You've probably heard the story before--how the Arab trader who carried his milk in a pouch hanging from his camel's neck found that the heat and bumpy ride caused the formation of good-tasting, creamy curds. It was the forerunner of today's cottage cheese.
The name "cottage" came from the Europeans who made this cheese in their cottages to utilize the milk remaining after the cream had been skimmed for making butter.
Made on the Mayflower
Colonists brought the practice to America, probably making cottage cheese in the galley of the Mayflower as they crossed the Atlantic.
Since it is "fresh" as opposed to "aged" or "ripened," cottage cheese needs to be kept covered and refrigerated. It should be used within a week or so after purchase.
That's certainly no problem for imaginative cooks. The versatile cheese has hundreds of uses, from appetizer dips to desserts. Beef Ole is an easy, Mexican-style entree that layers a cottage cheese and egg mixture with tortillas, meat sauce and Jack cheese.
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup chopped onions
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans
1/2 cup pitted black olives, quartered
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 pound Jack cheese, shredded
10 corn tortillas, cut in halves
Brown meat and onions. Drain. Stir in tomato sauce, beans, olives, chili powder and garlic salt. Simmer 10 minutes.
Blend cottage cheese and egg. Layer tortillas, meat sauce, cottage cheese mixture and Jack cheese in greased 12x7-inch baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees 25 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.