For my 21st birthday, my mom took me to Las Vegas where we gambled (obviously) and laughed (obviously) but also went to the shows and out for some great dinners. One was at a quirky Vegas stalwart, The Alpine Village Inn, that has since sadly closed. Specializing in Swiss-German cuisine, I can’t recall what we ate but I distinctly remember the spiced cottage cheese served alongside the bread. It was delicious, studded with caraway seeds and we enjoyed it so much we bought a tub of the spice mix on our way out. That tub sat in my mom’s pantry for years and I usually stirred a little into my cottage cheese when I visited. Then one year, it was gone. I’m not sure exactly why I was outraged that she tossed a ten-year-old tub of spices that had overstayed it’s welcome by a long shot, but I was still sad about it.
So I googled it. Seems a lot of people miss that seasoning mix and recipes abound online, all exactly the same. It seemed simple enough to recreate: caraway seeds but also sugar, pepper, celery salt and something called Accent, which I learned is just MSG. I wasn’t super thrilled with the combination so I stuck with what I usually did – a quick shake of caraway seeds and called it a day. That’s about it.
Then a few weeks ago, during a blistering hot Chicago weekend, I attended a meeting of the Culinary Historians of Chicago. They’re a quirky bunch that host interesting culinary themed lectures nearly every Saturday morning. And they always have snacks. Always. That week the snack was a “Wisconsin Supper Club Relish Tray” with raw vegetables of various kinds, pickled beets and a caraway spiked cottage cheese that brought me right back to that Alpine Village Inn treat. I visibly swooned.
Turns out it was a super simple, slightly jazzed up version of what I’d been making all along. Caraway, salt, pepper and chives, the later being a rather fancy pants addition to my regular bowl of mixed up cottage cheese. They served it with those buttery Toll House crackers but I like to eat it with a handful of rye chips alongside, not as a dip because this in no dip. It just doesn’t work that way.
It’s so simple that I feel kind of silly posting the recipe but it’s delicious and something perfect for this time of year when you just don’t want to do anything. To make it even simpler, you can leave out the chives. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve ever included them and I’m not entirely sure I like the texture they add. It’s definitely better if it sits and the flavors meld a bit and the chives do add a onion-y punch but unless you have a garden or window box nearby, buying fresh chives for this just seems a bit more effort than I’m willing to put into it. But boy, it sure makes it look pretty, doesn’t it?
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: SIMPLE HAPPINESS. This simple little thing is often in my late summer rotation of big chunks of watermelon, tomatoes from my garden tossed with pasta and take-out sushi. When it’s hot, my appetite goes in all kinds of strange directions and I don’t feel like cooking a damn thing for myself. Stirring things together is sometimes all I have enough oomph for and this fits right in that pocket.
Seven years ago: Buttermilk Pancakes
Six years ago: Ginger Peach Hand Pies
Five years ago: Vinegary Cole Slaw
Four years ago: Bastille Day Lunch – Figgy BBQ Sauce
Three years ago: Bombay Potato Wraps, Apricot Pistachio Frangipane Tart
Two years ago: Modern Three Bean Salad, Plum Upside Down Cake
Last year: Stuffed Round Zucchini, Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
CARAWAY SPICED COTTAGE CHEESE
Serves 2-4 as a snack
I’m on the fence about the addition of chives here so I’ve made them optional. The effort involved just seems like more than I’m willing to make for a quick snack unless I have them on hand. I also prefer a large curd on the cottage cheese and from this I cannot be swayed.
1 16 ounce container large curd cottage cheese
1 ½ teaspoons caraways seeds
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped (optional)
- Combine all the ingredients together.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
- Serve with rye crisp crackers or pumpernickel bread. Or just in a bowl with a spoon.