A 4-pound tub of feta sounded like a perfectly reasonable purchase to me. I love feta cheese, so when my friend Eralda was getting ready to place an 8-pound order, and asked if I wanted to split it, I replied with an immediate and emphatic "yes!"
Unfortunately, Kevin was home when she delivered the goods a few days later. I hadn't planned on hiding the feta, but I did have thoughts of camouflage. Kevin does not typically stand and stare into the refrigerator the way that I do, so I was hoping that the strategic placement of a few jars of mustard and, perhaps, a sippy cup, would distract him from the mammoth container.
He stared at the label on the lid, nonplussed.
"Please tell me that's not really filled with 4 pounds of feta."
I swallowed, then replied that lying is a sin.
"So, what, we're going to eat feta for a month?!"
Exactly, dear husband!
"I promise, you'll love it."
He sighed--he's grown used to most of my kitchen hijinks--and retreated to the living room with a Sam Adams and the New York Review of Books.
To be fair, I've been eating my fill of feta at breakfast (in omelets and scrambles) and lunch (crumbled over salads and soups). But I also stuck to my promise to use it in things I felt sure Kevin would love, too. Combining it with bacon, potatoes, and some of the sage Kevin himself planted in the pots out back, seemed like a wise route. To knock it out of the park, I settled on one of his favorite dishes: Swiss Potato Rösti.
Rösti is made with potatoes which are grated and, depending on the frying technique, possibly mixed with some butter or fat (and usually salt and pepper), or fried in oil later. The grated potatoes can be shaped into rounds or patties, or simply shaped into one large round inside of a skillet. Although the basic rösti consists of nothing but potato, a number of additional ingredients are sometimes added, such as bacon, onions, cheese, apples or fresh herbs.
I produced several disastrous röstis early in my cooking career: gummy and burnt are the adjectives that come to mind. I found it especially difficult to get the raw potatoes crisp on the outside but cooked and tender on the inside. Then came graduate school, where I met Emmy, a Zürich-born business school student who was a regular in my kickboxing classes. I do not remember how we landed on the subject of rösti, but I do recall her advice for perfecting it: par-boil the potatoes.
Wunderbar! My rösti has been a quick and scrumptious success ever since.
And Kevin was forced to admit (granted, with prodding) that this particular rösti was especially delicious with the addition of feta.
Feta & Bacon Potato Rösti
2 pounds medium-sized russet potatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
8 fresh sage leaves
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces feta cheese (you could use goat cheese, too)
Boil the potatoes in their skins in a large pot of boiling water for 20-25 minutes, until just tender. Leave to cool, peel, then coarsely grate into a bowl.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium non-stick frying pan, add the onion and bacon and and cook & stir about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and just beginning to brown. Stir in the sage leaves and remove from the heat.
Stir the onion, bacon and any juices left in the pan into the grated potato. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in the frying pan, add half the potato mixture and spread over the pan. Crumble the feta into small pieces, then sprinkle evenly over the potatoes. Spread the remaining potato over the top to cover the cheese and press down lightly with the back of a wooden spoon.
Cook the rösti over a moderate heat for about 8-9 minutes until the underside is nicely browned (lift with a spatula and peak), then put a large plate on top and invert the rösti onto it. Add a touch more of oil to the pan if it looks like it needs it, then slide the rösti back into the pan and cook the other side for 8-9 minutes. Serve the rösti straight from the pan, cut into wedges, with green vegetables or a big green leaf salad. Makes 6 servings.
You may or may not have been wondering where the heck I've been the past few weeks. And for the first time in a long time, I have a good excuse: my new book, The Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Book: 745 Scrumptious Recipes that begin with Refrigerated Cookie Dough, Cake Mix, Brownie Mix, or Ready-to-Eat Cereal came out this month and I've been running around promoting it and baking up copious amounts of cookies for different media venues. It's been very fun (and there's more to come), but a bit exhausting, too.
The book is a compilation of four of my previous books: Cake Mix Cookies, Brownie Mix Bliss, No-Bake Cookies, & Cookie Dough Delights, plus a host of new recipes developed for the collection. It's hardback, and has beautiful photos, both thanks to my new publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc. (Cumberland House, my former publisher was purchased by and is now one of their imprints).
The Shortcut Cookies Blog!!!
To share the book in brand new ways, I am thrilled (thrilled!) to be launching an accompanying blog: Shortcut Cookies. I'll be sharing many, many cookies from the book, offering giveaways, hosting guest posts from other bloggers (you! email me :)) chronicling their Shortcut Cookie-baking with recipes from the book, showing videos, and so much more.
All-Natural Mixes & Gluten-Free Mixes!!!
I tested the recipes in the book using Traditional Cake Mixes, Brownie Mixes, Cookie Doughs, and Cereals. But I am thrilled to report that the options extend to All-Natural Mixes & Doughs and Gluten-Free Mixes, Doughs & Cereals. It's true. It's fabulous. It's scrumptious. And it means that more people than ever before can have their shortcut cookies and eat them, too!
I hope you'll follow me in my new adventure; I promise it will be lots of delicious fun.
And fear not: I love Enlightened Cooking more than ever, and can hardly wait to get back to posting (look for me feta post later today).
Popsicles may seem an odd posting choice as we head into fall, but the explanation is simple: (1) It's still in the high 80s here in East Texas; (2) I have a profound popsicle obsession (bordering on compulsion); and (3) I have passed my fixation on to Nick.
