Friday, August 30, 2013

Farmer Cheese, Honey-Tahini and Blueberry Breakfast Toast

Our house is undergoing renovations.  For the past month, the kitchen has been dismantled. Refrigerator is in the dining room.  Stove is disconnected.  To cook, we have to rely on the microwave, toaster oven, and outdoor grill.  To shower, we have to go around to the attached studio out back. It feels like camping.

This morning, I was tired of cereal.  I wanted something fast, tasty, salt free and (if possible) Slovenian in spirit.

I am not sure if this tasty breakfast toast qualifies as Slovenian-inspired.  At least it is Eastern Euro-inspired, with honey-tahini spread from Kosovo and Russian-style farmer cheese (made by the Belfiore Company, right here in Berkeley.)    It also qualifies as low-sodium, with salt-free bread and farmer cheese and (I assume) tahini-honey spread without any salt.

Farmer cheese, Honey-Tahini, and Blueberry Breakfast Toast

1 slice whole grain bread (low sodium preferred!)
curd cheese or farmer cheese
honey-tahini spread
fresh blueberries

Toast bread.  Spread with a thin layer of honey-tahini spread.  Add a layer of cheese. Top with a sprinkle of fresh blueberries.  Finish with a drizzle of honey-tahini spread.

The verdict:  Easy, healthy and so delicious it tastes like dessert!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Low-Sodium Kasha Mediterranean Salad with Curd Cheese

Kasha Mediterranean, the Slovenian-inspired salad created by a Facebook friend named Josef, had become one of our favorite dishes. It is a tasty twist on a familiar salad that is normally based on bulgar wheat.  Made with buckwheat instead, it is unusual and perfect for entertaining.

A low-sodium version would be a challenge, because one of the key ingredients is feta cheese.  I resolved to try it with cubes of my homemade salt-free curd cheese, pressed and cubed, then doctored up with paprika, onion, and pumpkin seed oil.  (That recipe, a traditional Slovenian appetizer in its own right, is in the preceding post.)

Without the tang of feta, the salad tasted a little bland.  So I had to make a few adjustments: more spice and a tangier dressing.

For the recipe and the verdict, read on.

Low-Sodium Kasha Mediterranean Salad with Curd Cheese  


1 c. dry whole buckwheat groats or kasha, cooked in
1 ½ c.  salted water

1 16 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
6-8 oz salt-free curd cheese (or paneer),  cubed *
4 small/medium tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ c. red onion, diced (or 4 green onions)
4 T. fresh parsley, minced
black pepper, ground, to taste
smoked paprika, ½ t. or to taste

*The salad ingredients follow the original recipe, except for the substitution of salt-free curd cheese for feta. The cheese will be less bland if it is cubed and marinated with onion, paprika, and pumpkin seed oil.

Dressing (a tangier version):

2 T. olive oil
2 t. pumpkin seed oil
6 T. vinegar
juice of 2 limes
2 T. pomegranate molasses
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 T. fresh mint
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. hot paprika
black pepper, to taste
1/4 c. pumpkin seeds

If you need more detailed directions for assembling the salad, consult the original recipe.

The verdict?  Well, the flavor was a little different, without the sharp, salty tang of feta.  But the modified salad stands up well,  especially with the intensely flavored dressing.  It's a winner and even more healthy.  Gluten-free, salt-free, and delicious!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Curd Cheese with Onion, Paprika, and Pumpkin Seed Oil

This simple but unusual appetizer combines three Slovenian favorites: curd cheese, paprika, and pumpkin seed oil.

I adapted it from a recipe in Janez Bogataj's The Food and Cooking of Slovenia. He calls it Curd Cheese with Onion or Koroška skuta s čebulo.  It is a specialty of Koroška (or Carinthia), a region on the Austrian-Slovenian border that is well-known as a producer of pumpkin seed oil.

Since I wanted to make a salt-free version, I increased the paprika and pepper and added a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds on top.

Traditionally, this tasty-sounding combination is served as a spread on rye bread.  But I had another plan. I wanted to use salt-free curd cheese as a substitute for feta in salads. I worried that my unadorned homemade curd cheese might be a little bland.  I hoped this flavor combination might give it just the right boost.

I made a batch of homemade curd cheese and pressed it overnight to make a firm round. The next day, I cut it into cubes and followed the recipe below.

For the result, read on.


Curd Cheese with Onion, Paprika, and Pumpkin Seed Oil (adapted from Janez Bogataj)

1 cup/ 8 oz curd cheese or farmer cheese, homemade or store-bought, salt-free
1 t. paprika
1/2 onion, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste
(salt, if desired, to taste)
1 T. pumpkin seed oil
pumpkin seeds, toasted (optional)

For a smooth spread, crumble the curd cheese in a bowl.  To use in a salad or other dish, cut cheese into cubes.

Sprinkle the cheese with onion, paprika, black pepper (and salt, if using.)  For a spread, mash and blend with a spoon.  Or, to retain the shape of the cubes (as I did), just toss the ingredients lightly. Drizzle with pumpkin seed oil.

The verdict?

This does makes a lovely spread on rye bread or whole grain crackers, especially with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds on top.  But it also worked beautifully in my salt-free version of Kasha Mediterranean Salad.  For the recipe, see the next post.