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Yogurt cheese with avocado puree

(Sheryl Julian/Globe Staff)
By Debra Samuels
Globe Correspondent / May 6, 2009

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Serves 6 as an appetizer

Yogurt cheese begins with plain yogurt, which is poured into a strainer lined with cheesecloth and refrigerated for a few hours or overnight. The yogurt releases some whey and turns into a tangy white spread. It forms the basis of this appetizer, which can also begin with unflavored Greek yogurt. Spoon it onto a dish, and beside it, set ripe avocado mashed with lemon juice, a rich element to balance the yogurt's sharpness. Then spoon a little salad of finely chopped tomato, bell pepper, black and green olives, and capers to offer fresh and slightly salty tastes. You need pita crisps, sweet potato chips, or hearty wheat crackers to swoosh through the smooth green and white mounds. Serve it as an hors d'oeuvre with drinks or on individual plates as a first course.

1 cup plain whole-milk or low-fat yogurt or 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 ripe avocado
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup pitted black olives, finely chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Extra oil (for sprinkling)

1. For the yogurt cheese: line a mesh sieve with cheesecloth. Set the sieve over a bowl. Add the whole-milk or low-fat yogurt. Cover loosely and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Discard the liquid whey from the bowl. With a rubber spatula, scrape the yogurt cheese from the cheesecloth onto one side of a platter. Or spoon the Greek yogurt onto the platter.

2. Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Scoop the flesh into a shallow bowl. With a fork, mash the avocado until smooth. Add the lemon juice and salt.

3. Spoon the avocado beside the yogurt.

4. In another bowl, toss the black and green olives, red pepper, capers, tomato, olive oil, parsley, salt, and black pepper. Spoon the mixture onto the yogurt and avocado. Sprinkle lightly with olive oil.