People who know me know I’m a yogurt fan. Maybe “addict” is more accurate. Forgive the double negative, but I never don’t have yogurt in the fridge. That would be like running out of coffee, which, in my world, is a crisis.
Often the yogurt is homemade. Just as often, I buy it. My go-to choice is Straus because it’s organic, local and utterly delicious. I have made yogurt many times using Straus milk and Straus yogurt as my starter, and it still doesn’t taste as good as theirs.
I eat yogurt because it tastes so good, but there’s no denying the health benefits. A growing body of evidence suggests that yogurt populates our gut with “good” bacteria — the so-called probiotics — that fend off trouble.
Plain unsweetened yogurt is the smart choice. Then you can add the sweetener of your choice—honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, brown sugar—and the amount that suits your taste. Add some grated apple and granola from the Napa Farmers Market. Now there’s a wholesome breakfast that will hold you until lunch. Or dice some late-season farmers market peaches, fold them into yogurt and sprinkle sliced toasted almonds on top.
I also use yogurt in lunchtime smoothies and am always amazed at how filling they are. Yogurt, a few chunks of frozen banana pulled from the freezer, a fresh peach or pear from the Napa Farmers Market, a few drops of vanilla extract and a spoonful of brown sugar or apricot preserves go into the blender. A few whirs and I have the most satisfying lunch.
One of my favorite ways to use yogurt is a marinade. Because it still has a little lactose (milk sugar) in it, a yogurt marinade makes chicken brown beautifully. And the lactic acid in yogurt is a tenderizer. A few hours in a yogurt marinade produces the most tender, luscious chicken thighs you will ever eat. I bake them on a bed of mixed sweet peppers, which are sweet and meaty now at the Napa Farmers’ Market.
Chef Demo: Janet Fletcher will demonstrate a recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Hummus at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 11 a.m. The demonstration is free and a recipe will be provided.
Harissa-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Peppers
From “Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner” by Janet Fletcher (Ten Speed Press).
The yogurt marinade makes this chicken especially tender and juicy, while the harissa stains it brick-red and adds tongue-tingling spice. Every manufacturer’s harissa paste is a little different, but a typical recipe for this Tunisian condiment includes dried hot red peppers, garlic, olive oil, and possibly caraway and cumin. I like the Moulins Mahjoub brand. Depending on how fiery your harissa is, you may want to increase or reduce the amount you use. Taste and adjust the marinade before adding the raw chicken.
If your menu includes several other dishes, figure 1 chicken thigh per person. Otherwise, you may want to allow 2 thighs per person. The roasted chicken benefits from a brief rest to allow the juices to settle.
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt (not nonfat)
1/2 cup coarse harissa paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on), trimmed of excess skin
2 large red bell peppers, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
2 large gold or yellow bell peppers, halved, seeded and thinly sliced
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, harissa, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Add the chicken and use a rubber spatula to coat the chicken all over with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toss the sliced peppers and onions together. Season with salt and make a bed of the vegetables in the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. With a rubber spatula, redistribute the marinade so that it evenly covers both sides of the chicken, then place the chicken on top of the vegetables. Bake until the chicken is well browned on top and the vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. With tongs, toss the vegetables to coat them evenly with the drippings from the chicken, then place them on the platter with the chicken. Serve immediately.