Cottage cheese is like Eugene Levy. For years, it was just a comedic punchline, a lightweight bad guy. Then one day, you turn around and suddenly stop in your tracks. "Hold up," you wonder. "Are you actually suave as hell?"
I don't know exactly when we all fell in love with cottage cheese in our household, but I can confirm the obsession was nudged along by the earworm of a particular dairy brand's jingle. Cottage cheese, you are versatile, super flavorful and cheap as hell. I'd like to apologize for not realizing this when you were a sad sidekick in the '80s.
With summer now upon us, there's no better time to enjoy the cottage cheese revival, especially in a salad that flies in the face of all the sad "diet plate" specials you ever watched your mom power through as a kid. Dense with vibrant flavor, Molly Baz's "sneaky cottage cheese salad" from her incredible "Cook This Book" is exactly the sort of thing you want when you can't bear turning on the oven but still remember you deserve to be well fed.
Baz calls it "sneaky" because the cottage cheese turns out to be the stealth scene-stealer of the dish. She makes her salad with little gems, but I, a tired person who is currently back in night classes, believe the bagged stuff works just fine. Baz also adds garlic, which I omit to save you one less thing to slice. Toasting the nuts really does amp up the flavor, but if you're in a hurry, no one will arrest you if you skip that part, too.
Please, however, be generous with the dill, which brightens up the whole works. This is meal so crunchy, so herby, so tart, I could eat it every day for the rest of the summer and be totally content. I bet you could, too.
You can tweak this a hundred different ways, but served with cold smoked fish and some very crisp Riesling or maybe just some local fruit wine, I'd wager to say it'd make a dinner fit for Johnny and Moira themselves.
Recipe: The Sneakiest Summer Salad
Inspired by Molly Baz's "Cook This Book"
- 1 lemon
- 2 Persian cucumbers
- 1 bag pre-washed romaine
- 1 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
- 1⁄2 cup full-fat cottage cheese
- 1⁄2 cup pecans, walnuts or almonds
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Spread the nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the nuts over and allow them to cool.
While the nuts are toasting, make the dressing. In a big bowl, zest the peel from about a quarter of the lemon. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze all of the juice into the bowl.
Whisk in the cottage cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Cut the cucumber into small rounds or slices. (The choice is yours.)
Open up the big bag of salad and add it to the bowl with the dressing. Toss thoroughly to cover every leaf.
Add the cucumber, dill and nuts before tossing the salad again. Taste a leaf and add more salt and pepper as needed.
You can swap the Persian cucumbers with half an English cucumber. If romaine isn't your journey, reach for your favorite salad greens instead.
Had I not finished off my current supply with breakfast earlier in the day, I wouldn't have hesitated to throw a bunch of pomegranate seeds in there.
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