When it comes to yogurt drinks, we’ve gotten ourselves into a smoothie rut. Smoothies are everywhere, at every juice bar, street cart and deli, and premixed in bottles lining supermarket shelves.
Not that there’s anything wrong with sweet, frothy fruit-and-yogurt drinks. But they are not the only cultured beverages out there.
In yogurt-loving countries around the world, compelling possibilities abound. There’s ayran, the salted foaming yogurt libation of Turkey; borhani, the fragrant herbal draft of Bangladesh; and India’s sweet rosewater lassis, to name just a few.
Whatever form they take, yogurt drinks are nutritious, refreshing concoctions that can accompany a meal or replace one.
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Once you start thinking beyond the typical smoothie formula, it’s pretty easy to come up with your own yogurt-laced combinations.
I like to start with the yogurt itself. Given that artisanal yogurt is having its moment right now, there are a lot to choose from beyond the usual nonfat, low-fat and full-fat varieties.
In my supermarket there’s ultra-creamy Greek yogurt, tart Bulgarian-style yogurt, viscous kefir, sheep- and goat-milk yogurt, plus the luscious cream-topped stuff (my favorite). The farmers markets offer local yogurt that changes over the course of the year: grassy and custardlike in summer, leaner and more tangy in winter. And specialty markets stock novelties like buffalo-milk yogurt, which is rich, bright and slightly funky. Turning these yogurts into drinks is yet another way to enjoy their charms.
When you have excellent yogurt, it’s best to keep things simple. Try mixing it with a touch of salt, sugar or both. Then add a little water to thin it out and serve it over ice cubes.
Slightly more complex is a salt and pepper lassi that also includes fresh mint leaves, which are traditional, and lime zest, which is not. A touch of brown sugar keeps the acidity in check. The pepper stands in for the toasted cumin seeds that usually appear in a savory lassi, and adds a slight bite.
Lastly, on the sweeter side, consider a rhubarb rosewater shake blended with honey and thick Greek yogurt. Although the combination of fruit and yogurt suggests a smoothie, don’t be fooled. This is heady, rich stuff, less suitable for breakfast than it is for dessert.
SALT AND PEPPER LASSI WITH MINT
Makes 2 servings
12 ounces (1½ cups) sheep’s milk yogurt
¼ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 1 small lime
Pinch of brown sugar
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Add 2 tablespoons water. Blend until smooth. Serve over ice.
Makes 2 servings
½ pound rhubarb, thinly sliced (2 cups)
5 tablespoons honey, more to taste
1½ cups Greek yogurt
2 cups ice cubes
Rosewater, to taste
Finely chopped pistachios, for garnish
1. Stir together rhubarb, honey and 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for six to eight minutes, until rhubarb has melted and become jamlike. Let cool. (Rhubarb can be made up to a week ahead and refrigerated.)
2. Add rhubarb compote, yogurt, ice cubes and a few dashes of rosewater to blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and add more honey and rosewater, if desired. Pour into 2 glasses and garnish with pistachios.