Saturday, April 14, 2012

Yogurt Chronicle: Herbs and Spices Edition

I started my latest round of yogurt flavoring with nutmeg, a suggestion from Steph.  It's her new favorite spice, and I realized that outside of October, November, and my mom's ricotta-cheese pasta filling, I don't encounter nutmeg much at all.  For a cup of yogurt, I went with about a teaspoon of sugar and a dusting of nutmeg, just enough for a slight brown swirl to show up when I stirred it.  It's tough to see in the picture, but nutmeg isn't one of those spices where you have to see it to know it's there.  This one turned out really well, possibly my favorite batch so far.  The nutmeg was subtle, present but not overpowering, and it's given me about half a dozen other spice-yogurt ideas.

Next up was another Steph suggestion: chai yogurt.  As anyone familiar with the authentic stuff will adamantly tell you, real chai contains five ingredients: water, milk, tea, cardamom, and sugar.  Yogurt starts from milk anyway, so it seemed a natural fit.  I think I've found my sweetener:yogurt ratio, so I added 2 teaspoons of sugar to two cups of yogurt, then I ground up four cardamom pods in my mortar and pestle and threw those in too.  The toughest ingredient to add turned out to be the tea.  I put in a teaspoon of loose-leaf tea, and it just sort of sat there, not mixing into the yogurt well at all (those are the large brown flecks throughout).  So I ground up another teaspoon worth and added it too, and it mixed a little better that time.  Chai yogurt didn't turn out quite as successful as I'd hoped: the crunch from the whole tea leaves provided a weird texture without imparting much flavor, and the cardamom was a little overpowering.  I'd try this again but cut the cardamom in half, and maybe brew the tea leaves first and mix them into the yogurt when they were still warm to try to "brew" the yogurt a bit.

The leg of lamb I'd cooked on Easter was the unlikely source of inspiration for this one.  The combination of fresh rosemary and mint was so delicious on the lamb, why wouldn't it work in yogurt?  I added two teaspoons of sugar like usual.  Then, I chopped up some fresh rosemary (maybe a teaspoon) from my balcony garden and some fresh mint (maybe two teaspoons) from my refrigerator garden and stirred it all together.  About the only thing that didn't work was a bit of unwanted texture from the rosemary: while all the flavors transitioned from lamb to yogurt surprisingly well, every spoonful had just a little crunch, which is still something I don't know that I need in my yogurt.

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