Tvorog: Instant Pot or Yogurt Maker

Tvorog (pronounced closer to TVOR-ok), is a type of farmer’s cheese that is easily made at home, and does not require rennet. There are many types of farmer’s or cottage cheese that are made around the world… Indian paneer is very similar. Tvorog is not the same texture as the cottage cheese you will find in typical American grocery stores, though. Tvorog is very finely grained, and drier. It is not typically eaten plain, as American cottage cheese is, but is incorporated into other dishes. The following recipe is an easy version based on a recipe I found on That’s What She Had , and compares very favorably with the tvorog I enjoyed when living in Russia. For more information and methods (especially if you do not have an Instant Pot or yogurt maker), I highly recommend visiting That’s What She Had: How to Make Authentic Russian Tvorog . She also provides troubleshooting if your tvorog doesn’t turn out quite right.

1 gal milk

1/2 gal buttermilk

Straining tool (I recommend using a nylon nut-milk bag that can by hung by its own cord as the cheese drains, is easy to clean and reuse, and is very durable)

(I have a very large Instant Pot, but you are welcome to halve this recipe if your equipment has a smaller capacity)

Allow both ingredients to come to room temperature by leaving them on the counter for a few hours. Pour milk and buttermilk into your Instant Pot or yogurt maker. Set it to the yogurt incubation function for 48 hours (do NOT scald them first as you would typically do for yogurt).

Leave it alone.

Really, just pour, turn on your device, and leave it alone.

Once the 48 hours is up, the mixture should have naturally separated into tiny curds and whey. Carefully strain using your cheesecloth, or preferably nylon straining bag. Hang the bag over a pot to catch the whey as the tvorog drains for a few hours.

Carefully pour or scrape it out of the strainer into your storage container, and store in the refrigerator as you would for regular cottage cheese. The amount of milk and buttermilk listed for this recipe yields at least 4 cups of tvorog.

Octopus in Tomato Sauce

Despite my birth and early years in Japan, octopus is not something that was frequently served on our family table when I was growing up. However, it really started to grow on me when I realized what a wonderful and unique source of nutrition it can be once I started abiding by Orthodox Christian fasting traditions, and found myself in extended almost-vegan periods throughout the year (seafood that isn’t fish is exempt from the no meat/fish rule, so octopus can be eaten throughout the year). Not to mention, seeing octopus in the table is certainly a conversation starter where I live!

1 package of Panna Pesca frozen whole (cleaned) octopus

1 28oz can tomatoes

Oil/fat to saute onions

1 onion

5-6 cloves garlic (or more!)

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 bay leaves (not pictured)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (not pictured)

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Flat leaf parsley

Pasta for serving (ditalini is pictured)


 

Slice the onions thinly and saute in a large pan with fat of choice (or water, to keep it oil-free).

Slice the octopus tentacles and body in roughly 2-inch sections.

Peel the garlic and put garlic and canned tomatoes in a blender and briefly puree.

Once the onions are translucent, add the puree mixture, salt, paprika, cayenne, bay leaves, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer, then add sliced octopus.

Return to a simmer, then cover and simmer on low heat until octopus is tender, roughly 30 minutes. Stir from time to time and add water as necessary if the sauce seems too dry. It should be like a slightly watery pasta sauce, as it will thicken a bit once it cools. Once finished, remove from heat and stir in fresh parsley, to taste (I use about a cup of chopped parsley).

Once the stewed octopus is finished, cook pasta, rice, etc as you choose. Spoon sauce and octopus over individual plates of pasta.🦑🍝

Lazarakia

Coming from the Greek tradition, Lazarakia are a festive bread that are made to resemble Lazarus in his burial cloths, and baked by many Orthodox Christians on Lazarus Saturday. As a convert, I did not grow up with this tradition, or recipe… so while I can’t claim this to be “authentic”, I can claim it to be much beloved by my whole family!

1 3/4 cups warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one standard envelope

2 tablespoons sugar

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

2/3 cup olive oil, plus more for pans

Whole cloves

Combine warm water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl, stir, and leave until bubbly.

Once the yeast is ready, in the bowl of a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment, pour the flour and salt. With machine running, add water mixture, and oil. Run the mixer for a few minutes until dough is just combined, stopping to scrape down side and bottom with a rubber spatula as needed. Briefly knead by hand for a minute or two if necessary.

Cover the bowl with plastic and allow dough to rise until doubled (about 1 hour, depending on ambient emperature).

After first rise, punch down dough amd knead one or twice. Re-cover, and allow to rise until at least double once again (roughly another hour).

Punch dough down again after second rise is complete. Separate into 16 even balls. An easy way to do this is to split the dough in half, then split each section in half, and keep repeating until you have 16 portions. Roll each portiom into a roughly hotdog size and shape, then flatten slightly. With kitchen shears, cut three long strips through the bottom 3/4 of each roll, and cut the sides at the top of the first cuts, as shown in the photo below (the side cuts provide more definition for the head).

Braid the three strips at the bottom, and place on a cookie sheet that has been liberally greased with olive oil. Once all the buns are arranged on the cookie sheets, firmly insert whole cloves to resemble eyes. Allow to rise for about an hour.

During the third rise, preheat your oven to 350F.

Before baking, brush more olive oil over the tops of the buns, and push the cloves back in if some have worked themselves loose during rising. Bake untol golden brown, rotating baking pans halfway through baking time (about 20 minutes, or until desired golden color has been achieved).