If you followed Lindsey Vonn's story during the Olympics the last couple weeks, you probably heard about how this world-class skier used cheese to help heal her bruised shin. That's right, cheese. Quark, to be more precise. Vonn applied it topically as a poultice, and it must have done the trick because she medaled -- gold, in fact.
In the United States, quark is a relatively unknown delicacy, but in Europe it's easy to find in dairy cases alongside yogurt and soft cheeses. I remember eating boatloads of it in Germany, where I was an exchange student in the early '90s. My host family ate quark as a snack, more often than yogurt, in fact. They liked that it was creamier than yogurt -- and less sour. With fresh berries, it was delicious.
Given quark's recent press, you just might start seeing it stateside. It's worth trying, especially if you're looking for a low-fat, low-salt alternative to sour cream or even cream cheese. It's much more flavorful than most low-fat dairy products I've tasted, which are often gelatinous and without taste. Quark reminds me of Greek yogurt -- thick, smooth, substantive -- but with a fresh, lemony twist that calls to mind mascarpone, the Italian cheese used in tiramisu.
Vermont Butter & Cheese Company makes a wonderful version of quark that tastes even better than the slightly gritty German brand I remember. This artisanal cheese company specializes in European soft cheeses, including fromage blanc and crème fraiche, and has made a name for itself by using quality r-BGH free Vermont milk.
If you find yourself grinning before a tub of quark in the dairy case (try Whole Foods; some of the locations carry it), here are a few things you can do with it, aside from slathering it on bruises:
- Top it with brown sugar, granola, and fruit.
- Serve quark on a baked potato, with chives.
- Spread it on fresh bread with sliced cukes.
- Put a dab of quark on pureed soups.
- Mix quark with cinnamon sugar and use it to top waffles.