It’s love at first sight: a lightly toasted olive oil-drizzled baguette topped with caramelized roasted tomatoes, and finished with a schmear of tangy cheese made from yogurt. There are a hundred and one ways in which we can imagine enjoying this recipe from our latest cookbook obsession, the aptly named Yogurt by Janet Fletcher.
Far more nutrient-dense and easy on the waistline than its conventional counterpart, yogurt cheese isn’t really cheese at all, but yogurt that is thickened to a soft, cream cheese-like consistency. This is a fantastic recipe to have in your toolbox as a healthier, low-fat alternative to sour cream or cream cheese – just be sure to make extra, since you’ll want to slather it on everything. Our suggestion? Try it with Fletcher’s ridiculously amazing roasted tomato bruschetta – then let your imagination run wild!
I often drain yogurt, especially homemade yogurt, even if only for an hour. Draining dramatically improves the texture, making any yogurt thicker, creamier, and more mellow by removing whey. Draining also extends the yogurt’s life by removing water and lactose. Reducing the yogurt’s lactose deprives bacteria of their food source. And if you are lactose-sensitive, you should find drained yogurt more digestible. This creates a “yogurt cheese” that can be used in countless recipes, like the bruschetta below. Enjoy!
1 pint of store-bought or homemade yogurt (try our favorite DIY recipe here!)
Kosher or sea salt
To drain homemade yogurt, chill it thoroughly first until it is firm. You can drain it as soon as it is cold. Store-bought yogurt has already been chilled, so you can drain it immediately after opening.
Line a large sieve or colander with a triple thickness of dampened cheesecloth or—my preference—with Plyban, a reusable cheesecloth made from a food-grade resin. Plyban’s weave is tighter than cheesecloth, so you don’t need multiple layers, although with very thin yogurt I might use a double thickness.
Set the sieve or colander over a bowl to collect the whey. Gently pour the yogurt into the lined sieve or colander.
Cover with a plate or cloth – you’re just protecting the yogurt, not pressing it – and refrigerate. Drain the yogurt until it has the consistency you like. After an hour, it will be noticeably thicker, and I usually stop at that point. Scrape the drained yogurt into a clean container, cover, and refrigerate.
Wash the cheesecloth or Plyban well in hot, soapy water; rinse well and air-dry. You can usually get two or three uses out of cheesecloth before it frays. Plyban is much longer-lasting and easier to clean.
If you drain the yogurt more than you intended, no problem. Simply whisk some of the whey back in until you have a texture you like. To keep the whey, pour it into a glass jar and refrigerate. It has many potential uses.
After 2 hours of draining, stir in 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt for every quart of yogurt that you started with. Return to the refrigerator and continue draining until the yogurt is as thick as cream cheese, about 24 hours total. From a quart of milk, you should yield 1 1 ⁄ 2 to 1 3 ⁄ 4 cups of yogurt cheese.
Roasted Tomato Bruschetta with Yogurt Cheese
For the bruschetta:
6 plum (Roma) tomatoes, about 1 lb, halved lengthwise
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
11 ⁄ 2 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
kosher or sea salt
12 baguette slices, cut on the diagonal about 1 ⁄ 2 inch thick
3 ⁄ 4 cup yogurt cheese (directions below
fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 300°F. Put the tomatoes cut side up in a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with oregano, crumbling the dried herb between your fingers to release its fragrance. Dot the tomatoes with minced garlic and season with salt. Bake until the tomatoes are very soft and beginning to caramelize but still hold their shape, 2 to 3 hours, depending on their size and ripeness. Using a pastry brush, baste the tomatoes with any pan juices – the tomatoes may not release much – every 45 minutes or so.
Let cool slightly. The tomatoes are best warm, not hot.
Preheat a broiler or toaster oven. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast on both sides until golden brown.
Spread one side of each toast with 1 tablespoon yogurt cheese.
Top with a warm roasted tomato half. (You can halve the tomatoes lengthwise first so they cover more of the toast surface.) Garnish with the basil leaves and serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Yogurt, by Janet Fletcher, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2015 by Eva Kolenko