular not only helps lower high blood pressure, Loi said, but also helps to prevent it by pumping out excess sodium.
When Loi used to labor in the tobacco fields, sunburn was soothed with an application of yogurt. She recommends a mix of yogurt and olive oil to nourish hair; and yogurt as an eye mask, which is not drying to the sensitive skin underneath and around the eyes.
Loi favors plain Greek yogurt herself, or eaten the savory way. I love it with honey.
Her recipe for making Greek yogurt is rich, creamy, and best of all, easy to make. The recipe is excerpted from her upcoming lifestyle book (out this winter, HarperCollins). The book, she said, includes “recipes to teach you how to live longer, healthier, and help you lose weight the tasty way.”
If you don’t think you have time, and you live in New York City, don’t despair. You can have a taste of this wonderful delicacy, with fragrant Greek honey and nuts, at Loi Estiatorio.
My Mother’s Greek Yogurt Recipe
2 quarts (64 fluid ounces) organic 2 percent milk
5 tablespoons yogurt with active live cultures (commercial)
4 tablespoons organic 2 percent milk
Start with all your ingredients at room temperature.
In a saucepan, heat the 2 quarts of milk until it begins to boil, and then pour it into a glass bowl (or any nonmetal vessel), and allow it to cool until it’s lukewarm (100–105 F), where you’ll notice a skin forming on the surface.
While the milk is cooling, combine the 5 tablespoons of yogurt with the 4 tablespoons of milk. Then, once the milk is lukewarm, carefully pour the combination of yogurt and milk down the sides of the bowl, so as to keep the skin that has formed on the surface intact.
Finally, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and store in a warm, dry place overnight (8–12 hours), until the mixture thickens.
The next day, after it has thickened, strain any excess liquid, and you have your first batch of homemade yogurt!
But, to transform your homemade yogurt into a thick, creamy, luscious Greek yogurt, continue with these steps:
Find a bowl large enough to hold the yogurt with a little extra space, and line it with cheesecloth (or a clean kitchen towel if you can’t find any cheesecloth), allowing the corners of the cloth or towel to hang over the sides of the bowl (so you can grab them easily), and pour the yogurt into the center.
Take the four corners of the cloth and twist them together to make a little bundle of yogurt. Now, SQUEEZE!! The idea is to remove as much liquid as possible from the yogurt, so apply pressure, and wring the yogurt bundle as best you can.
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Once the majority of the surface liquid has drained away, you’ll notice a slow drip begin from the bottom of your bundle. When you’ve reached this stage, take a little kitchen twine, and tie off the bundle right above the yogurt. Now, find a strainer or colander, and a bowl for it to sit in without touching the bottom (so the yogurt continues to drain), and place the yogurt bundle in the strainer in the refrigerator. Let it continue to drain for another two to three hours.
After it’s been refrigerated and drained, take your bundle to the sink, and apply as much pressure as possible to it to remove any remaining liquid from the yogurt bundle. (It is no longer a squeezing or wringing motion, but rather applying pressure with the palms of your hands.)
Finally, untie the bundle, and using a spoon, spatula, or any other tool you like, place your delicious homemade Greek yogurt into a bowl, where it’s now ready to eat! Enjoy!
This yogurt will keep for four to five days in the refrigerator, and once you make it, you can save a little to use for your next batch!
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