An ode to quark – The ‘physics’ of relishing this sweet and savory cheese
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An ode to quark – The ‘physics’ of relishing this sweet and savory cheese

It rhymes… Sort of. But even if it didn’t rhyme, the statement would still hold true: dairy works wonderfully in both sweet and savory recipes, and when I say dairy, I really mean all kinds of it.

Have you ever tried sheep’s milk feta with honey and thyme? The first time I saw it on my plate in Crete years ago, I was doubtful. The cheese is pretty salty and the honey, well, too sweet. And yet, they were having a party in my mouth. The combo proved to be surprisingly good. From that moment on, I’ve been very open-minded about salty & sweet cheese pairings beyond good old brie with grapes.

I could talk about cheese all day. As Chesterton put it in his brilliant The Poet and the Cheese:

“There ought to be a colossal statue in the market-place of the man who invented Stilton cheese. There ought to be another colossal statue of the first cow who provided the foundations of it”.

I couldn’t agree more. But we don’t have all day, so let me concentrate on a dairy product which is delicious, versatile, can be used in numerous sweet and savory dishes and clearly deserves more recognition – quark.

Some of you might be familiar with the word quark through physics, not cooking. This creamy soft cheese is not your typical all-American product and I’m glad it’s becoming somewhat trendy.

Thanks, in part, to Tnuva – a company which delivers Israel’s finest dairy to American consumers. Among them – fresh quark (3%, 5%, and 9% fat varieties), one of Tnuva’s signature products insanely popular with Israelis of all ages and walks of life.

So, what is it and how should you eat it?

Quark comes in many shapes and textures, but it’s always soft, white and unaged, and often has no salt added. It’s made by warming soured milk until the desired amount of curdling is met. It’s most common in the cuisines of German-speaking countries, Northern and Eastern Europe, and… Israel (thanks to the Ashkenazi Jews carrying this European recipe all the way to the Middle East).

One of the great things about quark is that it’s a yummy and healthy alternative to cream cheese, due to its high protein and relatively low fat content. It can be enjoyed in myriad ways, though: try it with honey and seasonal fruit or as a dip with your favorite chips. Spread it on toast with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil or put it on your blueberry pancakes for a healthy dose of protein. Let your imagination run wild!

If you’d like to take a more traditional route, try making Käsekuchen – a delicious German-style cheesecake made with quark, Syrniki – rich Russian quark pancakes to die for, or a typical Latvian fishermen’s meal consisting of grainy Latvian quark biezpiens, jacket (or peeled and boiled) potatoes, dill and pickled herring (Baltic nations like to mix fish and dairy. An acquired taste, perhaps, but give it a go if you like to experiment with food, especially if you’re into lox and cream cheese bagels).

And remember, first and foremost, whatever you choose to cook – enjoy it! Oh, and from now on, feel confident about quark (now that you’re practically an expert in it).