Anyone who has walked down the dairy aisle recently has witnessed yogurt's ascendance. What was once a paltry selection of a few fruit flavors plus some nonfat options has morphed into a well-marketed superfood. "It's very much on the radar in a way it wasn't ten years ago," says Cheryl Sternman Rule, author of Yogurt Culture. "Yogurt has taken over the dairy case."
And for good reason. Yogurt is a staple of myriad world cuisines—Greek, Indian, Pakistani, Turkish—and it's extremely healthy in ways both well-established (as a source of protein and calcium) and still emerging (as a source of healthy bacteria in our microbiomes). It's also delicious, particularly in summer, when its cool, creamy tang is especially refreshing. Here, Rule gives us her favorite warm-weather ways to eat yogurt all day long.
1) Breakfast bowl. Cheryl likes to start the day with a dollop of high-quality, whole-milk yogurt topped with homemade fruit compote. (She's partial to a sheep's milk yogurt from a purveyor near her home in California, but any good, creamy yogurt will do.) To make the compote she tosses whatever seasonal fruit she has on hand with a spiced sugar—sugar mixed with a touch of cardamom, ginger, or nutmeg—lets it sit on the counter for a bit, and then pops it into the oven until it's tender and juicy. She spoons a scoop of it over the yogurt and then sprinkles on a "crispy element," like sautéed pistachios, toasted nuts, or puffed quinoa cereal.
2) Dip. Make a pre-meal dip of whole-milk yogurt, garlic, salt, and a little grated cucumber. Drizzle with olive oil and top with a sprinkle of crunchy salt. If you don’t have cucumber you can use radishes, carrots, diced tomatoes, avocado, or any type of herbs. "When you're using whole yogurt as a dip, the salt and the olive oil on top are key," says Rule. "It really tells your palate that you're going for something savory."
3) Lassi. "In the summer I tend to be partial to a more lassi-style drink than a smoothie-style drink," says Rule. "A smoothie can be a meal, but this is more a quick refresher if you’re feeling hot." To make it, combine yogurt, ice, milk or water, and whatever fruit or flavoring you're using in a blender. (The key to the thinner, more drinkable texture is to use a greater proportion of liquid and ice to solids.) For flavorings, you can go savory, like in Southeast Asia, and season with salt and cumin or mint, or you can go sweet with fruit or sugar and cardamom or saffron.
4) Marinade. Combine whole-milk yogurt with a squeeze of lemon juice, a little olive oil, minced garlic, and whichever seasonings you think will complement the cut of meat you plan to cook. (Cumin and coriander with lamb, for example; or onion powder and thyme with chicken.) Don't skip the olive oil, cautions Rule; it keeps the meat from over-marinating and getting mushy. Slather the meat with the marinade and stick it in the fridge for a few hours. No need to wipe it off when you’re ready to cook: just spritz the meat with a little olive oil and put it on the grill.
5) Yogurt mousse. This is essentially a yogurt whipped cream, and it couldn't be easier. Start by whipping cold heavy cream to soft peaks. Add an equal amount of whole-milk Greek yogurt and continue to whip until the peaks hold. (If you want to sweeten it, sprinkle a little sugar on the sides of the bowl before whipping.) "I season with a little vanilla extract, then fold it into a lemon curd, chocolate mousse, puréed or roasted fruit," says Rule. Because the yogurt adds a bit of body and structure to the airy cream, this can be made several days ahead of time.
Anya Hoffman is a freelance writer and contributing editor at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Twitter.