It is believed that nomadic tribes living in Central Asia during Neolithic times accidentally discovered yogurt when the milk they stored in animal skins was spontaneously fermented by wild bacteria in the air. Not only did the new product have a good tangy taste, but more importantly, it allowed them to store the milk longer during their travels. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and “cultures” all over the Mediterranean and Asia all knew about the healthful benefits of yogurt.
Yogurt is simply a fermented dairy product made by adding bacterial cultures to milk which causes the transformation of the milk’s sugar, lactose, into lactic acid. It is rich in protein, calcium, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and B12. The active cultures in yogurt provide “good bacteria” or probiotics for the digestive system and help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria which can lead to infections and disease. Since it is high in calcium it also helps to prevent osteoporosis. Yogurt is a staple in most Mediterranean and Indian diets. It is used as a base for soups and sauces, in dips and as a poaching and marinating liquid for meats and to leven cakes.
Although it is a relatively newcomer to the US market (only becoming popular in the 1940s when a yogurt maker from Europe set up a factory in New York and first sold yogurt under the brand name Danone, later Dannon). In October 1950 Reader’s Digest ran an article about the health benefits of yogurt and overnight it found its place as an important staple in the American diet as a quick, easy and tasty source of protein and calcium. Yogurt is also delicious sprinkled with Nut Just A Cookie™ crumbles (link to glutenfree-baking-birth-cookie-line for photo of yogurt with crumbled cookies and fruit).
There are many versions of this simple gluten-free dish, some made without the eggplant and the tahini, some using garbanzo beans instead. It all depends on the area, the city and/or the country. It’s certainly a country dish, rustic even though it features a prime cut of beef. A comfort-food family favorite, it is often called the “shish kebob of the shepherd” for its simplicity.
Preparation time: 60 minutes
2 globe eggplants
1 cup strained Greek-style yogurt
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon grape seed oil (optional)
1 pound best quality filet of beef, trimmed of any fat
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Preheat the broiler.
2 Make 3 to 4 deep slits in each eggplant.
3 Broil eggplants for 15 minutes and flip over to broil another 20 minutes on the opposite side, or until well charred. Skin should be crispy and flesh very soft. Let cool.
4 Pull out the eggplant flesh, discard any seeds and mash with a fork. Add eggplant to yogurt and mix well.
5 Crush garlic with ½ teaspoon salt in a mortar and pestle and add to eggplant/yogurt mixture.
6 Add the tahini and mix everything well. Add a little water if sauce is too thick. It should have the consistency of sour cream. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
7 Cut beef into 1-inch cubes, dry with paper towels and place in a bowl. Toss meat with ½ teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper.
8 If using a non-stick skillet, it’s not necessary to add any oil. Otherwise, heat the grape seed oil in a heavy skillet and quickly sauté the beef on high heat for 5-7 minutes.
9 Remove from heat and add butter to the skillet and toss to give the beef an extra rich taste.
10 Spread the eggplant/yogurt mixture on the bottom of a platter and top with the cubed beef. Serve.