I am an unapologetic lover of cottage cheese. Large curd and small, there is something about its milky whiteness that I find super satisfying. As someone who needs to eat low-carb, cottage cheese has been a godsend, serving as part of my breakfast routine pretty much daily, a quick hit of protein in the afternoon when needed, and often, when I do not have the bandwidth to think about dinner, provides a good balance to a salad.
I was raised on afternoon snacks of cottage cheese and applesauce, making a yin yang in a bowl, perfecting the ratio of each on a spoon to get me that sweet/savory hit that I adore. My dad loved his with a few tablespoons of sour cream mixed in, and my husband puts ground pepper on his. Cottage cheese was a stand-out ingredient in my grandmother’s cooking, from her traditional noodle kugel to her “Farmer’s Chop Suey”, a strange salad of cucumber, tomato, onion, and green pepper tossed with cottage cheese and sour cream.
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Not all cottage cheese is created equal. I am not a fan of the dry style, which I find chalky and unpleasant. Nor is overly soupy a good thing for me, I like my curds held together with just enough cream that they slump, but still will stand up in a bowl and not self-level. And full-fat is a necessity. Reduced fat cottage cheese goes to a slickery place I don’t like, and fat-free is downright squeaky. It’s cottage cheese, not triple cream brie, get the good stuff.
But as much as I am a tireless fan of a simple bowl, I also love what cottage cheese can do in your cooking and baking. So, here are some of my favorite ways to use it!
Adding a scoop or two of cottage cheese to your pancake batter is a glorious thing. It amps up the protein, balancing the carbs and making them the tiniest bit healthier. It makes for little pockets of cheese that go to a cheesecake sort of place that no one will complain about. Same is true for waffles. There are a lot of pancake recipes that specifically call for cottage cheese as an ingredient, but my favorite is the Russian syrniki (or Ukranian syrniky) sort of a thick pancake of cottage cheese lightly coated in flour and pan fried, served with a plum compote or other stewed fruit. They are crispy on the outside and soft and melting within.
As a stuffing
Whether it is blintzes or ravioli, stuffed shells or lasagna, cottage cheese can be a wonderful star in a creamy stuffed crepe or layered pasta dish. I often use half cottage cheese and half ricotta in recipes that ask for all ricotta because I like the balance and lightness that the cottage cheese brings to the table. And it is a great addition to a mac and cheese if you are trying to lighten up a recipe without losing creamy goodness. And you can make a really good version of gnudi with it.
Whether it is scones, rolls, pound cake, cheesecake, cookies or even cornbread, cottage cheese is a terrific addition in baking. There are scores of recipes that have you blitz your cottage cheese into a puree and stir it into a dough or batter, replacing some or all of the liquid dairy element (such as milk, buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream) called for, and the results are delicious. Cottage cheese brings more moisture and lightness than cream cheese, so your treats are less dense, with a hint of tang that is always a welcome addition.
There are a few things I do with cottage cheese that is a bit surprising. I puree it with peanut butter in a one to one ratio for a spread that is still great peanut flavor but a little bit lighter and easier on the calorie count. I mix it with cinnamon and stuff baked apples with it. I mix in grated cucumber and onion and chopped dill for a pseudo tzatziki. And when I’m craving chips and dip but don’t want to indulge in sour cream on top of the decadence of potato chips, I stir some chopped chives or scallions into cottage cheese and scoop away.
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