12 November, 2009

The Zen of Kvarg?

Another food-related post. Sorry if they are boring...its just such an adventure attempting to navigate the livsmedelsaffär (grocery store) or to make meals that feel like home. American home.

Stu had a rough day or two...he is currently working on a big project to present to the Swedish state-owned pharmacy monopoly Apoteket.  A little background: you can't get most over-the-counter drugs in Sweden without a prescription, and then only at Apoteket (but we arrived prepared...we brought a giant box of Dayquil & Nyquil!) Earlier this year, it was decided that the monopoly should be broken up, and just Monday, it was announced that more than half of the 900 pharmacies were sold off to private companies. And this whole issue served as a live case module for Stu's management class. He can write more if I am leaving big details out, but they have to pitch their strategies for marketing and managing the transition to the big shots at Apoteket very soon.

Anyway, a rough day or two working on this project. We both have been sleeping crappy, watching True Blood too late into the night, and working a lot. And he got a haircut (finally) that was a little shorter than he wanted. In fact, he said he was emphatic to the hairdresser that he wanted "just a trim, keep it long" but it is shooooort. Maybe Army short?  And we hadn't gone to the grocery store, so there was no food in the fridge. So I guess when he stopped by the store for the basics, the lasagna noodles screamed out to him. Like "eat me, I remind you of home!"  So expecting to make a meal, he bought the noodles, and an onion, some parmasan, and some tomato sauce.

But no ricotta or mozzarella. Sweet man, he tries.  I ran out for the cheeses and more veggies, but you can't find ricotta cheese here (or I can't find ricotta cheese here.)  I know you can make it fairly easily at home, but that requires cheesecloth, and I am pretty sure cheesecloth doesn't translate to "ost duk." Stu had that problem when he went to buy shortening (like, the margarine-y stuff, because when you plug "shortening" into Google Translate, you get förkorta which is more like the verb or art term. Swedes would look at you like you were crazy if you were at the store wanting to buy foreshortening.)

So no ricotta. But I have seen cottage cheese, and figured that if I spiced & herbed the crap out of the lasagna, no one would notice...same texture, right? But Lidl (the supremely cheap grocery store around the corner) didn't have anything labeled "cottage cheese." They did have an opaque tub of something called Vähärasvainen Maitorahka Kvarg near the creme fraiches and the grädd.  Don't ask me how to pronounce that first part, I think its Finnish. I zeroed in on the "Kvarg" part.  Sounds disgusting.  But I bought it anyway.  Don't say I'm not adventurous.

Well, turns out kvarg is not ricotta or cottage cheese-like in consistency. Not even close. More like sour cream or greek yogurt.  And after some heavy-duty googling (yeah, it took a while! My research skills are rusty!) I came to the conclusion that what I had bought was Quark (thank you, Wikipedia, for pointing out how different it is from cottage cheese and ricotta). Its fairly common in Eastern Europe. But they don't even sell it in the US because it isn't pasteurized. No wonder.

So, I have no ricotta with which to make Stu a homesick lasagna. Even better, now I have 500 grams of creamy, sour, un-ricotta-like kvarg in our fridge to figure out what to do with. And soon, because I opened the thing, and its not pasteurized!  Not to mention that Stu is spending the weekend in Germany, so I am also on my own as far as eating it, whatever it is.

Anyone ever kvarged before? Should I attempt the kvargcake in the wikipedia picture? God, that just sounds gross.  And more importantly does anyone want to send me some cheesecloth?


  1. i would try asking for 'gauze'. maybe 'gauze for cheese' would make sense. if that doesn't work, use pantihose!

  2. Pantihose? That would work? I'll try it! I found an easy-looking recipe here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Fresh-Homemade-Ricotta-234282

  3. My German friends used Kvark for cheesecake. And it was good, but I never used it. However, I'm sure you could figure out what to do with a cheesecake all by yourself!

  4. Oops! Quark. I'm thinking in Haggar the Horrible mode.

  5. i think pantihose would totally work.
    if you really want cotton, use a very thin dish cloth, or a large piece of gauze like you use for burns.

  6. You can also use a paper towl to drain it a la Barefoot Contessa. Maybe make a coeur a la creme. Mmmmm.... :D

  7. Bodybuilders eat that stuff like candy. Mix it with some yoghurt and you remove the sourness of it, plus get one hell of a protein boost.