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Cottage cheese is about to have another mainstream moment (this time sans sweatbands)—and it's not just us saying so anymore.
Jessica Koslow, the chef and owner of the L.A. it-girl café Sqirl, has predicted that, "cottage cheese is gonna get a serious resurgence. I’m all about it." (It grew on her during a recent trip to Poland.) Over here in New York, a similarly hot-right-now vegetarian restaurant called Nix is dotting their house-made cottage cheese atop a salad of heirloom tomatoes and bitter leaves.
And in a grocery store down the street from you, there's a brightly-designed brand casting itself as younger, cooler, and less old-timey than Friendship or Breakstone's:
But no need to go to Poland, L.A., N.Y.C., or even the grocery store: If you have milk (yes) and lemon juice (yes), cottage cheese is supremely simple to make at home. This recipe from lapadia takes a grand total of 35 minutes from start to finish.
Unlike Creamy Homemade Ricotta, which is not technically ricotta at all, cottage cheese is made solely from milk (whole, part-skimmed, or skimmed) and gets rinsed under cool water once it's drained, removing any residual acidity for a milk-mild flavor. As the Food Lover's Companion explains, "the most popular additions [are] chives and pineapple (but not together)." (Thanks for clarifying.)
Rinsing and squeezing the cottage cheese curds creates a fairly dry and cohesive lump that you can
eat with your hands break into nuggets, store in the refrigerator, and, when ready to serve, loosen with cream, crème fraîche, yogurt, or mascarpone until you have the consistency and flavor you desire.
You'll have about 30 minutes of "downtime" while the milk curdles—an opportunity to make more food to eat alongside it (or to cut up some pineapple or chives—but not both).
Since cottage cheese is a little drier than ricotta, it makes a happy salad accompaniment (as the people at Nix know): Rather than coating the other ingredients or dissolving into a dressing, the cheese lumps remain as discrete buoys: bloblettes of relief in an otherwise rich or acidic dish—like this dogpile of orange vegetables. After a high-heat roast, squash and sweet potato wedges are doused in a reduction of vinegar, honey, and chile peppers until they're almost (almost) too sticky-spicy-sweet to eat on their own.
But the cottage cheese pieces are stepping stones, and the whole plate is freshened up with lime juice and zest, cilantro, and parsley. Add coarsely chopped salted and roasted almonds and it's beautiful enough to replace, or upstage, the sweet potato casserole on your Thanksgiving table. And you'll have leftover cottage cheese for breakfast the next morning. Add what you will—and invite Jessica Koslow over to share.
For the cottage cheese (makes about 3/4 cup):
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Cream, milk, yogurt, or crème fraîche
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the orange vegetable pileup:
- 3 to 3 1/2 pounds (more or less) winter squash and/or sweet potatoes (I like a mix of delicata, kabocha, and Japanese yam)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 hot red chiles (like bird's eye or cayenne), thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins, chopped
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 lime
- Coarsely chopped roasted salted almonds, for garnish (optional)
- This base recipe is lightly adapted from Winter Squash Agrodolce from Bon Appétit, which spread through our editorial team like wildfire.
- I like to use a variety of squash (butternut, delicata, kabocha, buttercup, red kuri) because they all vary in texture, flavor, color, and shape. Sweet potatoes are squishier and sweeter than the rest and right at home here. Just make sure that the wedges are all similar in size so that they cook at the same rate (you may want to put delicata slices, if you have them, on their own baking sheet: They cook faster).
- Don't have all the ingredients for this particular agrodolce? Here's our guide to making it how you want, with what you have.
- What can you do with leftover agrodolce syrup? Loosen it up by reheating it gently, adding water or a splash of vinegar as needed. Then use it to marinate tofu, to jumpstart a salad dressing, to mix into cocktails (kind of crazy!), or to sautée bitter greens.