My own fixation was bred early. My mother tried (emphasis on tried) to limit our (me, sister and brother) sugar intake, to the point where she wouldn't let us eat more than half of an all-natural, co-op brand fruit leather at one sitting. One of her few exceptions was popsicles. Before entire aisles of the supermarket were filled ith copious ice cream novelty options, our co-op sold a 12-pack of all-natural fruit popsicles. (yes, I remember the exact number; we each got four popsicles.). For whatever reason, my mother thought this was a reasonable option, so we typically had a box in the freezer.
As a result, I grew up thinking that popsicles were a standard part of any diet, a staple for any home freezer. The affection intensified in college (they sold them in the college cafe; I often made it my post-library late-night snack) and I consumed record numbers while finishing my dissertation (ideal for concentrating over a tedious article, or hold with the left hand, type with the right on the computer). But my fixation reached its zenith while I was pregnant. I would drive to multiple grocery stores to get my favorite flavor du jour (tangerine at Brookshire Brothers, strawberry at the Kroger, lime & coconut from Wal-Mart) and easily eat a whole box in a day (especially in my 8th and 9th months).
It's calmed down in the years since Nick made his entrance, but popsicles remain an ever-present staple of the deep freezer. And when I saw a popsicle mold on sale at a kitchen store back in May, I realized it was high time I made my own.
I crafted a few batches (with Nick's assistance) earlier in the summer (loved them with the V-8 juice blends, and a good way to sneak some vegetables into his treats), but the mold has been sitting unused since mid-July. When I read Nicole's post (Baking Bites) for lemonade yogurt popsicles, though, I knew it was time to put it back to use.
I love yogurt even more than I love popsicles--what could be better? The addition of fresh strawberries, that's what. Up the ante with Greek yogurt, and the result is one of the most delicious popsicles--ever (that comes from both me and Nick). And they are so easy, too; the only hard part is waiting for them to freeze.
No Greek yogurt? No problem. But you will need to plan ahead for an added step: straining the yogurt. The process is a simple: strain the yogurt to remove most of the liquid. My preferred apparatus is a large coffee filter place inside a bowl or 2-cup glass measuring cup, suspended by a knife.
Depending on how much yogurt I'm straining, I may set up two to three of these rigs. Place them in the refrigerator overnight and voila, you've got thick strained "Greek" yogurt by morning. For this recipe, opt for plain yogurt for the straining process, then sweeten to taste with honey.
Greek Yogurt & Strawberry Popsicles
2 cups roughly chopped, hulled strawberries
1/4 cup powdered sugar
16 ounces honey-flavored Greek-style yogurt
Purée strawberries in a blender food processor along with the powdered sugar.
Spoon half the yogurt into a bowl and stir in 2 tbsp of purée so it is stained pink. Spoon into popsicle molds, add the rest of the purée, then the rest of the yogurt. Push in popsicle sticks and freeze until solid. Makes 6 (more or less depending on the size of your popsicle molds).
Nick loves his new school, so much so that he was reluctant to leave at the end of the first two days. I am so happy he likes it.
But to be honest, I am feeling out of sorts. Being Nick's mommy has been a primary part of my identity for the last three years, so it's more than a strange feeling to suddenly have much of the day to myself. I knw every mother goes through this at some point, and I know, too, that I will adjust, but I'm happy to have plenty of work and cooking to distract myself.
I am working on number of different projects, but decided to put them aside this afternoon to make use of the beautiful zucchini brought by a good (and gardening) friend.
You may not be able to determine from the photo, but they were huge. I knew I would have more than enough for a couple of loaves of my zucchini bread, so put on my thinking cap for some additional uses. I had no dinner plans yet--hadn't even thought of it--so I decided to start with the side (the zucchini) and let the "main" follow.
This is one of my favorite dinner tricks: if I'm stuck on whether chicken, beef, pork or I focus on the side. Once I figure out the vegetables, beans, pasta, or grains, a sauteed pork chop sounds like perfection. And sometimes, the sides morph into the main.
That's precisely what happened with the zucchini. One look at all the grated zucchini and a food memory was sparked: latkes. I've made latkes with other vegetables besides the basic potato, so why not zucchini?
The end result was closer to a pancake or fritter, less so a latke, but they were absolutely scrumptious, especially partnered with a throw-together "relish" made with some cherry tomatoes from the refrigerator, mint leaves from the garden, and cojita cheese leftover from the tortilla chicken soup we had last week.
Zucchini Pancakes with Cherry Tomato-Cojita (or Feta) Relish
1 basket cherry tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
2/3 cup cubed cojita or feta cheese
2 tablespoons small mint leaves (or chop, if large)
Juice & grated zest of 1 lemon
3 cups grated zucchini
2 large eggs
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika (pimenton)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Toss the cherry tomatoes, cheese, mint, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Let stand at room teperature while making pancakes.
Place the grated zucchini on two paper towel-lined plates. Sprinkle with salt, and let stand 5 minutes. Use the towels to squeeze out any excess liquid.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl; mix in the the zucchini and onion. In a small bowl, whisk flour, cumin, pimenton, and salt. Add flour mixture to zucchini mixture, stirring until just blended.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan set over medium-high heat. Drop in heaped tbsps of batter. Cook, in batches, for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through. Serve with the tomato relish. Makes 4 servings.