My birthday was fairly recent (we had a lovely time, thanks for asking), and I ended up with a plethora of food in my fridge from visitors who came bearing culinary gifts of all sorts. Among other things, my mother brought me a produce drawer worth of peppers (in photo!) and pears, a jar of honey, a dozen eggs, buttermilk, and a precious pint of homemade chevre. The texture is somewhat dry and crumbly, and reminds me of Russian farmer’s cheese, which is (surprise!) drier than the American counterpart.DSC02179One of my college friends was vegetarian, and her mother would make her these cheese patties (like syrniki but not sweet) out of Russian farmer’s cheese for her instead of meat. They’re very simple, and offer a blank slate for any flavors you care to add.

So why imperfection? Well, the photo shows leftovers I ate for lunch. Because I had some beautifully plated when I made them, and then… the camera battery died. The colors are a bit dulled (oh, chlorophyll…), the patties are a touch squished, and these are the least beautiful ones that I made. But, you know what? They were still delicious and a reasonably healthful meal served over sautéed peppers, onions, peas, and kidney beans. In this world of food blogging, there is some social pressure (what attracts readers?) to produce these wonderful staged photos that are not actually what we sit down and eat most of the time. Seriously, I rarely pleat a warm tortilla into a beautiful little fan, but I did for the photos that failed… Becoming so focused on the superficial presentation has disadvantages, I think. For one, it can be discouraging because what you make didn’t turn out like the photo (even if the taste is still spot-on). I would also guess that it can affect everyday cooks’ confidence, probably negatively, although you could argue that the pervasive perfect images actually inspire. What would you argue? And how does the imagery on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, etc affect how you view your food and cooking?

Goat Cheese Sumac Bites

6 oz plain chevre* or Eastern European-style farmer’s cheese
1 egg
1/2 c corn flour
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t sumac
Oil for pan

Stir the cheese and egg together in a bowl. Depending on the exact texture of your cheese and size of your egg, you will need to add anywhere from a teaspoon to three tablespoon of flour to get the mixture to hold together well. (You want to be able to form fairly stable patties, without it sticking to your hands too much, but there’s some flexibility.) Shape seven to ten patties from the cheese mixture. Stir together 1/4 c flour, the thyme, and the sumac in a small bowl. Heat a pan over medium low heat and oil it lightly. Coat the balls in the flour mixture immediately before placing in the hot pan. Cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until lightly browned on each side.

*I actually like these partly because they are so “plain” and simple. You can definitely dress them up by adding more herbs/spices/minced delicious things like lemon zest, roasted red peppers, or capers.

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