I'm a huge fan of Greek food and there are only a handful of buzzed-about Greek restaurants here in New York City. A few months ago, chef Maria Loi (who's been called the Martha Stewart of Greece) quietly opened another one, Loi Estiatoria, and has earned support from high-profile friends like Eric Ripert (NBD!) and legions of fans who follow her food across the globe (she used to be somewhat of a jet-setter socialite back in the day, she told me). When you combine major foodie street cred with a socialite past, what you end up with is a menu full of unbelievable classic dishes, with a twist—no butter! Loi doesn't use it in her food or her dessert, so everything has an especially light and airy feel that leaves you pleasantly full without regret. One of my favorite things about Greek food is the dessert; even the fattier options still have nutrition benefits—usually healthy fats, protein, calcium, and probiotics from nuts, honey, and yogurt. In addition to delectable cakes and homeland treats, Loi serves a simple homemade Greek yogurt for dessert that's delicious:
Greek Yogurt Recipe From Maria Loi
1 liter organic milk (2% or whole)
1 cup yogurt (2% or full fat)
1. Heat 1 liter of milk to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer, or turn off the heat just before the milk boils (just as it begins to simmer).
2. Remove the pot from the heat and wait until the temperature drops to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. From Loi: "If you don’t have a thermometer, you can try my grandmother’s old trick to get the right temperature: keep your pinky in the milk and count quickly to 20; if your pinky is burning at 20, let the milk cool off a bit longer."
3. Dilute 1 cup of yogurt in the lukewarm milk and stir.
4. Cover the pot with a blanket to maintain the temperature and keep warm for at least 6 hours. Note that you should not move or shake the pot during this process.
5. Move the yogurt from the warmth to the refrigerator.
6. Leave the yogurt for 24 hours in the refrigerator without moving, and your yogurt will be ready to enjoy. It will keep for 10 days refrigerated.
From Maria: "You can eat the yogurt like this, but if you want to make my grandmother’s authentic recipe, you need to take one more step. Strain the yogurt in cheesecloth and hang to drain for several hours, until the draining stops. This is how you make the real Loi yogurt that my grandmother used to make—all the whey is removed. This process adds another week of life to your yogurt."
Here are a few more Greek yogurt dos and don'ts from Loi:
—Make sure you boil and cool the milk at the right temperature.
—Don’t be anxious to move the yogurt until it’s ready.
—Use high-quality milk with no added water, and do not use skim milk.
How many of you have made Greek yogurt at home? If you're in New York City, be sure to stop by Loi Estiatorio to try the real thing.