Once upon a time when I was a lithe college student I may have kept all my stuff and slept at my parents’ house but I mainly lived at school. I always always full-time at the minimum and often exceeded full-time units. I accomplished this by being at school for long stretches at a time and often had gaps of hours to fill studying, watching Strong Bad videos or reading The Onion in the library, and also, eating.
School food was awful and expensive and we never bought more than a candy bar or a bag of chips from a vending machine, though there was that memorable time that Anthony brought a cup o’ noodles and was so tired he accidentally filled it with hot coffee instead of hot water. They didn’t charge us.
I was just learning how to cook and my fledgling attempts revolved around cookbooks by Mollie Katzen and the classic vegetarian tome Laurel’s Kitchen. I own four or five different copies of the original and my first copy came to me by way of my Grandma. It still has her notes in it, which is why I’ve kept it even though it’s split into about three volumes along the crack that used to be its spine. Next to Laurel’s Cheese Spreads recipe she had written “V. Good” and so naturally it was the first one I tried. I am also a life-long lover of the cheese sandwich, and my Mom will tell you that starting in first grade I refused the peanut butter & jelly sandwiches she made me and demanded only cheese from then on.
This spread is much more delicious and flavorful than the cheese sandwiches I used to bring for lunch, and is more versatile as well. It’s adaptable and cheap and can be enjoyed in a sandwich, as a hippie crostini, or even a dip. The ingredients are flexible and it’s so good I usually end up doubling the cheese components so I can add more extras and not overwhelm the flavor.
I used to bring this to work at least once a week and I ate it on the homemade whole wheat bread that I baked on weekends using a recipe from the same book. I didn’t have access to a refrigerator but I added a cool pack to my lunch and it kept well. It was healthy and inexpensive and easy to make–in other words, perfect student food.
(Please note Isobel taking a photo of her “cheese spread salad” with my old camera. Just like Mama. It kills me.)
The amounts listed in the ingredients are a flexible guideline. Laurel & Carol don’t even provide measurements beyond the two types of cheese in their recipe. I eyeballed the type of things I add in their approximate amounts. Scallions are listed, and they are delicious, too, but I only add them if I’m eating this as a snack at home because otherwise the specter of onion breath can lurk about for quite some time. Thinly sliced red onion is also pretty fabulous here, but skip the garlic. It’s a bit harsh for this spread. Its flavor is fresh and bright from the bell pepper and dill but rich for the cheese. A bit of mayonnaise is appropriate here as it works as a binding ingredient and is also a friend of sandwiches everywhere, but if you are not a fan, feel free to leave it out. It will be lighter on calories and still taste wonderful.
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, give or take
- 1 cup low fat cottage cheese, give or take
- 1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/2-1 tbs Dijon mustard
- 1 tbs dried dill
- finely diced cherry or other tomato
- 1-2 tbs mayonnaise
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
- 1 scallion, greens and whites, finely chopped
- 3 or 4 broccoli florets, chopped small
– In a large bowl, combine the cottage and cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard, dill, and optional extras including paprika, egg, and mayonnaise. Stir gently.
– Add the finely chopped vegetables and mix gently but thoroughly. Serve in between two slices of bread, tucked inside a pita, rolled in a tortilla wrap, or on top of Scandinavian crisp rye bread. Also good as a dip to be scooped up with various whole-grain crackers or on toast. I have kept it in my lunch with a cool pack refrigerated until lunch time with no problems.