Homa Dashtaki didn't really think about her relationship to food until shortly after she was laid off from a career in law, and was living at home in California. She and her father would make yogurt together from scratch, just the way her Zoroastrian-Iranian ancestors had done for many generations. The comfort in taking up ancient traditions was enough to inspire her to completely pivot and start her own business selling yogurt at a local farmers' market.
From the reaction of customers, she says, she realized they were onto something.
After many hurdles — including an attempt, she says, at being shut down by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and a subsequent move to New York — The White Moustache was born. Named in honor of her father's bushy whiskers, the yogurt has become a cult item for the kind of New Yorker who shops in stores such as Whole Foods, Eataly and the Park Slope Food Coop.
In her new cookbook, Yogurt and Whey: Recipes of an Iranian Immigrant Life,Dashtaki weaves her personal journey through nearly 100 recipes, old and new. One key ingredient is whey, the liquid byproduct of the yogurt-making process. With recipes such as whey cocktails and popsicles, the book demonstrates a central value of both her culture and business: nothing goes to waste.
"Every scrap is not thought of as trash," Dashtaki says. "It's thought of as an opportunity to celebrate that food."
Think about butchering an animal — "from head to toe, you are using every single piece of it," Dashtaki says. "And in a celebratory way ... I think that very intense feeling has sort of informed everything I do."
Yogurt and Whey arrives just in time for this year's Persian New Year (or Nowruz in Persian), and the start of spring.
Below, find Dashtaki's recipe for pancakes featuring whey.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup yogurt whey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the skillet
Neutral oil (such as sunflower, canola, or grapeseed) or coconut oil for the skillet
Makes about 8 (4-inch) pancakes
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, whey, and melted butter until thoroughly combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently whisk just until incorporated. (A few lumps are okay and preferable to an overmixed batter, which will lead to denser pancakes). Set the batter aside for 15 minutes at room temperature, until the surface is dotted with bubbles.
Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium light. Plop in approximately 1 teaspoon butter and 1 teaspoon oil (you get the flavor and browning properties of butter, while the oil tempers burning), and swirl the pan to coat well.
Pour about 1/3 cup batter per pancake into the hot pan. Bubbles will form on the tops of the pancakes; wait to flip them until most of the bubbles have popped and the surface begins to lose its wet, shiny look, 2 to 3 minutes. If you like, use a spatula to peek underneath when you think the pancakes are getting close — the bottom should be golden brown. Flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, just until golden. Transfer to a plate and repeat to cook the remaining pancakes, adding more butter and oil as needed.
Serve with maple syrup, jam, yogurt, fresh fruit, or lemon juice and sugar...or all of the above. Or just stand at the stove and eat them with your hands. Hey, it's the weekend.