Sunday, September 19, 2010

Queso Fresco's next life - Quesadilla Salvadorena

So, I had 6 oz of Queso Fresco left over from my failed queso attempt - which I might add, was delightful in its own way...can't really screw up cheese! If anything, the failed queso attempt introduced me to Queso Fresco and the fact that it doesn't really melt. I'm not sure if Farmers Cheese is around here, but if I am unable to find it, Queso Fresco will suffice just fine after it is grated down.

I asked Mr. Google what I might do with the rest of my Queso Fresco. A lot of recipes came up where it's used as a garnish on top of some kind of Mexican dish. I had a few thoughts like, oh I wonder if it could be used in a cheesecake? The cheesecake recipe I did find called for more cheese than I had. Then my thought process derailed and I got onto breads. I think some Jewish holiday has recently passed or is in effect and that reminded me of challah and how delicious it is. I know, it's a completely different tangent, but you have to understand this is how my brain works. I started Yelping challah around town, and that's when I started reading about bakeries. While reading over some reviews, I got inspired to google for Queso Fresco and Bread recipes. And that is when I ran across a recipe for Quesadilla Salvadorena.

The recipe calls for 1/2 lb of Queso Fresco, but I figured I'd go ahead with it anyways, 2 oz shy of what I needed. The fun part was grating this cheese. The texture of it after it was done reminded me of that instant snow they have in the malls during Christmas time! The other ingredients of the recipe were all on hand and it was a cinch to put together.

I didn't have two loaf pans to bake them up in, so I used a loaf pan and the rest in an 8x8 pan. The important thing to remember is just to keep an eye out as one will bake up faster than the other. It was about 23 minutes when the 8x8's toothpick came out clean and it was a golden yellow on top. The loaf pan took about 10-15 minutes longer and had a beautiful golden brown color on top.

The texture of the cake is quite dense, but perfect with coffee. I've only had a piece from the 8x8 since I'm halfing the loaf and visiting the neighbors! It's Sunday after all :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

For the love of queso

Happy first post!
This topic came easily to me, but then as I started cooking, I realized...this might be a quest.
I just moved to Austin the beginning of August. After getting lost trying to find a fax machine, I finally found one and decided to get my internet fix at the coffee shop next door. Looking at the menu to pick out a guilt purchase, I saw nachos, with cheese, beans, jalapenos, pico, etc. You could add an optional avocado or queso. I asked the waitress, "What is queso?" She couldn't answer, which was kind of strange.
I've only known queso to be Spanish for "cheese." Later in my first week in town, I kept seeing queso everywhere! Queso, queso, queso. I even had a queso burger and had no clue what the heck it was other than cheese.
Turns out, it's as simple as that. It's a Tex Mex thing. You get chips and salsa at a restaurant (might I add the salsa has been DREADFUL here), but you order a side of queso with it. A cheesy dip thing!
Since this discovery, I've been queso crazy. Pretty much anywhere I've been, I need to get the damn queso. Addicted? Probably. I am determined to find
the best queso in town!
A month into it, I have yet to find the Holy Grail. However, I've experienced two disgraceful types of queso. One being melted velveeta that congeals immediately. The other being some runny watery substance with a hint of cheese flavor.
Then the next logical thought hits me. "I can make this stuff. I can make queso!"

Tonight, I tried...and failed.

I went to the local grocery store and started looking at the cheeses. I looked at the usual suspects, deciding which to pick out. And then there was a whole row of Mexican cheeses, but more importantly...cheeses named
This was my mistake. I picked up a round of Queso Fresco. Knowing it was a gamble, I had to ask the almighty Google what the heck I just bought. Turns out it's like a farmer's cheese. And worse, it says that it has a hard time melting! CHIHUAHUA!
I stay the course and try it out...

Flubbed Queso - Take Uno.

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Ground White Pepper (to taste)
6 oz Queso Fresco
1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 can Rotel Tomatoes
8 oz Sour Cream

Chop onion. Take 1/2 cup and saute in skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Add ground white pepper to taste. Once they are translucent or "caramelized" (heh.) remove from heat.

Cube Queso Fresco. Add to saucepan along with shredded cheese over low to medium heat. After a while, (for me, it was the shredded cheese was melted), add onions and drained can of Rotel tomatoes. Stir around and break up Queso Fresco with the spoon. Eventually it will melt down a little. Then add your sour cream and mix. I waited until mine simmered a bit and then turned off the heat.

I still had to help myself to a small bowl to see how it fared. I can't say it was terrible - but it was pretty bad. I'll probably use the rest over a pasta dish or egg omelets.

This isn't over, queso.