I have known and liked Janet Fletcher’s recipes for some time. Even so, I approached her newest book, “Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner” (Ten Speed Press, $19.99) with a certain skepticism, even ennui. Yet another cookbook devoted to a single ingredient and not even an unfamiliar requiring guidance, at that.

Fletcher seems to share my perspective. “You don’t need a recipe to tell you how to spoon yogurt over peaches,” she writes (but then adds, “but perhaps you could use a nudge to try some new combinations”).

Two things shook me out of my smugness. First, I happened to be carrying the cookbook with me one day when I stopped for coffee. The young woman who took my order noticed it and practically levitated with excitement. “I love yogurt! Cultured stuff is so cool!”

And I began to cook from the book. How many good recipes (by which I mean good instructions and good outcomes) does it take for a cookbook to earn my respect? I’m not sure. But “Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner” did so in short order.

Roasted Cauliflower Raita was excellent, surprising and lively. Harissa-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Peppers was moist, tasty and an appealing brick red color – all in all a splendid weeknight dinner.

While I need no guidance to spoon yogurt over peaches, I would never have come up with Chard Ribs in Yogurt with Toasted Walnuts, Cilantro & Cumin, and I’d have missed out. Absinthe’s Golden Yogurt Cake (I used a good olive oil in place of the vegetable oil called for) was out and out delicious.

I was also excited to see the recipe for Lamb Meatballs in Warm Yogurt Sauce with Sizzling Red Pepper Butter as I’d eaten something similar at a restaurant a few years back and long intended to try to replicate the dish at home. The recipe has a number of steps, none of them difficult, but next time I’d make the yogurt sauce or form the meatballs ahead, to make my evening a little less hectic. That said, dinner was a rousing success. Five test recipes, five winners.

And I have my eye on many more (Indian Yogurt Pudding with Saffron, Cardamom & Toasted Nuts, for one). The many pretty photographs offer added encouragement to cook with yogurt.

In its opening chapter, “Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner” gives detailed instructions for making the yogurt itself at home. “Even now, after years of making yogurt at home,” Fletcher writes, “the outcome still seems like a miracle.”



Aleppo pepper may not be easy to come by in Portland; I ended up buying a jar when I was visiting Boston.

Serves 4 to 6


1 pound ground lamb

1 large egg, lightly beaten

½ cup fine fresh bread crumbs

½ cup finely minced yellow onion

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

½ teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds

Freshly ground black pepper


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chicken broth

2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon fresh mint

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

½ teaspoon medium-hot coarsely ground red pepper such as Aleppo or Maras pepper or hot paprika

½ teaspoon toasted and ground cumin

To make the meatballs: Combine all the ingredients and mix well with your hands. Shape into 24 balls, dipping your hands in cold water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking.

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs; they should fit into a single layer. Fry gently, turning the meatballs with 2 soup spoons so they brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate. Pour off and discard any fat in the skillet.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the broth. Stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet and simmer until they dissolve. Return the meatballs to the skillet, cover, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, and then transfer the meatballs to a plate using a slotted spoon.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, egg, garlic, dill and mint. Slowly whisk in about ½ cup of the hot broth to warm the yogurt, and then pour the yogurt mixture into the skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sauce visibly thickens and just begins to simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Return the meatballs to the skillet and turn to coat them with the sauce. Cover and simmer gently until hot.

Divide the meatballs and sauce among 4 to 6 warmed bowls. Put the butter in a small saucepan or butter warmer and set over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the red pepper and cumin and swirl the pan until the butter foams and sizzles and the pepper’s aroma rises. Drizzle each portion with some of the red-pepper butter. Garnish with chopped dill.

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