The Great Cottage Cheese Dinner Challenge

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In good stories, a character changes. So, for example, if you’re watching a movie about a guy who’s afraid of heights but his girlfriend is being held hostage at the top of Mount Everest, we expect him to get over his fear in order to save her. If he decides to just leave her there and become a knitting teacher, it probably wouldn’t be a very good movie. (Though, on second thought, maybe it would?)

Thinking of me as your main character, then, consider my post last week about cottage cheese. I find the stuff repulsive. 157 of you disagreed with me in the comments. So yesterday I went to Gelson’s and saw Low-Fat Knudsen’s Cottage Cheese, the kind many of you eat, and decided to challenge myself to make dinner with it. If this were a good story, I’d learn to love it at the end.

Opening it up and looking at it, though, my stomach literally lurched. How does that not look like white barf to you 157 cottage cheese lovers? Wet, white, barf?

I was ready to bury it in the yard and order a pizza, but then I thought about this post and how many of you might enjoy it if I pushed myself to cook with it. So for you, I persevered.

Several readers, including hilarious Smash-recapper Rachel Shukert, talked about topping pasta with cottage cheese and black pepper. I decided to travel that route since pasta is my favorite food and I could pretend the cottage cheese was some kind of warped version of ricotta.

Marco Canora, chef at Hearth in New York, told me that if he had to cook with cottage cheese (he, too, is repulsed by the stuff) he would whip it in a Kitchen-Aid first. I took his advice.

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But first, I wanted to flavor it, disguise it beyond recognition. Here’s what I bought to aid that process:

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That’s parsley, scallions, dill and a lemon. I chopped the parsley and dill rather fine:

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And added it to the cottage cheese in the mixer along with a splash of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and crushed Pequin chiles which April Bloomfield likes to use in her cooking because they’re spicy and smoky. Look at how much this all helps the cottage cheese (or at least covers it up):

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On went the mixer and splutsplutsplut went the cottage cheese. (It’s a pretty grotesque sound). Behold: flavored cottage cheese.

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I’m not sure that mixing it in a mixer really changed the texture, but tasting it here I was happy with my work. The cottage cheese, to its credit, has a nice tang to it; it’s tangier than ricotta. Don’t worry, cottage cheese haters, my character doesn’t change at this point.

But once I boiled the pasta (I chose fusilli) and tossed it with my cottage cheese mixture and chopped scallions, I had a bowl of something that looked rather tasty.

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At the end of Annie, Daddy Warbucks learns to love an orphan. At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy learns that all she ever wanted was right there in her backyard. And at the end of this story, I ate a bowl of pasta coated in cottage cheese and, believe it or not, I went back for seconds.

It was good! Tangy, creamy, definitely ricotta-like. Plus: low-fat and high in protein, I imagine it was way better for me than my usual fat-filled, salt-bomb sauces.

Will I make cottage cheese pasta again for dinner? That remains to be seen. But at the end of the story about the boy who hated cottage cheese, he put it on pasta, ate it for dinner, and didn’t hurl. That, in my book, is a happy ending.

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